Update: More information is emerging about Rollin Oliver, the man arrested following the fatal shooting of Denver Police officer Celena Hollis after a jazz event at City Park on Sunday night -- including increasingly solid reports establishing his gang affiliation. Not that this link offers much comfort to Hollis's family, colleagues and friends, who are still reeling from another senseless act of violence in a summer that's already seen far too many of them.
As we reported below, Hollis, who moved to Denver from Detroit in 2005 and was a single mother and president of the Black Police Officers Association, had worked the Jazz in the Park concert series for several years. Then, just as the music ended after 8 p.m. on Sunday evening, a fight broke out between what are characterized as "two groups" -- the police have studiously avoided confirming that they were members of rival gangs. In trying to calm the frenzy, Hollis was shot in the head, dying a short time later.
Oliver was busted shortly thereafter, and since then, the media has scrambled for details about him in a sea of misinformation, even about the spelling of his first name. The DPD originally gave it as "Rollen," although many local outlets have now settled on "Rollin," perhaps because that's how he lists himself on his Twitter feed -- a little-used account that features tweets that both use violent language and contradict it. An example of the former....
A soldier diez once...but a coward diez 1000 timez # U.T.G
— Rollin Oliver (@Boog_Da_Bank) November 15, 2011
And the latter....
Jesus is my big homie!!!!
— Rollin Oliver (@Boog_Da_Bank) April 6, 2012
A 7News report suggests that the photos on Oliver's Twitter feed, as well as those shared on a Facebook page listed under the name "Boogie Oliver," show him throwing gang signs. In fact, the photos in question find him pointing to his T-shirt, which touts Park Hill, where he lives. Here's a look at one of them:
However, the Facebook reference to Oliver's work as "treasurer" at "Park Hill Pharmaceutical" hints at a sideline slingin' drugs. (His rather minor arrest record includes a marijuana possession accusation in 2009, in addition to a weapon charge from a couple of years earlier, when he was a juvenile.) And Fox31's Julie Hayden reports that sources have confirmed to her that Oliver admits to membership in a specific (though thus-far unnamed) local gang.
CBS4's Brian Maass offers more details in his report, including a jail admittance form on which Oliver allegedly admitted gang ties -- something confirmed to Maass by people inside and outside of the police department.
If the gang connection is genuine, why hasn't the Denver Police admitted it, rather than dancing around the subject at a news conference yesterday? One theory: The department wants to avoid the sort of public frenzy that a "Summer of Violence II" label would likely ignite. But a fact is a fact, and if Oliver was indeed gang-affiliated -- and if plenty of other shootings in the area this summer have also been gang-related -- the DPD is merely postponing the inevitable.
In the meantime, times and dates have been finalized for Hollis's funeral and burial services, and an account has been established so that folks can donate to help support the child she left behind. See all of that below, followed by a statement from the Black Police Officers Association, the CBS4 report, the full press conference courtesy of 9News and our previous coverage.
Service and donation information:
A Memorial Service will be held on Saturday, June 30, 2012, at 1100 hours at: Denver First Church of the Nazarene 3800 E. Hampden Avenue Englewood, CO 80113 303-761-8370
Interment follows at: Fairmount Cemetery 430 S. Quebec Street Denver, CO 80247 303-399-0692
Donations for Officer Hollis' daughter and family can be made to: Celena Hollis Memorial Fund Account Number 23012705 Rocky Mountain Law Enforcement FCU 700 W. 39th Avenue Denver, CO 80216 303-458-6660
Black Police Officers Association statement:
Celena Hollis was an outstanding member of the DPD, but she was so much more than a police officer. She was a great friend, mother, sister, and daughter. Celena was the light of her family. Her smile warmed everyone's heart and she brought a smile to everyone's face. She had wisdom beyond her years and it showed in her personal, as well as her professional relationships.
Before Celena came to our DPD family, she lived in Detroit and worked as a Detroit Police Officer for 4 years. She came out to Denver in 2005 and began a new career with the DPD. She didn't come alone; she brought her beautiful daughter Amyre. Her baby, Amyre, was the light of her world. She did everything with her in mind. She like so many other single moms focused on making her child's life better. She took her on trips and vacations all over the place and they enjoyed each other; they were friends...the best of friends.
She loved her family. She was a mentor, friend and role model to her sister. She was the heart of her family and loved them all dearly. They always came first and were a central part of what Celena focused on in life.
I personally met Celena, when she came out to Denver and rode in my district, before she had been hired. From our initial meeting, I liked Celena and we became great friends. Celena was an active participant in our organization and was our current president. She had helped to refocus the organization and take us to new heights. We will miss her spark, leadership, and enthusiasm.
Celena was my friend and she had her family, but she was part of our family, the DPD family. With that she got 1400+ brothers and sisters. She will be missed and will always be loved by her second family, here at DPD.
Thank You on behalf of the Hollis family for your support and condolences during this time.
Page down for our previous coverage. Update by Sam Levin, 12:14 p.m. June 25: The Denver Police Department has arrested Rollen Oliver, 21, in connection to the last night's shooting of an officer at City Park.
That officer was identified at a morning press conference as Celena Hollis, who served as the president of Denver's Black Police Officers Association.
Hollis was trying to break up a fight between two groups at the Jazz in the Park concert series.
Preempting questions about whether Denver residents should be concerned about this shooting being a sign of a violent summer to come, Mayor Michael Hancock, who appeared alongside Denver Police Chief Robert White, said, "We don't believe that we are seeing evidence of another 'Summer of Violence,' but we certainly aren't going to sit back and allow it to continue to grow in that direction. We are going to continue to work very closely with all of our stakeholders and partners on the street."
He added, "Rest assured we will diligently continue to pursue peace on our streets and ask the community to work with the city...to get the weapons out of the hands of these young people."
Facing repeated questions about the nature of the incident, White told reporters that there are rumors that the shooting was tied to gang violence, but said the investigation is ongoing.
"It is unknown whether or not [Oliver] was a gang member," White said, explaining that a citizen had given officers a description of the suspect who was then arrested on site. "We've gotten information that it's a possibility there was tension between gangs, but again, all of that information, it's just unclear. So I want to be very hesitant to give you anything that is definitive.... Right now, we don't know that to be a fact. We've certainly heard rumors to that degree."
In response to general questions about recent gang violence in Denver, White said, "There have been shootings, and some of them have been gang-related. We have made some significant arrests as it relates to that. We have some pretty substantial clues as it relates to some of these other shootings that have occurred -- not just gang-related.... Our gang unit is very proactive and very aggressive in addressing the gang issues."
White said that Hollis, the slain officer, previously served in the Detroit Police Department. "She was a very pleasant...polite officer. She had a phenomenal reputation. Our department is grieving."
Hancock, speaking about his experience last night responding to the shooting and talking to those dealing with it, said, "We lost a dedicated officer, a mother.... We're all feeling the pain.... I don't know what you say to a twelve-year-old young lady who just found out she lost her mother in the line of duty. But that's the charge I had last night. That's what this community is facing. And that's what whoever pulled the trigger at Officer Hollis caused last night."
He added, "So let's lift the family up in prayer...and let's come together as a community and face this thing head-on, and let's do what we can to get the weapons off the street."
Original post by Michael Roberts, 7:44 a.m. June 25: Last night about 8 p.m., a Denver Police officer -- a single mom -- was shot in the head and killed at the Jazz in the Park concert series at City Park while trying to break up a fight. Speculation is already rife that gangs may have been involved in the slaying, but the DPD hasn't confirmed that -- just as the department has avoided using the term in other high-profile cases that have already drawn comparisons to the infamous "Summer of Violence."
According to Fox31, the officer, whose identity has not been officially released, came to Denver from Detroit in 2005 and is a member of what's described as a "prestigious police officers' association." She was shot in the head at about 8:07 p.m., and although she was rushed to the hospital in short order, she was soon declared dead.
Afterward, Denver Police Chief Robert White appeared with Mayor Michael Hancock at a late evening press conference at which they paid tribute to the fallen officer. However, at this writing, the DPD's only other communication on the topic has been the following tweet:
DPD lost one of our finest tonight. Please keep the officer & her family in your prayers. Thank you for your kind thoughts and support.
— Denver Police Dept (@DenverPolice) June 25, 2012
This message actually followed one from the Arvada Police Department:
Our thoughts are with our colleagues @DenverPolice.
— Arvada Police (@ArvadaPolice) June 25, 2012
The slain officer is said to have worked Jazz in the Park for seven years, presumably without incident until yesterday, when she got between "two groups."
In this case, does "groups" translate as "gangs"? In an opinion piece for CBS4, Dominic Dezzutti draws that conclusion and refers to the "summer of 1993, which was dubbed the 'Summer of Violence.'"
The "Summer of Violence" tag was always something of a misnomer. In a May 30 interview, Reverend Leon Kelly, a veteran gang activist, remembered asking then-Governor Roy Romer, "'Why are you wanting to focus on this in '93, when there were more people killed in '91 and '92 than in the 'Summer of Violence?'" And indeed, murders were down in 1993 as compared to previous years. However, the publicity generated by a number of startling killings (like a ten-month old at the Denver Zoo being hit by a stray bullet) caused the media to focus on gang violence in ways it hadn't previously.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
In April, The Youth Connection's Heidi Groves warned us that gang violence was rising in Denver, pointing to incidents like the March slaying of De'Quan Walker-Smith as one of many examples. And then there was the daylight quadruple shooting in northeast Denver that caused the deaths of Justin O'Donnell and Deon Rudd. Plenty of experts believe that incident involved gangs, too, but when questioned about this connection by Westword, a DPD spokesman declined to confirm it.
Are police reps avoiding this term for fear of unleashing another press frenzy -- one capable of panicking the populace? If so, it'll be interesting to see if that's possible in what could be the most newsworthy gang slaying of the season. Here's the Fox31 report about last night's shooting.
Follow and like the Michael Roberts/Westword Facebook page.
More from our Mile High Murder archive: "Justin O'Donnell murder: Denver police justify leaving body uncovered for hours (3, 4)."