The puzzling death of a DNC guest

The mystery began at the Diamond Cabaret.

Reports about the death of Gabriel Pico, 41, a member of California's Pechanga Tribal Council in town for the Democratic National Convention, are short on answers and long on questions. The Rocky Mountain News' account states that Pico suffered unspecified injuries during a scuffle with security at around 2 a.m. Saturday outside the Diamond Cabaret, but police spokesman Sonny Jackson offers no details. And while all parties agree that Pico died on Monday evening, no one's hinting about the cause of death -- and a coroner's office representative says it could take weeks to pin one down.

This dearth of detail has led to feverish debate and speculation, not to mention some questionable information, on The Original Pechanga's Blog, a site maintained by an individual who describes himself as "a disenrolled tribe member."

Amid expressions of grief and best wishes for Pico's large family -- he was survived by four children, a grandson, six siblings and his mother -- posters hint of foul play. One individual writes that an arrest has been made and a search is ongoing for another suspect -- a claim that's not supported in any news reports I was able to find. Indeed,'s article about Pico notes that the Pechanga Tribal Council has issued a statement blaming a heart attack for Pico's death. Here's that press release:

Statement of the Pechanga Tribal Council: Pechanga Indian Reservation, CA (September 2, 2008) —

Gabriel Pico, a member of the Pechanga Tribal Council, passed Sep. 1, 2008 in Denver, CO. He was 41. Family and friends were by his side.

Councilman Pico suffered a heart attack early Saturday morning in Denver following the Democratic National Convention. Mr. Pico was elected to his first-term on the Pechanga Tribal Council this past July.

Mr. Pico leaves behind three daughters, two sons, one grandson, six siblings, his mother, Bernice Pico, and several nephews and nieces. His father, the late Gabriel "Gibby" Pico, served as Tribal Chairman from 1982-1987.

Services are pending.

"This is a big loss for our Tribe," said Chairman Mark Macarro. "Though Gabe had only been in office a few weeks, it was evident that he was a tremendous asset to the council and the tribe. He will be missed dearly."

If this case is so straight-orward, why are details being so closely guarded -- and why has it taken days since Pico's death for reports to reach the press? In all likelihood, the explanation is simple. But the current info vacuum only encourages the sort of guesswork that's currently floating around the blogosphere. -- Michael Roberts

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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