DENVER (CBS4) – A CBS4 Investigation has found that the Denver Police Department’s gang bureau was warned about potential gang violence in LoDo the night of July 29, but the unit commander sent his officers home hours before the end of their shift. Soon after, the gang violence he had been warned about exploded in LoDo with more than 200 shots fired from at least 18 weapons. Two men were shot and one of them — Gailen Armstrong, 20 — was killed.
“It was a bad decision,” said Denver Police Deputy Chief David Quinones.
Informed of the findings of the CBS4 Investigation, Armstrong’s mother, Angela Lee, said “I do think there should be further investigation. I just feel like they didn’t care, they didn’t care.”
According to internal Denver police documents, timesheets and interviews, the night shift officers of the Denver Police gang unit were asked to report for duty at 3 p.m. on July 29 to assist with a Donald Trump campaign rally being held in the Lowry neighborhood.
The gang bureau officers were scheduled to work a 10 hour shift until 1 a.m.
According to internal DPD planning documents, anti- Trump protestors were expected and police wanted to be ready, so a number of DPD units were mobilized.
But the rally went off with few problems and ended by about 8 p.m. After approximately 9 p.m., there was nothing left for officers to do.
“They were supposed to go back into patrol,” said Quinones.
But the CBS4 Investigation learned that’s not what happened.
Across town, in LoDo, a hip hop concert was getting underway at a concert venue at 1902 Blake Street.
The promoter of the show contacted an off-duty police officer “to express concerns regarding the presence of a large number of … gang members at the show.”
“A recent shooting led the promoter to believe there could be problems that evening,” according to Denver police correspondence.
The off-duty officer, Joshua Valero, immediately contacted an on-duty command officer who in turn contacted Lt. Ron McDaniel of the Denver Police Department’s gang bureau.
McDaniel then had another officer review social media for any postings that might indicate there would be problems at the show. When he found no indications on social media, McDaniel decided to send his officers home about three to four hours early since they had not had a break.
McDaniel did not respond to messages from CBS4 seeking comment on what happened.
Just after midnight, with gang unit officers still technically on the clock but actually at home, the predicted gang violence erupted in a parking lot across the street from the concert hall.
More than 200 rounds were fired from at least 18 weapons. One bullet hit Armstrong. He had been at the concert and had a history of gang activity, according to his family. Armstrong died in the parking lot, leaving behind a four-month-old son.
“I believe if you see a heavy police presence, you’re not going to do anything,” said Angela Lee. “Maybe it would have prevented my son not being dead today,” she said. “Somebody needs to answer to that. Why weren’t they down here at this concert? There’s a lot wrong with that.”
Quinones told CBS4 that McDaniel made a bad decision.
“He acknowledges it was a bad decision. I think he feels horrible about the decision he made and I don’t think he will ever make this decision again,” said Quinones.
Sharletta Evans, who lost her three year old son Casson to gang violence in Denver in 1995, was upset at learning what the CBS4 Investigation revealed.
“We have a life that was lost because there was no policing. We need to do our jobs, especially at a time like this.”
Evans said she believes if the gang unit had been on the streets of LoDo instead of at home, “it would have dispersed the crowd. Something needs to be done about this.”
The Department of Safety has now disciplined McDaniel, penalizing him six days pay for his actions the night of July 29.
According to a disciplinary letter obtained by CBS4 dated Oct. 24, McDaniel was punished for failing to obey department rules as it pertains to supervising and controlling officers.
“Because he sent the officers home, Lieutenant McDaniel did not have officers to address the gang situation at the show,” says the letter, signed by Deputy Director of Safety Jess Vigil.
“Lieutenant McDaniel was informed of potential gang-related criminal activity but was unable to appropriately respond because he sent officers under his supervision home prior to the end of their assigned hours … a shooting resulting in death, that might not have happened had there been a visible police presence..” wrote Vigil. “Lieutenant McDaniel did not properly account for their time and they were compensated for hours they did not work.”
Then on Nov. 2, the Department of Safety amended that disciplinary letter, this time eliminating any reference to officers being paid while they were at home. In the rewritten letter, Vigil wrote “…Lieutenant McDaniel, initially, did not properly account for their time and they would have been compensated for hours they did not work had this not been corrected.”
Daelene Mix, a spokesperson for the Department of Safety, explained the altered language by writing “Vigil did not find that Lieutenant McDaniel willfully or intentionally attempted to compensate officers for time not worked, but rather that he neglected to properly account for their time.”
The disciplinary letter notes that McDaniel has acknowledged his actions were inappropriate and he has taken “complete responsibility” for his conduct.
Quinones said McDaniel is an excellent officer with no previous disciplinary problems. He said he agreed with the recommendation that McDaniel lose a week’s pay.
“This is not typical for this lieutenant. This is an outstanding officer with a stellar career,” Quinones said.
Evans calls the loss of a week’s pay “less than a slap on the wrist.”
“That’s a cup of coffee and go home. Somebody has to be accountable for the life that was lost. There’s a lack of accountability there,” she said.
Angela Lee said a Denver Police detective recently told her nobody has been arrested for her son’s murder.