DENVER (CBS4) – Children in one Denver neighborhood are without their beloved rec center after the city deemed the area unsafe. Denver Parks and Recreation put gates around the La Alma Recreation Center and nearby playground after a shooting took the life of a longtime resident.
Families arrived at the Rec Center the next day, disappointed to learn it was closed.
Shaquanna Smith brings her children there every day.
“They beg to come here. It definitely keeps them out of trouble,” said Smith. “We’re here every day while my oldest is at tutoring. It’s like our mutual ground. It’s just shocking that they’re closed.”
Several neighbors around the park told CBS4 they’ve seen an increase in violence and even gang activity. Closing the rec center is the city’s response to rising crime, but neighbors say the community being punished.
“The violence needs to stop because they’re not thinking about the children it’s affecting around them. They’re just thinking in the moment,” said Smith.
Denver police responded to the area of West 13th Avenue and North Osage Street Wednesday evening on a report of a shooting. The victim, 63-year-old Gary Arellano, was taken to the hospital where he died from his injuries.
DPD says Arellano was in the park when he witnessed a fight. Arellano was shot while attempting to break up the altercation.
The next day, Arellano’s friends and family held a candlelight vigil and released balloons near the spot he was killed.
“He shot him in his face and in his chest four times and took off walking like if he didn’t do nothing,” said Jami. “My uncle lost his life trying to protect bystanders. He took a good man away from a family that needs him. It was senseless.”
Police arrested a suspect, 24-year-old Trahavonie Smith, for investigation of first-degree murder. The crime committed Wednesday was just one of many that has neighbors in the area shaken and frustrated.
“When I was younger, we used to go here every day, especially in the summer because the pools open,” said Angelina, Arellano’s young niece. “There’s always a lot of fights going on and shootings. What they did to my uncle was just heartbreaking.”
Violence took this place from boys and girls like Angelina long before the city put up its barricades.
“It’s too dangerous now. Kids can’t even enjoy hanging out and playing because senseless acts like this happen,” said Jami.
Denver Parks and Rec says the La Alma Recreation Center will be closed until further notice.