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2 Shot Dead; Denver Cop Hurt During Domestic Dispute

October 05, 2003
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2 Shot Dead; Denver Cop Hurt During Domestic Dispute

Domestic dispute erupts in gunfire outside office of police gang unit.

By Kieran Nicholson and Chuck Plunkett, The Denver Post

A domestic disturbance turned into a bizarre shootout outside a Denver police building Friday evening, leaving a man and a woman dead and a police officer injured.

The incident also choked off rush-hour traffic in both directions along a major Denver thoroughfare.

Events unfolded just before 6 p.m. near the 2200 block of Colorado Boulevard, just west of the Denver Police Gang Unit building in City Park.

The officer, Randy Yoder, was taken to Denver Health Medical Center, where he was in fair condition after being grazed by two bullets.

Police said the incident began when a man and woman got out of a white Ford Excursion that had just headed onto a narrow road leading to the gang unit's parking lot.

Yoder, a gang unit officer who had just finished his shift and was in uniform, was driving out of the lot.

He stopped his pickup truck and got out to see what was going on between the man, who had been driving, and the woman, his passenger.

The man told the officer that the woman was armed, and she then fired at the man, said Virginia Lopez, a police spokesman. The officer returned fire.

After hearing the initial shot, or shots, other officers inside the gang unit building dashed to the scene and also fired at the woman.

Police did not say how many shots were fired. There were more than a dozen yellow evidence markers in the area indicating where bullets or shells were found.

Capt. Joe Padilla, who heads the gang unit, and officer Danny Perez shot at the woman, a police source said. Witnesses say a fourth officer also appeared to shoot.

Before the shooting started, the woman had been pointing the gun at her own head, the police source said.

The man who was killed died from a wound, or wounds, left by a bullet, or bullets, fired from the woman's gun, police spokesman Sonny Jackson said.

Police have the gun but would not comment on the weapon.

Jackson described the start of the incident as a "rolling domestic" - a dispute in a moving vehicle - and said the man and woman had been arguing or agitated.

Police did not identify the couple pending notification of relatives.

An eyewitness to the shooting said officers fired several rounds, at least 15.

"It happened pretty quick," said Troy Henderson, 39, who lives a half a block from the gang unit building, which is just northeast of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

Henderson and his wife were leaving the house when they heard a few shots. "It was pop-pop-pop- pop-pop," he said.

He then saw four officers who appeared to be firing toward a black Ford pickup aiming into the park. The pickup and the SUV were parked next to each other.

"Within 60 seconds of the last shot being fired, 15 police cars showed up," Henderson said.

Many more police officers, in cruisers and on motorcycles, soon arrived. Police closed off Colorado Boulevard in both directions between 17th and 23rd avenues.

"Police were coming from all over," said Russell Bvolk, 70, who was visiting a friend nearby.

Bvolk said he saw officers place what appeared to be a fallen comrade into an ambulance.

Motorcycle cops surrounded the ambulance and escorted it from the lot.

"I thought it must be someone important," Bvolk said. "I don't think the president would have so many escorts."

Especially moving, Bvolk said, was the obvious concern on the officers' faces.

"They had the look: 'One of ours is down,"' Bvolk said. "They had the look: 'We want to do something about this and make sure this ambulance gets there every second faster that we can make it."'

Another witness saw two bodies put in ambulances also.

On the far side of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, scores of children were playing football as many parents watched.

Police racing to the scene sped by the practice fields, startling some of the onlookers.

Yoder was taken to Denver Health Medical Center, where he was in fair condition.

Mayor John Hickenlooper arrived at the hospital about 7 p.m. to give moral support to the officer, who was also with his wife in the emergency room.

"We were dealing with inches, and in this case the inches were on our side. Thank heaven the angels were on his side," Hickenlooper said.

Zachery Kouwe and Marilyn Robinson contributed to this report.

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