Unhappy Birthday for Darius Ratcliff, Alleged Killer Shot by Denver Cop

Update: Last November, we reported about the murder of Cristian Martinez and the wounding of three other people at a house party in the Baker neighborhood, as well as the search for a suspected gunman, Darius Ratcliff; our previous coverage has been incorporated into this report.

Now, Denver police have finally found Ratcliff — and so has a cop's bullet. He's been identified as the person hit during an officer-involved shooting that took place on Sunday night, July 31, just hours before the end of his teens. He turned twenty the next day.

The incident that put Ratcliff on law enforcement's radar took place around 11 p.m. on Friday, November 7, at a residence near the intersection of South Bannock Street and West Bayaud Avenue.

Here's the first Denver Police Department tweet about what went down....

...and here's a look at the scene courtesy of 7News:

The next morning, the DPD followed up with grim news, as shared in this tweet:

Prior to an official announcement of the homicide victim's identity, members of Martinez's family confirmed his death.

A vigil was held in his honor the Saturday night after he was slain.

Meanwhile, his brother, L.J. Cisneros, posted a series of tributes, including this photo collection:

The simple message accompanying these pics: "FUCK I MISS MY BROTHER...."

What happened to lead to the shootings? Cisneros told 7News that, in his opinion, the incident was racially motivated, with slurs leading to deadly gunplay at a house party.

A family friend who saw the whole thing added this observation:

"We were leaving – that’s when they started that fight. That’s when somebody heard somebody shooting and everybody started to run out of the front door and everybody scattered everywhere in the street. Me and my friend, we crossed the street right here. We made it to the sidewalk, maybe five feet to the sidewalk, and that’s when my friend collapsed, and I sat there until the very end with him."

Martinez is said to have been shot in the back.

On the same day as the vigil, the Denver Police Department issued a Crime Stoppers alert for Ratcliff — and the department did so again this past June 28. But the case wasn't broken until 9:40 p.m. on Sunday, when officers spotted a suspicious vehicle near the intersection of 35th Avenue and North Olive Street.

The DPD says the ride matched the description of a vehicle associated with an aggravated assault that had taken place the previous morning on the 5300 block of East 33rd Avenue. But as the officers were preparing to conduct a vehicle stop, the department says, the two occupants — Ratcliff and an unidentified male — brought the car to a stop and took off on foot.

The other male in the car was nabbed near 36th Avenue and North Oneida Street and subsequently released. But the story was different for Ratcliff. After a perimeter was set up in the area to which he ran, three officers spotted him on the 3300 block of North Olive Street. At that point, Ratcliff was wounded during what the DPD characterizes as "an exchange of gunfire." He was treated, then booked for investigation of attempted first-degree murder of a peace officer, as well as warrants for first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, first-degree assault and first-degree burglary.

Which explains why he spent his twentieth birthday behind bars.

Look below to see an uncropped version of a booking photo released last year.

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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