Booze

Unlicensed Security Guard Arrested in Death of Man Outside East Colfax Bar

Restaurant Lempira was the scene of a fatal shooting on January 10.
Restaurant Lempira was the scene of a fatal shooting on January 10. Google Maps
After a late-night shooting left one man dead outside Restaurant Lempira, a bar at 1452 Uinta Street in the troubled East Colfax neighborhood, the Denver Police Department has arrested a security guard working for that establishment on suspicion of first-degree murder.

Dante Pacheco-Rodriguez, 23, the security guard at Restaurant Lempira who allegedly fired the fatal shot, is also accused of four counts of attempted first-degree murder with extreme indifference.

According to a statement of probable cause from the DPD, at about 12:30 a.m. on January 10, a fight spilled out of Restaurant Lempira; cameras caught footage of about five people going over to a red pickup truck that was parked across Uinta Street from the bar, while Pacheco-Rodriguez is seen "interacting" with them from the other side of the street.

The group of five individuals hid on the far side of the truck, "as if they're taking cover," according to the probable-cause statement. At 12:31 a.m., Pacheco-Rodriguez allegedly fired a gun at the truck three times.

Four minutes later, all five of the individuals who had been hiding behind the truck were in the vehicle, and the driver started to pull away. Pacheco-Rodriguez, who was approximately twenty feet away, reportedly fired three more rounds as the truck headed south. Camera footage shows the truck making it about two blocks before it stopped, not long before responding officers arrive.

The man who was shot, whose name is redacted in the probable-cause statement but whose year of birth is shown as 1988, was hit once in the back of his torso. He was rushed by ambulance to Denver Health, but was pronounced deceased by a doctor at 1:07 a.m.

Video footage shows Pacheco-Rodriguez using a flashlight to search the ground just after the shooting; according to the DPD, the assumption is that he was looking for spent cartridge casings.

Cops interviewed the occupants of the pickup truck as well as Pacheco-Rodriguez, though a description of his testimony is redacted in the statement, which notes that he was bleeding from the head and told the first police on the scene that he had been assaulted.

On the afternoon of January 10, the Denver Department of Excise & Licenses issued a summary suspension of the hotel and restaurant liquor license and the dance cabaret license of Restaurant Lempira, which had previously gotten into trouble over hiring unlicensed security guards and serving alcohol to minors.

According to the suspension notice, Pacheco-Rodriguez was not licensed to be a security guard in Denver, nor were two of the other guards working at the bar that night; that violates Denver code. The three also carried guns while they were working; that's against the law since they are unlicensed, according to the department. A fourth security guard, who also had a gun, was licensed.

The fight that spilled out of the venue was between patrons and security guards, the notice states. In addition to the shots allegedly fired by Pacheco-Rodriguez, another security guard shot into the air to disperse the crowd, while a third shot a patron with a rubber bullet.

While the suspension is in place, Restaurant Lempira will still be allowed to sell food, but will not be able to sell alcohol or play music for dancing.

Excise & Licenses also issued a summary suspension of J and M Security LLC, the company that reportedly employed the unlicensed guards.

According to the department, this is the first summary suspension of a business license in Denver since the suspension of Cabin Tap House's licenses following a fatal double homicide on January 1, 2022.

"Both businesses that received the summary suspensions have the opportunity to contest this licensing decision at a future city hearing at a date yet to be determined," says Eric Escudero, a spokesperson for Excise & Licenses, who notes that "there is no state security guard licensing requirement, and Denver is one of a few cities in the state with a licensing requirement for security guards."
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.

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