Sue Lindsay, Rocky Mountain News
Copyright 2006 Denver Publishing Company
A man accused of killing Denver Detective Donald Young last May told Mexican authorities that he shot at two officers but that he didn't mean to kill them.
"He stated he was trying to scare the officers," Detective Martin Vigil testified at a preliminary hearing for Raul Gomez-Garcia, 20. "He stated he disposed of the gun in the desert en route to Las Vegas."
Gomez-Garcia was ordered to stand trial Sept. 5 on charges of second-degree murder in Young's slaying and first-degree attempted murder of Detective John Bishop, who was wounded. He also faces new charges of second-degree assault and assault on a peace officer.
Young's widow, Kelly, left the courthouse without comment after the hearing.
Denver Police Chief Gerry Whitman said it was an emotional day for her, other family members and police officers.
"There is no doubt in my mind we got the right guy," he said.
The officers were working off-duty security at the Salon Ocampo banquet hall for a baptismal party when four young men, including Gomez-Garcia, tried to get into the party without invitations.
Young allegedly escorted Gomez- Garcia from the hall, grabbing his arm and neck as the two exchanged words.
Gomez-Garcia told friends he was going to return to the club and shoot the officer, Vigil said. He returned a short time later, shot the officers and fled through a hole in a wooden fence to a getaway car about a block away.
He confessed the shooting to several friends and his wife before fleeing Denver, telling them, "I shot the officer," Vigil said.
Defense attorney Fernando Freyre argued that police failed to pursue alternative suspects and forced Gomez-Garcia's wife and friends to implicate him by threatening them with their illegal immigration status.
Freyre also objected that the new assault charges violate the extradition agreement that brought Gomez-Garcia back to the United States to face trial.
Gomez-Garcia was arrested in Mexico after an extensive manhunt. He was extradited to the U.S. after prosecutors agreed not to charge him with first-degree murder.
Bishop said the shots that killed his partner came from behind and that he didn't see the shooter, said police Lt. Jon Priest. Bishop said he was spinning around and reaching for his gun when he saw Young holding his head as he fell to the floor, Priest said.
Bishop ran after the shooter, but the man escaped.
Police Capt. Michael Calo, who was working off-duty across the street, testified that he was among the first officers to respond after hearing muffled shots fired and seeing a gunman run from the club.
Then he got Bishop's call: "Officer down."
"It's like getting hit in the stomach," Calo said, struggling to control his emotions. "It was just very bad, a very bad scene."
As he walked in the door of the club, he saw Bishop first.
"He looked like he lost his best friend," Calo said. "It was horrific."
Bishop told him, "Donnie's down, Mike. It's bad."
Young's widow, Kelly, wept softly as Calo described finding her husband bleeding on the floor from a gunshot wound to the head, as "a sea of people," including many young children, left the club in tears.
Young was shot three times. One shot ripped through his heart and lungs.
Calo said he yelled for someone to get towels. "I didn't want his face and head on that floor," he said.
Bishop was in shock, not realizing that he, too, had been shot, Calo said.
Calo said he saw the color draining from Bishop's face and they discovered that he had also been shot in the torso. The bullet was stopped by his protective vest.
No one else was injured in the shooting, Calo said.
"But emotionally, everyone that saw (Young) that night will have to live with that the rest of their lives," he said.
lindsays@RockyMountainNews.com or 303-892-5181
Photo, Raul Gomez-Garcia faces Sept. 5 trial in shooting of detectives.
April 14, 2006
Accused Denver cop killer says he just meant to scare two officers