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Friday, 19 December 2008

Nine members of the Crips street gang have been indicted on charges they burned down the Holly Shopping Center

From top left, clockwise, the nine Crips members indicted in the Holly Shopping Center fire: Mario Jennings, Marquise Jones, Antwan McCoy, Deangelo Calaway, Corsia Crosby, David Tinsley, Katsina Roybal, Jimmy Hopkins and Mitchell Walker. Walker has not been arrested yet.
Nine members of the Crips street gang have been indicted on charges they burned down the Holly Shopping Center in retaliation for the murder of local Crips founder Michael Asberry, possibly by someone from a rival street gang. The area around the center, also known as Holly Square, at 3365 Holly Street, was a hangout for Bloods gang members. Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey said at a news conference this morning that he had no doubt the indictment of the nine — eight of whom were arrested Thursday — will impact the Crips. "Obviously this is a large number of individuals who are associated with the Crips gang," Morrissey said. "Any time we do an indictment of this number of people it is going to have an impact on any kind of street gang." According to the indictment, a confrontation between the Crips and Bloods occurred at the Bash Night Club, 1902 Blake St., when it closed in the early hours of May 18. Asberry had been killed in the early hours of May 17 outside an Aurora apartment building by a still-unknown assailant. After the confrontation at Bash, a number of the Crips went to a 7-Eleven store and talked about burning down the Holly Shopping Center because of the killing of Asberry and because the Holly was "known as Bloods' turf," said the indictment. At the 7-Eleven, the group bought bottled drinks, which they filled with gasoline to make Molotov cocktails. They drove to the shopping center, stuffed rags in the bottles, lit the rags and threw the bottles onto the roof of the Holly shopping center, Morrissey said. The fire burned six businesses and leveled the shopping center. The damage was well over $2 million, said the district attorney. Morrissey and Denver Police Chief Gerald Whitman said that the arson was captured by a camera on a nearby library. "As you know, this occurred on May 18 about 3:40 a.m., and within four hours we had a videotape to the fire department from a video camera Whitman said.
Morrissey said the video showed that one of the Molotov cocktails rolled off the roof and hit the head of the person who threw it, causing his head to catch fire.
Although that individual can't be identified, Morrissey said other surveillance cameras and photographs are "very helpful" in identifying some of the arsonists.
Investigators from both the Denver Fire Department and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation brought in an accelerant-detection dog who pointed out six areas. Four of the six tested positive for gasoline. Investigators said the case was broken on May 20, when Denver police Cpl. Dan Andrews pulled over a GMC conversion van in the 1400 block of East 37th Avenue for a tail light violation and smelled gasoline coming from the van. The driver was eventually identified as Katsina Roybal, one of the Crips suspected in the Holly fire. Two other members of the Crips gang — Mitchell Walker and James Burleson — were passengers in the van. Inside the van, investigators found the components of Molotov cocktails, including bottles and rags. The district attorney said the investigation had been before the Denver grand jury for several months. The nine are charged with use of explosives or incendiary devices, criminal mischief, first-degree arson, conspiracy and possession of explosives. The people accused of throwing the Molotov cocktails are Burleson, 20; Deangelo Calaway, 19; Mario Jennings, 19; Walker, 18; and Jimmy Hopkins, 22. Roybal, 19; David Tinsley, 22; Corsia Crosby, 20; and Marquis Jones, 22, acted as lookout, according to the grand jury indictment. Morrissey said that what occurred was an attack on the Holly community. "That is one of the older shopping centers. It is kind of the heart there with the police station down the street, the library across the street," said Morrissey. "The Holly is really the place that is the center for the community there. "It is our theory that they were targeting the shopping center," Morrissey said. "I don't think they really cared much about the businesses that were in there. The statement that were trying to make was the Holly itself. I think it was an attack on the community. Hopefully today we are sending a message to them (the Crips)."

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