Remembering Donald Johnson as Two More People Are Charged With Killing Him

Update: Earlier this month, Donald Johnson was killed near a Bear Valley King Soopers; see our previous coverage below.

Nick Vandervoort, nineteen, was quickly arrested and accused of first-degree murder — and now, two more people, Alexis Ellis and Dante Rodriguez, have been charged with the same crime.

We've included booking photos of Ellis and Rodriguez below. But first up are images of Johnson supplied to us by his sister, Holly Johnson, who's grieving his loss and expresses frustration that the media has paid so much more attention to the alleged criminals than they have to the victim of a terrible crime.

Here are her memories of her beloved sibling: "The loss of my brother has been devastating to all of people who knew him," she writes. "Donald, who was better known as Don, had a very huge heart, that often times was taken advantage of, but never discouraged him.

"My two brothers and myself had recently lost our mother in the beginning of July, due to a rough battle with cancer. Don was planning to go to Kansas soon where our mom passed away and where our other brother is currently living.

"Don was very artistic, at a younger age he began to write, draw and a few years ago he took up tattooing and went quite far with it, doing fantastic work.
"He valued his friendships greatly, and treasured his family," she continues. "He leaves behind two sons, ages 3 and 4.

"Losing him has affected so many different lives, it really feels as though the world lost a little bit of light since we lost him.

"His friends and family are hoping for the proper justice from those who took his life, but most everyone is in more of a shock and are looking to heal from this huge loss."

The details about how Johnson was killed remain vague. The police reports in the case remain sealed at this writing, and the Denver District Attorney's Office says only that Ellis and Rodriguez accompanied Vandervoort to a meeting with Johnson on September 16 — and that "instead of paying the victim money that was owed, they shot and killed him."

Since then, we've heard various things about Johnson and Vandervoort, but thus far, they're unconfirmed.

What's clear, however, is the tremendous loss suffered by Holly Johnson and the rest of her family. Our condolences to them.

Look below to see the mug shots of Ellis and Rodriguez, followed by our previous coverage.

Update, 6:02 a.m. September 18: Yesterday, the victim of a fatal shooting near a Bear Valley King Soopers was identified as Donald Johnson. See our previous coverage below.

Now, within hours of news that a seventeen-year-old was in custody for killing taxi driver Darren Bloomquist, news broke that Nick Vandervoort, nineteen, had been formally charged in the slaying.

Not that he is currently in Denver. After allegedly killing Johnson during the early morning hours of September 16, Vandervoort took off and headed south.

He was busted in St. Landry Parish, Louisiana, from where he's expected to be extradited back to Denver.

According to Denver District Attorney's Office spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough, the arrest report in the Johnson case is sealed at this writing.

However, the DA's office maintains that Johnson arranged to meet with Vandervoort because the latter owed him money.

Rather than paying him, Vandervoort allegedly shot Johnson multiple times before splitting.

No court dates have been set yet for Vandervoort. Job one is to get him back to Colorado. Continue for our previous coverage of this tragic case.

Update 12:37 p.m. September 17: At 5:35 a.m. on September 16, when we published our initial report about a shooting near the King Soopers at Sheridan and Dartmouth (see our previous coverage below), the victim was said to be in critical condition.

Now, we've just learned that he died just over half an hour later.

The Denver coroner's office has identified the man as Donald Johnson. He was transported to Denver Health Medical Center at 1:32 a.m. and pronounced dead at 6:10 a.m.

The cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds.

As has been the case all too often of late, there have been no arrests in the case, and no suspect information has been announced.

Our condolences to the friends, family and loved ones of Donald Johnson. Our earlier report follows.

Original post, 5:35 a.m. September 16: The hour was late, the gunfire was loud, the victim is in critical condition and the crime scenes represent a pair of very public locations.

Late last night, a man was found in the King Soopers parking lot near Sheridan and Dartmouth after being shot.

Police don't believe the shooting took place there. Rather, they think the victim was hit outside the Bear Valley Branch Library across the street and made it to the area near the grocery store's gas station before collapsing.

At this writing, he's fighting for his life.

First official word about the incident came via a two-part Denver Police Department Twitter message. Here's part one....

...and part two:

By then, emergency vehicles were congregated in the lot of the King Soopers, which serves Bear Valley. Here's an interactive graphic showing the area; if you have problems seeing the image, click "View on Google Maps."

The setting looks very different in a triptych of shots tweeted by 7News reporter Amanda Zitzman:

This wasn't the only crime scene, however. As noted by 9News, police believe the shooting actually took place outside the library, on the other side of Dartmouth.

Here's an interactive graphic of that location as well.

Thus far, the victim hasn't been identified, and as the DPD confirmed, no suspect information has been available thus far — meaning that whoever committed the crime is still among us right now.

The same is true about the late-night shooter who killed a man outside PT's II strip club over the weekend, the person or persons responsible for a broad-daylight shooting in Aurora that seriously hurt a sixteen-year-old last week, and other recent examples of metro-area gun violence.

Be careful out there.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts