By Logan Smith

DENVER (CBS4) — Last December, a federal court jury found a 30-year-old Denver man guilty of beating a woman who was giving him a ride, shoving her out of her own vehicle, and driving off with it. He used that woman’s SUV in the shooting of another man seven days later.

United States District Court Judge Raymond P. Moore sentenced Joseph Wesley Avila on March 14 to 20 years in federal prison.

Details in the prosecution’s sentencing statement indicate Avila was released on parole from the Colorado Department of Corrections two months before the July 2020 incident.

(credit: Colorado Department of Corrections)

The woman met Avila at a gas station near the Auraria Campus in downtown Denver, according to the court document. It was there that her Chevrolet Tahoe ran out of gas. Once refueled, she gave Avila’s a ride to her apartment and then returned to the gas station to drop off Avila at his car.

Avila’s car, however, had been towed.

“The defendant began crying and stated that the title was not in his name,” the document states.

The woman continued driving with Avila as the passenger. They picked up a male friend of Avila’s who sat in the back seat behind her. At some point, the woman felt what she believed to be a gun pressed to the back of her neck. The two men then began hitting her in the face with their fists, according to the sentencing statement, and threatened to kill her. She got out of the Tahoe as they instructed but was struck in the face with a skateboard before the two men drove off with her vehicle. She stumbled to a nearby apartment complex and called police.

Investigators from the Denver Police Department later located Avila’s vehicle, a red Honda Passport, which had been towed from the gas station. Inside the Passport, they found Avila’s Colorado state ID, his DOC inmate identification card, and pieces of mail addressed to him. And no title to the car.

Exactly a week after the armed carjacking, Avila was involved in the shooting of a man in the 4500 block of Pecos Street. According to the sentencing statement, Avila shot a man whom he believed to be competing with for the affections of a female gas station attendant. Avila shot the man twice in the stomach – as he was driving the carjacking victim’s Tahoe.

Denver Fugitive and SWAT team members tracked down Avila the next day near his residence at 25th Avenue and Krameria Street. Investigators recovered a .380-caliber semi-automatic handgun, a loaded .380 magazine, and loose .380 ammunition. Avila’s DNA was detected on the handgun. Testing also determined a shell casing recovered from the Pecos gas station was fired from that gun.

(credit: Colorado Department of Corrections)

Avila, having been previously convicted of felonies involving assaults and weapons, was not legally permitted to carry the handgun.  Avila was charged federally and sentenced on armed carjacking and weapon possession charges.

“Avila’s violent criminal past has left a trail of victims for nearly two decades in Colorado,” stated David S. Booth, Special Agent in Charge for the Denver Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), in a press release. “Due to the strong investigative work and subsequent prosecution, his violence has come to an end.”





Logan Smith