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Martin Trusty busted for Santa Fe arts district murder, debate over area's safety (62)

Last week, we told you about a fatal assault on Darwin Brown outside a lovely boutique in the Santa Fe arts district; see our previous coverage below.

Now, 48-year-old Martin Trusty has been arrested in relation to the crime, which has prompted a debate about the safety of the area at times other than First Fridays.

As we've reported, Brown, who'd previously made headlines in 2011 for allegedly stealing a truck while its owner was sleeping in the back, was assaulted outside Rakun, which Westword presented with the 2012 Best of Denver award as "Best Santa Fe Drive Boutique." He subsequently died of his injuries.

Rakun may seem like an improbable place for a violent crime to take place, but one reader argues otherwise in a post that we featured as a recent Comment of the Day. It reads:

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I live in this neighborhood, and while yes it can be charming...it can turn quite scary in an instant.... The establishments in the area only feed the problem, but what is more alarming is that the police only seem to clean up the mess once one has been made.

Despite regularly stopping at the 7-11 to fill up on whatever Denver's finest fill up on, the police fail to dissuade these groups of homeless men from forming, getting ridiculously intoxicated, and then proceeding to do what any group of drunk males do...fight.

I'm not advocating for a police state, but there are three schools, four churches, and six day cares in walking distance of this place. And as everyone knows, many of Denver's homeless suffer from untreated mental illnesses. This is a recipe for disaster: so no I am not shocked this happened.

It seems that the city could care less that these groups use Sante Fe as their open air bar, brothel, and bathroom. That is unless, its First Friday, when they help us sweep it under the rug so mom and dad won't see. For all that the Sante Fe Art District offers to the city, it would be nice if the city's brass would offer a little back.

Adds another reader:

I've got to agree 100% with you. I'm in the Baker neighborhood, and am often embarrassed by the Santa Fe strip. For a supposed success story, the neighborhood looks terrible during the day. The buildings are more dilapidated than not, the homeless population is huge, and it's not the type of place that anyone would want to be other than on First Friday. Baker has been constantly on the edge of "breaking out," but I'm afraid I just don't see it happening as long as Santa Fe lags so far behind the development on Broadway.

Against this backdrop, the Denver Police Department zeroed in on Trusty (he's reportedly had plenty of past run-ins with the law, mainly in relation to burglary and drugs) as a suspect in the Brown slaying, releasing a crime alert. And early on February 23, officers took Trusty into custody. He's being held for investigation of first-degree murder.

This arrest will likely cause folks in the Santa Fe arts district to breathe easier. But that doesn't mean the discussion about dangers in the area is over. Here's a larger look at Trusty's booking photo.

Continue to read our previous coverage about the murder of Darwin Brown. Original post, 9:07 a.m. February 20: The elements surrounding the death of Darwin Brown are certainly unusual.

They include the location, near one of Denver's most charming boutiques -- hardly the sort of place where bad things typically happen. And then there's the previous incident that resulted in Brown making news: his theft of a truck with the owner asleep inside it.

At approximately 5:49 p.m. on Monday, February 18, according to the Denver Police Department, officers responded to a report of an assault at 1147 Santa Fe Drive. Here's a DPD photo of the business at that address -- Rakun.

The store's website describes its approach like so: "Over 50 DENVER Designers + one tiny shop = cute convenience for YOU!" The concept has been successful enough to have earned Rakun a 2012 Best of Denver award as "Best Santa Fe Drive Boutique." Here's the text from our item bestowing this honor:

Rakun is possibly the sweetest little boutique to open its doors here in the last year: Housed in a tiny old cottage, the shop is run solely by entrepreneur/mother Meghan Throckmorton, and its cute sign and raccoon logo affords a bit of precious eye candy for the cars rushing by. Inside, you'll find little dresses and fun jewelry from emerging designers, all priced to appeal to a student clientele from the nearby Auraria campus, artists from the gallery district and, by whimsy, local models seeking inexpensive high-fashion looks. You might also find Throckmorton's toddler wandering in and out of this easygoing, homey house, and of course there's Throckmorton herself, young and eager to please, ready to help you find something that's perfectly you. In the summer, she opens up the back yard for First Friday open houses, and it's not unusual to find sale items waving in the breeze on a clothesline when weather permits; though the space is small, prepare to spend more than a minute soaking in the friendly ambience.

At this writing, we don't know why Brown and his assailant were near Rakun late Monday afternoon, or what led to their altercation. But the attack was so violent that Brown died a short time after being transported to an area hospital.

Upon identifying Brown, the DPD presented the following photo -- clearly a mug shot.

This wasn't the first Brown booking photo to be widely disseminated in the Denver area, however. An early snapshot circulated in January 2011, when he was busted for vehicle theft...with a twist.

What happened? According to the Denver Post, the owner of a 1993 Ford truck had parked near East Center Avenue and South Gilpin Street, in the vicinity of Washington Park, and bedded down in the back to sleep. However, he'd left the keys in the ignition -- something he realized at around 2 a.m., when the vehicle suddenly took off.

Fortunately, the owner had his cell phone with him. He punched in 911 and told police what was happening. Dispatchers from various agencies were kept abreast of his travels, with officers finally catching up to the truck around West 92nd Avenue and Wadsworth, many miles from where the ride had started.

The man behind the wheel? Brown, who was arrested on suspicion of car theft. Also found at the scene: an ounce of marijuana inside a backpack, which cops figured was his.

This incident led to a series of humorous articles and reports, and no wonder, since the victim wasn't hurt and he didn't lose his truck -- since he'd been inside it the whole time. But there's nothing funny about what happened to Brown this week, or the search for the person wanted for his murder. Police describe him as a white or Hispanic man between 25 and 35, with a dark complexion and salt-and-pepper hair; his height is estimated at five-nine to six feet, and he's thought to weigh about 180 pounds. He was wearing a dark green coat and dark green pants and was last seen heading southbound on the 1100 block of Santa Fe.

If you know anything about this man, phone Crime Stoppers at 720-913-STOP (7867). A reward of up to $2,000 is being offered for information leading to his arrest and conviction.

Here's the earlier mug shot of Brown.

More from our Mile High Murder archive: "Mayra Nunez allegedly kills two of her kids, wounds third, then commits suicide (60-61)."

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