Two Suspects ID'd in 21st and Lawrence Shootout: Innocent Bystanders Hurt?

The intersection of 21st and Lawrence is in a busy entertainment district near Coors Field.
The intersection of 21st and Lawrence is in a busy entertainment district near Coors Field. Denver7 via YouTube
At a press conference today, November 20, Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen announced that Josh Hayward, 24, has been arrested in connection with a November 19 quintuple shooting near the intersection of 21st and Lawrence in the Ballpark neighborhood. He also revealed that Dashae Armstrong, 23, one of the four people hospitalized after the incident, is believed to have traded shots with Hayward and is currently suspected of violating firearms laws.

Pazen stressed that the shooting was a targeted rather than random attack. But he would not confirm or deny that the three others hurt were also targeted, or if one or more of them would qualify as an innocent bystander.

At the outset of his remarks, Pazen paid tribute to "the great work of the officers and investigators who worked throughout the night" to solve the crime. "I don't think they've slept."

He then divulged that he had "significant progress to report."

At 4:04 p.m. on the 19th, Pazen went on, "we received multiple calls of shots fired" in the vicinity of 21st and Lawrence. "First responders located five shooting victims. Each of them are adult males. Four of the victims were transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Unfortunately, the fifth victim was pronounced deceased at the scene."

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Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen at a press briefing on the afternoon of Tuesday, November 20.
Denver Police Department via Periscope
Armstrong was the only one of these five to be identified by Pazen, for reasons that became clear as his account continued. He said that the shooting involved "an exchange of gunfire between two men. One of the suspects fled the area in a vehicle, and thanks to information provided by witnesses, we were able to track down that suspect and place him under arrest" at around 8 a.m. this morning, November 20.

The arrestee was ID'd as Josh Hayward — date of birth February 11, 1994. "He is currently being held for investigation of first-degree murder," Pazen allowed.

As for Armstrong, born on December 28, 1994, Pazen emphasized that he is currently "facing federal weapons charges."

A motive for the shooting has not yet been determined. "We still have a lot of investigative work to do" before such a conclusion is reached, Pazen stated. But, he said, "we do believe this was a targeted shooting. It was not random. Who exactly in this group was targeted remains under investigation, and we're working hard to identify any and all participants of this crime."

The open-ended nature of this last remark raises the possibility that the other three men hit may simply have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. When quizzed about this, Pazen was purposefully vague: "What I'd say is that an exchange of gunfire is not safe anywhere in our city, and we are investigating all aspects of that."

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Denver police investigators questioning witnesses after the shooting.
Denver7 via YouTube
The area around the shooting site is filled with restaurants, nightspots and retail establishments that will get busier and busier over the course of the holiday season. And while Pazen studiously avoided implying that the Denver Police Department views the area as more important to protect than other sections of the metro area for this reason, he also tried to reassure anyone who might think about shying away from visiting the downtown entertainment district (where two multi-victim shootings happened within twelve days of each other in September) for fear of more violence erupting.

"Denver is a remarkably safe city," he maintained. "We work tirelessly with our partners and with our community to ensure it is safe. The fact that we were able to get the information [about the shooting] from a community that wasn't afraid to come forward and share this information and get individuals in custody within hours demonstrates that."

He also underscored that law enforcers are being "proactive in our efforts to keep the community safe. We welcome people coming down there and will do everything possible to ensure their safety."

In addition, Pazen sent a message to anyone who decides to settle a beef by pulling a trigger: "It's a concern for us anytime somebody is injured by gunfire in our city. It's complete unacceptable for any person to discharge firearms within our city. ... People who decide to do that, we will hold them accountable for their actions."
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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