Aurora PD steps up school patrols after third large youth shooting in 2 weeks

City leaders in the Denver suburb called for "all hands on deck"

By Hannah Metzger
The Gazette

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The Aurora community is reeling after five people were shot Sunday in the city’s latest act of mass gun violence.

The shooting, which hospitalized boys age 16 to 20, is the third large shooting in the Denver suburb in under two weeks, all involving teenage victims.

Evidence markers dot the parking lot of Hinkley High School in Aurora, Colo., on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021 after three people were shot, police said.
Evidence markers dot the parking lot of Hinkley High School in Aurora, Colo., on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021 after three people were shot, police said. (Philip B. Poston/Sentinel Colorado via AP)

The first shooting, outside of Aurora Central High School, left six teenage students wounded on Nov. 15. Four days later, three students were shot outside of Hinkley High School. All 14 of the victims in the recent shootings are expected to survive.

On Sunday, Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson said she is “deeply disturbed by these latest acts of senseless violence.”

“We have increased patrols in and around our schools and have been working closely with our partners at Aurora Public School and Cherry Creek Schools to keep them safe,” Wilson said. “We encourage parents to be involved with their kids. Find out who they are spending time with, where they are going, check their belongings and rooms for weapons.”

Wilson said Aurora's Gang Intervention Unit, Fugitive Apprehension and Surveillance Team and RAVEN Task Force are working to get rid of illegal guns in the city and to arrest violent criminals. She said the investigative units have also been working “countless hours” investigating the recent shootings.

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Sunday’s shooting happened just after midnight in the area of North Dayton Street and East Colfax Avenue. Police have not made any arrests or confirmed suspect information, but they are investigating whether the shooting was connected to a nearby house party.

Three 16-year-old boys have been arrested in connection with the shooting outside of Hinkley High School, with police saying the shooting was gang related. Two 15-year-old boys were arrested in connection with the Aurora Central High School shooting, though there are more suspects still at-large.

“The continued violence in our city is alarming and anyone that isn’t concerned must not be paying attention,” Councilman Curtis Gardner said. “We continue to have the lives of young people ripped apart and we should never become numb to that. ... The Aurora community needs healing, and we need all hands on deck to address the youth violence epidemic.”

In October and November, at least 20 teenagers were victims in shootings throughout Aurora, according to reports from the Aurora Police Department. In those shootings, at least five victims died of their injuries, including a 17-year-old fatally shot by a 36-year-old ex-police officer on Wednesday.

Amid this rise in violence, Aurora’s leaders are scrambling to come up with solutions, though some question whether the city is really to blame. Councilman Dave Gruber said “ultimate responsibility” for the recent violence “lies with the shooters themselves.”

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“The question is, how could these teenagers have such a blatant disregard for life and society? I suspect many reasons including music, video games and social media,” Gruber said. “Parents have responsibility for instilling values and monitoring their children. How could this crucial role have failed and what can be done to prepare parents?”

Gardner expressed a similar sentiment, saying parents, pastors and community leaders are the key to addressing youth violence, not politicians. He said Aurora’s young people need “positive, life-affirming influence in their daily lives.”

In contrast, Councilwoman Alison Coombs argues that the city must do better at providing the community with resources to prevent violence.

“As leaders we must ensure that youth, families and the community have what they need to prevent these tragedies,” Coombs said. “This includes mental health support, economic and social opportunities to thrive and safe ways to report violence.”

Earlier this year, Aurora launched its Youth Violence Prevention Program and entered the Aurora/Denver Youth Empowerment Compact in 2020 to try to combat youth violence.

Just last week, in response to the shootings outside of the two high schools, the city announced it is partnering with Denver to host a gun buyback program in March. The program, led by Gardner, will allow residents to turn in firearms anonymously to reduce the availability of firearms in the cities.

Mayor Mike Coffman championed these efforts Sunday as the city’s long-term approach to systematically addressing increasing youth violence.

"In the short run, I look forward to hearing from both law enforcement and prosecutors about a zero-tolerance approach to gun violence from minors who are illegally possessing and using handguns,” Coffman said. “In the long run, this city has been beefing up our youth violence prevention programs that target at-risk youth in working to deter young people from going down the wrong path before it's too late."

The investigations into the recent shootings are ongoing. Police are asking anyone with information to call Metro Denver Crime Stoppers at (720) 913-7867. Tipsters can remain anonymous and are eligible for a reward up to $2,000.

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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