DENVER (CBS4) – Thursday evening, Denver police worked the corner near 14th and Broadway, where the shooting happened, picking up evidence and talking to people. The gunshots rang out in the afternoon, amid tents and people living close together.
“The immediate area has been cleared out, obviously, so we can do our investigation,” said Denver Police spokesman Sonny Jackson.
One man died. Two others were at a hospital Thursday night, but were expected to survive. Outside the police tape, other people lived on in Lincoln Memorial Park, dozens of feet away. They’ve taken up residence across the street from the capitol with tents and belongings.
“I didn’t see anything, just saw the inside of my tent,” said Nate Jones, who is struggling with homelessness.
“Just got down,” he said, as the shooting rang out.
The shooting came only hours after Gov. Jared Polis complained that Denver hadn’t done enough about the camps on state property and wished for law enforcement to help clear them.
“We would not only welcome, I would encourage or invite anybody, if there are anybody who has squatted on state property, we would encourage anybody, a law enforcement agency of course, to come remove them,” said Polis.
Polis noted the land, and the law enforcement responsibility for places like Lincoln Memorial Park and outside the governor’s mansion, belong to the City of Denver.
“I’ve asked the mayor and city council, and I really want the city council to act, and the mayor, but they’ve obviously been asking them for weeks,” he said.
“I thought Denver voters voted for the camping ban,” Polis added, which they did — in effect — by voting down a proposal to repeal it with over 80% of voters opting to keep it.
It was a stinging remark toward the city, and the mayor’s office responded later in the day with a statement:
“Mayor Hancock and Governor Polis speak weekly, and the Mayor’s Office communicates with the Governor and his office almost daily about the situation outside the Governor’s Mansion, in Lincoln Park and at the State Capitol. We currently are in the process of granting the Colorado State Patrol authority to enforce municipal laws on their property. At the same time, we continue to address the health, housing and other needs of those in our city experiencing homelessness.”
The office of the manager of public safety had been working on a delegation of that authority, and late in the day it was out:
“Commissioned troopers of the Colorado State Patrol are hereby authorized and empowered to issue citations for violations,” it reads. That includes trespassing and other offenses.
This move opens the door for the state patrol to sweep homeless camps, if they follow Denver’s regulations, keep the city informed and if state patrol officers get training. No one could say Thursday night what that training would be.
The delegation of authority is a temporary arrangement termed a pilot program for three months. In effect, it means Gov. Polis, who has oversight over the state patrol, can now bring them in to sweep the camps, although how quickly that would happen, given the requirements, is unclear.
Advocates for people who are homeless noted the entire situation is a symptom of years of neglect of Denver’s homeless problem and rising housing costs.
“This is the front end of the housing crisis that we’re seeing,” said Benjamin Dunning of Denver Homeless Out Loud. “Shelters are overflowing, there’s not enough public housing for folks and hasn’t been for 20, 30 years.”
In talking about moving people out, Dunning said “They’re talking about how to make privileged people’s eyes feel better so they don’t have to look at poor people struggling.”