‘We’re here to stay’: Second Chance Center director believes shots fired at office was an act of intimidation

AURORA | Aurora Police on Saturday responded to the Second Chance Center, a prominent hub for formerly incarcerated people, after staff found two bullets had shattered a window and were lodged inside the office space. 

Sgt. Chris Amsler, spokesman for the Aurora Police Department, said officers were dispatched to the facility at 224 Potomac St. at about 4 p.m. Feb. 20 in response to possible vandalism at the property. Responding officers found a pair of shell casings outside of a broken window. 

Amsler said authorities do not believe the building was specifically targeted. 

“The reporting party made no indication to the investigating officer that he believed that this was a bias-motivated crime nor is there any evidence to support such a claim,” he wrote in an email. 

Detectives are not actively pursuing the case as there is neither information on possible suspects nor “solvable leads,” according to Amsler.

Hassan Latif, the organization’s executive director, said no one was in the building during the shooting.

It’s unclear whether the bullets were stray or fired intentionally into the Second Chance Center, but Latif believes the shooting was an intentional message to “intimidate” staff and ex-convict clients who flock to the center for mentoring, resources and more. 

“We want the community to know, we’re here to stay. That’s our intention,” Latif told the Sentinel

He said that two bullets entered the building through one window, which is being replaced Tuesday. 

The building was the scene of additional gunfire in 2017, years before Latif moved into his new facility beside Interstate 225, according to Aurora police records.

The Second Chance Center moved into the new, expanded office space at 224 Potomac St. in January. In the past, the organization’s growth and projects have sometimes faced thorny resistance from residents concerned about neighborhood quality and safety because of the convict clients. 

That included Providence at the Heights, an affordable housing project at 15602 E. Alameda Pkwy that opened last year after a long approval process at city hall. 

“If the message was, ‘You all aren’t welcome,’ I wanted to address that very quickly,” Latif said of the shooting.  

He noted that, in its nine-year history, the Second Chance Center had seen no violence. That’s remarkable considering dynamics between old gang members, “who are sitting next to each other in the computer lab after shooting each other five years ago.”

Other resource centers in Aurora have also speculated that they’ve faced hate-motivated attention. 

Notably, the Village Exchange Center said last year that a thief broke in and stole sensitive documents about immigrant and refugee clients at 1609 Havana St. A rock was previously thrown into the building. 

Latif said that clients at Second Chance Center learn to “work on things and to work through things.” He said that, if the shooting was meant to intimidate the organization, he hopes the community will get to know its people in the coming weeks and months as staff establish the new hub location.

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