On Monday, 50-year-old Richard Young became the 12th homicide in Denver during the first six weeks of the year when he was shot to death on a stretch of East Colfax Avenue.
Young is one of 11 gunshot victims of homicide so far this year. The 12th person was stabbed to death, according to the Denver coroner.
A 13th person was shot and killed by Denver police after the man brandished a knife at officers.
It’s the most violent start to a year since 2010, and the killings are putting Denver on pace to have another year of rising homicide rates. In 2017, there were 56 homicides in Denver; the same number was reported in 2016. Both were 10-year highs.
In three of the homicide incidents so far this year, multiple people were killed, including the Saturday shooting deaths of two teenagers in Montbello, which have rocked that community. A third person was seriously injured in that shooting.
The next day, another man was shot and wounded at a King Soopers grocery store in Green Valley Ranch. People who live on that side of Denver travel back-and-forth between the two neighborhoods.
“This past weekend is alarming to all of us,” said Donna Garnett, a community activist and editor of the neighborhood newspaper, the Muse. “We are heartsick for the families in our community.”
Detectives study crime statistics in depth to look for trends in homicides and other crimes. If they spot a trend, they can direct resources toward curbing the violence. But unlike previous years, Denver police have not been able to pinpoint any patterns in the 2017 deaths, said Cmdr. Barb Archer, who leads the Denver Police Department’s major-crimes unit.
In 2015, gang violence rocked Denver, accounting for 23 of the city’s 50 killings. In 2016, domestic violence drove up the homicide numbers after 10 of the 56 people killed were stabbed or shot by their intimate partners.
“These weren’t retaliatory homicides, where one played off the other,” Archer said. “We have acquaintance killings. We have anger-management issues. We have substance abuse. But we don’t see any patterns.”
One bright spot in the numbers has been the police department’s ability to make arrests in the cases. For 2017, the department has a 71 percent clearance rate, Archer said. Arrests have been made in five of the nine incidents in 2018, said Lt. Matt Clark of Denver’s major-crimes unit.
Denver was not the city along the Front Range to see more residents die because of violence.
In Aurora, the city reported 28 homicides in 2017, eight more than in 2016, according to statistics provided by Aurora Police Department. This year, there has been one homicide in the city, said Officer Bill Hummel, an Aurora police spokesman.
Still, Denver is far from reaching its all-time high in homicides. That number came in 1992, when 95 people were killed.
So far, the 2018 deaths have had few commonalities, other than most were caused by gunfire and there have been three incidents with multiple victims. They have happened in every area of the city, except northwest Denver.
That was the case on Saturday when 17-year-old Byron Ware and 18-year-old Abisai Ponce Gutierrez were gunned down at home in the 13100 block of East Elgin Place. Since the teens were killed, Montbello residents have held a peace march and neighborhood meetings to talk about what happened.
People from other neighborhoods that have experienced recent violence attended the march Tuesday afternoon at a Montbello park, said Angelle Fouther of the Montbello Organizing Committee, a community activist group.
“People want to take action,” Fouther said. “We share the sentiment that No. 1, the gun violence is out of control. And No. 2, our youth are in the crossfire in more ways than one. It feels urgent. We don’t want this to be a trend in anyone’s neighborhood. We don’t want this to escalate.”