AURORA | A 45-year-old Denver man was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole Friday for the shooting death of 41-year-old John Cyprian in Aurora last June.
An Adams County District Court judge sentenced Steve Young to the life sentence as required by state statute via WebEx following a days-long trial last month.
Jurors determined that Young shot and killed Cyprian shortly before 12:30 p.m. near the intersection of East 16th Avenue and Akron Street in north Aurora on June 1, 2020, according to the 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. Court documents show that Young, who used the nicknames “Bo$$ Way” and “Bo$$ Mob,” exited a Chevrolet Suburban, ran toward Cyprian and another woman as they were both walking along the street, and shot Cyprian once in the abdomen. Cyprian, who used the nickname “Black,” crawled toward a nearby field and died from blood loss, prosecutors said.
He was formally pronounced dead at a local hospital about 20 minutes later. The Adams County Coroner’s Office determined that the single gunshot wound ruptured Cyprian’s small intestine and severed his iliac artery, “which then caused Cyprian to bleed out,” Aurora detectives wrote in an arrest affidavit filed against Young.
After the shooting, Young fled the scene with the woman who was walking with Cyprian, who was later identified as Charley Lewis.
Acquaintances of Cyprian’s told police after his death that he was addicted to crack cocaine and frequently hung out with Lewis, who was also a frequent user of the drug. The tipsters said that Lewis, who used the nicknames “Layla” and “Lea Lea,” engaged in sex work in the area and had recently started dating Young.
The mother of Cyprian’s 2-year-old child later told police, “that if Cyprian is ‘using’ crack cocaine then he would likely be engaged in the type of activities centered around the sales, use and procurement of the drug,” according to the affidavit. “ … Because of this, she wouldn’t be surprised if Cyprian had angered some people over time.”
The woman also told police that Cyprian was homeless at the time of his death, but was actively trying to find an apartment in the area and had asked for her help locating a place to live hours before the shooting.
Authorities were able to identify Young as the shooter after Aurora officers in the gang intervention unit received a tip from a person “who has provided information to (police) in the past that has been consistently accurate and reliable,” according to the affidavit. The person asked police to remain anonymous, and investigators heeded the person’s request in court records.
Police also used surveillance camera footage from the area, which showed people matching Young and Lewis’ descriptions entering and exiting a distinctive Suburban with mis-matched paint at the time of the shooting.
Denver prosecutors have alleged that Young later killed Lewis in a separate murder. He is set to stand trial in that case later this year, according to Adams County prosecutors.
At his sentencing hearing Friday, Young, who is Black, read a statement protesting the composition of the jury.
“I object to my all white jury and for not having a jury of my peers,” he told Judge Sean Finn via WebEx.
The case was one of the first jury trials to resume in Adams County District Court since the COVID-19 pandemic upended the justice system last year.
District Attorney Brian Mason commended jurors and his staff for appearing in court despite the persistent public health risks.
“These were senseless, gruesome crimes, and I am pleased that justice was served,” Mason said in a statement of both Young’s case and another guilty verdict in a recent Federal Heights murder trial. “I’m grateful for the jurors who, despite the pandemic, still came in to hear these important cases and render just verdicts.”
Young was arrested shortly after the shooting and has since been incarcerated at the Adams County Jail. He remains jailed there awaiting transfer to state prison, county records show.