The Denver Police Department arrested 32 men and juvenile boys after a months-long undercover investigation into what police said were racially motivated assaults and robberies in downtown Denver, including the LoDo entertainment district.
A task force composed of Denver police, the FBI and the Denver district attorney's office investigated 26 incidents in which groups of black males verbally harassed, assaulted and at times robbed white or Latino males, according to Denver Police Chief Gerry Whitman.
All of the suspects are young black males, most of whom told police they were associated with either the Rollin' 60s Crips gang or the Black Gangster Disciples gang.
They are charged with varying counts of bias-motivated assault and, in some cases, robbery — all felony crimes.
The investigation determined that there was no single mastermind behind the summer and fall assaults, District Attorney Mitch Morrissey said. It is clear, however, that the two groups communicated, he said.
Groups of four or five black men would approach a victim late at night or early in the morning and attempt to spark a fight by verbally berating him, Whitman said.
The suspects made references to the victims' race during the assaults.
Victims were punched in the head, resulting in head injuries, broken noses and shattered eye sockets, according to Whitman. No one was killed during the months of attacks.
Some victims' wallets, iPods, cash and other small items were stolen after the assault.
Whitman said it might be the largest racially motivated criminal group effort ever in Denver.
"We have seen coordinated efforts before, but not by this large of a group," Whitman said.
A pattern emerged
Assaults were often recorded on video cameras mounted throughout parts of the city. The first of the assaults was in July.
As a pattern emerged, police dispatched undercover teams to areas near clubs and late-night restaurants where assaults were occurring to intervene.
In September, police asked the public for help in solving 14 downtown muggings but chose not to alert the public to the racial nature of the crimes, or the scope of the investigation underway, out of concern that the undercover effort would be compromised.
Denver police are still looking for suspects and victims involved in six unreported robberies and assaults captured on video.
The footage indicates that they may be related to the 26 reported instan ces.
Victims involved in the assaults may not know that their attacks were part of a larger pattern, Morrissey said.
Fifty-five warrants were issued for the 35 suspects. Some suspects may have been involved in more than one assault.
All 32 suspects arrested during the 24-hour sweep know one another, Morrissey said.
But finding almost all of the people they wanted surprised police.
"I was surprised we only missed four of them," Whitman said.
A short time after he spoke, one more was caught.
Three suspects, Allen Ford, Torrence McCall and one juvenile, are still at large.
Suspects are being held on $1 million bail for each count.
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