Explanations scarce for string of recent Aurora shootings, stabbings

Police at the scene of what appears to have started as a robbery, car-jacking and kidnapping near East 35th Avenue and Abilene Street June 24, 2020. PHOTO BY PHILIP B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

AURORA | Aurora police officials are voicing their concerns over a recent uptick in violence in the city, though explanations for the recent surge of shootings and stabbings remain elusive.

Aurora police reported 21 shootings via their Twitter page in June, marking an increase of 163% over the month prior. The June shootings included the murder of a teenager at a local Juneteenth celebration, an officer-involved shooting just inside the Denver border and a quintuple shooting near a grocery store last week.

Police reported six fatal shootings — including one incident in which two men shot and killed each other at the same time — and two fatal stabbings in June. There were three fatal shootings reported in May.

Violence in the city seemed to reach a fever pitch June 24, when police responded to a double shooting, a stabbing, a shooting on an RTD bus and another incident where shots were fired in a local park just hours apart. Additional shootings in the following days resulted in a total of 10 people sustaining gunshot wounds in various corners of the city in a single, 48-hour period.

On June 25, Interim Police Chief Vanessa Wilson addressed the brutal spate, and urged residents to continue to report crime.

“The uptick in violent crimes over the last week is extremely concerning,” Wilson said through a spokesperson. “Our investigators have been tirelessly working to bring justice and resolution to a number of those cases. We need our community’s assistance to ensure that the ones involved are not only held responsible for their actions but also, we need them to promptly report any criminal behavior. Remember, if you witness a crime, you can remain anonymous by calling Denver Metro Crime Stoppers. Many of our specialized units are back to their normal hours and responsibilities, including our (Police Are Representative) Units. If you are having problems within your neighborhood, I urge you to reach out to your specific PAR Officer.”

Wilson, who is currently in the process of applying to become the city’s full-time police chief, has magnetized attention this week following a contentious protest in front of police headquarters June 27, during which multiple demonstrators were pepper sprayed and targeted with foam bullets. She’s also currently in the process of determining discipline for several officers who took a picture posing in the area where three officers last summer stopped Elijah McClain, the 23-year-old unarmed black man who died days after he was detained in the 1900 block of Billings Street.

Police said they’re not aware of any reported spike in gang violence in the city in recent weeks, and that most of the recent shootings have been isolated incidents in which the parties knew each other — not the indiscriminate spraying of bullets.

“Unfortunately, we’re not sure why this uptick is happening, but it’s definitely concerning,” Department Spokesperson Matt Longshore said. “We haven’t been made aware of any uptick in any type of gang violence. Most of these were groups who knew their assailants … But it’s definitely concerning now that the weather is starting to warm up and COVID restrictions are starting to be lifted.”

Jason McBride, a program assistant and education specialist with the Gang Rescue and Support Project, disputed that assertion, but he agreed that the easing of restrictions imposed to combat the coronavirus could further contribute to rising violence.

“There is definitely an increase in gang-related violence. They just don’t want to admit that it’s a problem,” said McBride, who was recently appointed to the city’s new community and police task force. “A lot of these kids have been on social media and started beefs, and now they have the freedom to kind of move around and see each other. These kids are restless, and now they’re choosing to shoot each other.”

McBride said the recent uptick could be a continuation of the injurious spell in December and January that resulted in multiple shootings among young people.

“Unless we start to intervene and give these kids some outlets, we’re going to have what we had at the end of 2019,” he said. “I expect this to be a long summer.”

Last summer, the city gave out free passes to recreation centers and held a youth expo in an effort to stem a similar wave of violence among youth that reverberated throughout the spring.

Crime rates typically rise in the summer months, according to federal data, though violent incidents still pale in comparison to their frequency at the end of last century.

Violent crime in Aurora rose about 11 percent in the first quarter of this year when compared to the same time in 2019, according to the latest data available. Last year, the city saw violent crime dip about 2 percent, though murders were up 55 percent across Aurora.

Here is a synopsis of the incidents that comprised the city’s violent month of June:

June 1 – A man was shot while in the 8900 block of East Colfax Avenue around 1:30 p.m. He was taken to a hospital in stable condition.

June 1 Officers responded to a report of a “man down” near East 16th Avenue and Akron Street shortly after 12:30 p.m. A man who was shot in the area later died at a local hospital. 

June 3 – Officers found a man who had been shot near a home at 999 S. Zeno Way shortly after 5 p.m. The man who was shot was taken to a nearby hospital in stable condition.

June 3– First responders found a man who had been shot around 11 p.m. at 931 Emporia St., police said. The man was taken to a nearby hospital in serious condition.

June 4 – A person was shot in the 1300 block of Quari Street at about 6 p.m. and suffered non life-threatening injuries. 

June 6 – A man was shot in Scooter’s Bar at 13698 E. Alameda Ave. around 12:30 a.m. The man was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. 

June 7 – Police responded to reports of a shooting inside of the Si Amigos restaurant and bar at 9500 E. Colfax. The man who was shot was taken to a nearby hospital in “serious but stable condition,” police said.

June 8 – Officers responded to the 3100 block of Victor Street in the Morris Heights neighborhood at about 10:30 p.m. Police found a “crime scene” in that area After speaking with a man who showed up at a local hospital with a gunshot wound.

June 10 – A woman was stabbed at the Nine Mile light rail station and taken to a hospital in stable condition.

June 14 – Three men were shot in the early morning hours near East 17th Avenue and Fulton Street. All three drove themselves to the hospital. 

June 18 – Police found Jason Burrow bleeding on the ground outside the Willowick Apartment complex near the intersection of Havana Street and East Jewell Avenue. He died of “multiple sharp force injuries,” according to the Arapahoe County Coroner. 

June 19 – Xaviyar Lawrence Sturges, 17, was shot and killed at a Juneteenth Celebration at Rocky Ridge park on East Mississippi Avenue.

June 21 – A man was shot and injured during a house party in the 14400 block of East Montana Circle. He drove himself to a nearby hospital. 

June 22 – Half a dozen cops from the Aurora and Denver police departments shot and killed a masked person who reportedly pointed a handgun at officers near East 35th Place and Abilene Street shortly after 11 a.m. Five Denver officers and one Aurora officer fired their weapons.

June 23 – A woman was shot but not seriously injured after someone shot into her home in the 900 block of Dillon Way.

June 23 – Carlis Brandon Lesean Brabson, 33, was found shot to death outside of the Sable Cove Condominiums at 912 South Dearborn Way. Police have labelled the death “suspicious.”

June 24 – Ricardo Herrera, 26, and Keith Lamonte Smith Jr., 28, shot and killed each other inside the EZ Pawn in Del Mar Circle at about 4:30 p.m. 

June 24 – Nicholas Green, 32, was stabbed to death in a “transient encampment” near South Parker Road and Peoria Street. 24-year-old Stephen Minks-Morgan was arrested on murder charges in connection with the killing.

June 24 – Gunfire broke out on RTD bus No. 6191 near East Mississippi Avenue and South Troy Street. A dispute on the bus at 7:46 p.m. resulted in a man with a gunshot wound to the arm.

June 24 – Late in the evening, police received multiple complaints of shots fired near Apache Mesa Park at East Seventh Avenue and Laredo Street. A 23-year-old man was shot, but is expected to survive.

June 25 – Police said they were called to East 19th Avenue and Oswego Street at about 8:30 p.m. on reports of shooting. Police encountered a man “lying on the ground, and bleeding.” The 24-year-old unnamed male was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he died from complications due to gunshot injuries.

June 26 Five people were shot near the Save A Lot in Del Mar Circle around 8:15 p.m. Police originally said two groups were shooting at each other, then confirmed that one person shot all five victims, all of whom survived.

June 29 – A woman was shot and injured in the early morning hours while looking out the window of her home in the 17600 block of E. Eastman Place after she thought she heard fireworks, police said. 

June 29 – A woman sustained a head injury after a shooting in the parking lot of her home on East Cornell Circle at about 7 p.m. She drove herself to a nearby gas station, where she met first responders. She was taken to a nearby hospital in stable condition. 

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