Walmart Killer Scott Ostrem Pleads Guilty to "Avoid the Death Penalty"

Scott Ostrem's booking photo.
Scott Ostrem's booking photo. Thornton Police Department
On November 1, 2017, Scott Ostrem opened fire in a Thornton Walmart, killing three people and endangering dozens more. Now he's pleaded guilty to five counts in connection with the crime for reasons the head prosecutor in the case connects to capital punishment

In a statement, 17th Judicial District DA Dave Young said Ostrem made the pleas "to avoid the maximum penalty for first-degree murder in Colorado of the death penalty."

On October 19, Ostrem was sentenced to three life prison terms plus 48 years.

When news about the slayings of Victor Vasquez, Pam Marques and Carlos Moreno broke, many wondered if the assault had been a terrorist act. But it soon became clear that Ostrem, 47, was just another angry, frustrated white man taking out his failings on innocent people.

Calls about the violence at the 9901 Grant Street store began flooding in just after 6 p.m. on the 1st. At 6:27 p.m., the Thornton police Twitter feed issued its initial alert on the topic: "Shooting just occurred at Walmart, 9900 Grant St, multiple parties down. Please stay away from the area."

Scott Ostrem as he was taken into custody after the shooting.
Denver7 file photo
A little over an hour later, the following string of four more tweets began:

7:35 p.m.: "#ThorntonWalmartShooting At this time this is NOT an active shooter. Active crime scene. We will update as info becomes available."

7:59 p.m.: "PIO on scene. Media should stage on E. 98th Ave, east of Grant St. (2) confirmed deceased adult males, (1) adult female transported."

9:06 p.m.: "UPDATE: Detectives currently reviewing security footage & witnesses being interviewed for assistance with suspect(s) desc/info."

10:08 p.m.: "UPDATE: There is currently NO one in custody. Unfortunately the female transported with injury has also passed away. (3) confirmed dead."

At 11:28 p.m. on November 1, the TPD sent out surveillance images of a male suspect and the red Mitsubishi Mirage he was thought to be driving. Early the next morning, Ostrem was cited by name, and just after 8 a.m., he was taken into custody after being spotted by police driving past his apartment, at 7121 Samuel Drive. Hours later, the Thornton department issued the booking photo at the top of this post.

The late Victor Vasquez.
Over the course of the day, more information trickled in about the people who died under the fusillade at the store. Here's the introduction to a GoFundMe page set up on behalf of Vasquez:
As many of you have heard, there was a shooting at the Thornton Walmart. One of the fallen was Victor Vasquez, a father of two beautiful little girls with another child on the way. We are starting a go fund me to help out his fiancé, Alexis, his mom Jovita, and his children. It will be used to help fund his services and any immediate needs that the family may encounter.
In the end, the page's $25,000 goal was exceeded; the total currently stands at just shy of $31,000. Comments left on the page include "Sending...strength to the entire family. I am a local resident who cares and I'm so sorry" and "Your family is in my prayers. My heart is breaking for you all."

The late Carlos Moreno.
Carlos Moreno worked for the Auraria Higher Education Center as a structural trades technician.

According to Moreno's Facebook page, he attended Clovis High School in New Mexico before relocating to Colorado. He was a grandfather, and the page's photo gallery is crowded with loving shots of relatives.

One note reads: "I am in shock. My dear loving uncle Carlos Moreno was one of the victims who lost his life last evening at the Thornton CO Walmart. Please keep his wife and kids in your prayers."

Pam Marques worked for many years at the Packaging Corporation of America. Like Vasquez, she, too, was the subject of a GoFundMe page. Here's the introduction to it:
Last night a heartbreaking incident occurred. 3 families have been changed forever by this. Unfortunately my family was one of those. My dear cousin Brandy has lost her light, her best friend her mom. My aunt Pam was one of those hit by a bullet at the Walmart in Thornton. I’m hoping to reach the goal to help ease the financial burden on my cousin. Anything helps from a penny to a share. No one should have to deal with such a heart breaking thing such as this.
The late Pam Marquez.
The page's goal of $5,000 was surpassed. Today, the total stands at more than $9,200.

Ostrem, for his part, left behind a slew of official documents associated with previous (and mostly minor) law enforcement interactions, as well as paperwork about his lack of success in business.

Ostrem had been busted for driving under the influence in Adams County in April 1991. Just over eight years later, in December 1999, he admitted to resisting arrest in a plea deal that resulted in the dropping of other charges — assault on a peace officer, possession of dangerous weapons and disorderly conduct. His punishment: a year's probation.

Then, in 2013, Ostrem was accused of another DUI in Wheat Ridge. That beef was lowered to driving while ability impaired, but he was taken into custody again the following year for a failure to appear in court about the previous matter. This last offense earned him a one-year suspended jail sentence.

Around this time, Ostrem tried to set himself up as an entrepreneur. The Colorado Secretary of State's Office lists information about a business called Ostrem Installation LLC circa 2012. It was categorized as "delinquent" in November 2013.

Scott Ostrem as a student at Westminster High School circa the mid-1980s.
Courtesy of KUNC
Ostrem soon filed for personal bankruptcy. The filings show that he made about $8,000 in 2013, $47,000 in 2014 and $23,000 through September 2015 — amounts offset by more than $58,000 in credit-card debt.

A listing of personal property showed that his most expensive possession at the time of the filing was a 1997 Buick Regal worth $1,550. The list of other assets and their value:
Cash on Hand: $40
TCF Bank — Checking: $100
TCF Bank — Savings: $0
Residential Rent Deposit: $250
Appliances: washer, dryer, refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, microwave: $50
Audio and video components (TV, DVD, digital camera, etc.): $150
Computer and computer peripherals (desktop, laptop, monitor, printer scanner): $40
Household furniture including: living room furniture, dining room/kitchen furniture and bedroom furniture: $500
Other appliances (coffee pot, toaster, etc.): $5
Compact discs, movies (DVD, VHS), records, tapes, video games: $50
Personal clothing, including shoes: $150
Fishing poles: $50
Somehow, though, Ostrem was able to afford guns; neighbors recalled him toting a rifle bag back and forth between his car and his apartment.

On October 11, Ostrem formally pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder after deliberation, one count of attempted first-degree murder with extreme indifference that named the 45 people inside the Walmart when he first pulled the trigger, and a crime-of-violence count that acted as a sentence enhancer.

According to the 17th Judicial District Attorney's Office, DA Young was in the process of deciding whether he would try to fit Ostrem with the death penalty when the suspect's attorneys said he was willing to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

That wish has been granted.

This post has been updated to include information about Scott Ostrem's sentencing.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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