Original post, 6:59 p.m. September 13: Rollin Oliver, accused of murdering Denver Policewoman Celena Hollis, admitted to officers that he fired at least two shots on June 24 in City Park, and a bullet found at the scene bearing Hollis's DNA matches Oliver's gun, a detective testified in court today.
Oliver, 21, reportedly told police he fired his gun because he was being chased by several people whom he believed to be Crips gang members.
Despite his attorney's argument that Oliver was simply trying to defend himself, a judge found probable cause that he committed first-degree murder and ordered him to be held in jail without bond.
Today's hearing revealed many new details about what happened the day Hollis was shot. She was off-duty, providing security at City Park Jazz, when she responded to a fight that broke out just after the music ended at 8 p.m. According to Denver Detective Jamie Castro, the only person to testify, details as to how many people were involved or how many had guns differs, as do descriptions of what the shooter was wearing.
The police arrested Oliver as he was fleeing the park, Castro said. In his waistband, they found a .40 caliber Ruger handgun. In addition to the bullet that killed Hollis, four shell casings found in the park match the gun Oliver was carrying. They were found about eighty yards from where Hollis fell. As for what happened to the other bullets, the police found one in the ground, one in the roof of the City Park Pavilion and fragments of a fourth that suggest it hit something and shattered.
When Oliver was interviewed about two hours later, he was upset and crying, Castro said. He told police that he'd gone to the park with a friend. Oliver said he brought his gun because he knew there was a possibility of trouble, though he wasn't anticipating any. Castro testified that Oliver said he was carrying his gun "with one in the chamber."
Once at the park, Castro said Oliver told police that he and his friend were confronted by a group of people he assumed were Crips gang members, and they beat his friend badly. Oliver ran away, and as he did, he said he fired over his shoulder. Later in the interview, Castro said Oliver changed his story to say he turned sideways to shoot.
When asked if he knew he'd likely hit somebody, Castro testified that Oliver said he did.
Continue reading for responses from Oliver's defense attorney and the probable cause statement. Defense attorney William Drexler said Oliver didn't mean to kill anyone, let alone Hollis. His goal in going to City Park Jazz, Drexler said, was to hang out with his friends and see girls. "Not only were they not instigating trouble, they were trying to get away from it," he said of Oliver and his friend. He pointed out that Oliver told police he was afraid because he'd known Crips gang members to beat people into comas, and he "just reacted."
The reason Oliver had a gun, Drexler pointed out, was for protection. He himself had been shot at a party a few years earlier, causing "severe damage to his pelvis," Drexler said. Oliver was so injured that he had to undergo several surgeries and learn how to walk again. Drexler said Oliver's gun was "legitimate," meaning it wasn't stolen, and that he was in the process of applying for a concealed-carry permit. Castro testified that Oliver said he bought the gun on Craigslist, though he doubted that was possible.
"Did you look into that?" Drexler asked.
"No," Castro said.
Drexler sought to poke holes in the theory that Oliver is a member of the Bloods. Oliver has no criminal history and no gang tattoos, he said.
But Castro testified that he found two police reports from 2009 that say Oliver admitted to being a Blood. According to Drexler, one of those reports says that Oliver was jaywalking in the vicinity of a "known Bloods meeting place." The officer who stopped him wrote that Oliver claimed to be a member of the "Park Hill Bloods." Drexler asked Castro if there is indeed a gang that identifies as such. "At least there used to be" ten years ago, Castro said.
Castro also testified that police found a photo on Oliver's Facebook page featuring him in a red shirt, throwing "what appear to be gang signs." Drexler said that shirt is sold at a local shop in Park Hill and features the names of every street in the neighborhood.
Drexler pointed to a report that a sheriff's deputy was told to change Oliver's gang affiliation on his booking form after those two 2009 police reports came to light.
Part of Drexler's strategy seemed to be to suggest that the police haven't done a thorough investigation. He grilled Castro about whether he'd interviewed certain witnesses, including one who identified the shooter as wearing a black T-shirt, black shorts and a purple Colorado Rockies cap. When he was arrested, Oliver was wearing khaki cargo shorts and a black polo shirt and had a white do-rag in his back pocket. He also had a quarter-ounce of marijuana and about $100 on him, Castro testified.
In court today, Oliver wore a red jumpsuit and his hair in braids. His arms and legs were shackled; the sheriff's deputies refused to unshackle him so he could take notes. He slouched in his chair, occasionally hanging his head, though he appeared to be paying attention to the proceedings and sometimes whispered to his lawyers.
Several observers attended the hearing, though none agreed to speak with the media afterward. One woman wore a blue rubber bracelet that said, "RIP C.C. HOLLIS."
Oliver is due back in court on October 4 for his arraignment.
Update, 1:51 p.m. September 17: Look below to see the probable cause statement naming Oliver, followed by his booking photo.
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More from our "Follow That Story" archive: "Celena Hollis murder: Michael Hancock says gang speculation a distraction."Follow me on Twitter @MelanieAsmar or e-mail me at email@example.com