Denver police identified three men they want to question in connection with the shooting death of cornerback Darrent Williams after they found a Chevrolet Tahoe Thursday morning that had been sought in the investigation.
7NEWS has learned that police are looking for three men in their 20s, though it is not known if they are directly involved in the shooting. Police have not released the names of the men. At a minimum, police want to talk with the three men because it is believed they have critical information about the case.
Police have circulated pictures of the individuals and confirmed that 7NEWS' information was correct. 7NEWS is not releasing the names of the men at the request of Denver police who said the information would hinder their investigation.
7NEWS reports that the Denver Police Department has sent out an alert to make sure the three men do not leave the area or the state.
The new developments in the case came just hours after the 1998 Tahoe was found abandoned at 38th Avenue and Himalaya Street in the Green Valley Ranch subdivision just after 6 a.m., 7NEWS reported.
Police were tipped to the location by a 911 call and the report of an abandoned vehicle.
The white sport utility vehicle appeared to have been painted black, except for the roof of the vehicle. Police said it appears that someone used black spray paint to paint the front, side and back of the vehicle.
"It appears there was an attempt to disguise," said Sonny Jackson, a Denver police spokesman.
The rear plate had been spray-painted, but the front plate was unaltered and it matched the number police said was being sought.
"It is an act of desperation to abandon a vehicle in the middle of nowhere. So I think that is an act of desperation, but then if you commit a crime like this you are going to do some desperate things," Jackson said.
The first reports from the scene indicated that the interior of the vehicle had been burned out, but police the vehicle was "intact" and that would greatly aid the investigation.
Police won't say if the SUV was the one involved in the shooting, but admit that the condition that the SUV was found in definitely raises questions.
"We cannot assume anything, as soon as you assume something, you miss something. We are going to look broadly and then hopefully narrow down our focus as to what transpired," Jackson said. "It may rule out something as much as it may rule something in."
Police cornered off the area around the vehicle and a tow truck removed it from the street. It was taken to a police impound lot in north Denver and placed in an enclosed area where a forensic examination of the vehicle could take place.
Investigators will look for hair fibers, fingerprints, and any other evidence that could lead them to the killers.
"We'll go through the vehicle and see what we can find and whatever we can glean from it," said Jackson. "We're not sure how long it had been there."
He asked that anyone who may have seen who was driving the vehicle in the area of 38th and Himalaya to contact police.
"We figure somebody might have seen this vehicle on the street or might have seen someone getting out of this vehicle," Jackson said.
"Officers have been working on this case around the clock," he added. "We are conducting a methodical investigation. It is active and ongoing."
Police don't think the SUV had been on the road long, so there is a chance the suspects are still in town, although there are reports that they may have fled to Los Angeles.
SUV Belongs To Brian Hicks
Williams was riding in a stretch limousine near 11th Avenue and Speer Boulevard when he was shot and killed at 2 a.m. on New Year's Day. Witnesses told police the gunshots came from a white SUV -- possible a Chevrolet Tahoe or Suburban.
On Wednesday, police released a license plate number and said they were actively looking for a white 1998 Chevrolet Tahoe as a 'vehicle of interest' in the Williams slaying investigation.
7NEWS has confirmed that the SUV is registered to Brian K. Hicks of Denver.
Hicks, 28, has been jailed since Nov. 9 on a charge of possessing drugs with intent to distribute. He's also accused of shooting at a woman who was later killed a week before she was to testify against him. His bond was increased to $1 million after the woman was killed and his trial date was rescheduled.
Hicks is an admitted member of the Crips gang and there were other rival gang members at the Denver nightclub that Williams was at just before the shooting.
There were reportedly tensions between the two groups and Williams was said to be a peacemaker in one of the confrontations.
Although Hicks was behind bars on the day of the shooting, police want to know who was using his vehicle in the early morning hours of New Year's Day, when a gunman sprayed a white stretch Hummer limousine with at least 14 bullets, one of which struck Williams in the neck.
Hicks' wife, Kimaya James, told the Rocky Mountain News that police were looking for her husband's vehicle but that she didn't know who had been driving the Tahoe while he's been in the Denver County Jail.
James is accused of threatening to harm the woman scheduled to testify against Hicks in attempted murder case -- the same woman who was shot and killed just days before Hicks' trial.
Investigators have not identified any suspects in the attack, which also wounded two other people, Jackson said.
On Thursday, he refused to talk about Hicks or any possible connection to Hicks.
In 1997, Hicks was charged with vehicle theft, misdemeanor weapon posession and dangerous drugs. In 1998, he was sentenced to three years in the Colorado Department of Corrections.
"We have a homicide investigation. Regardless of who did it, it's a homicide. It doesn't matter if a gang member or a guy in a suit and tie did it, it's a homicide investigation," Jackson said.
Police also aren't saying whether they know the motive for the slaying but have said there was a disturbance at a nightclub where Williams attended a New Year's Eve party shortly before he was killed. Investigators are also reviewing surveillance video from the club and footage from traffic cameras.
Williams' uncle, Demond Williams, said the cornerback was at the club to promote a rap group for his fledgling independent recording label, Ryno Entertainment.
The gathering at the club in downtown Denver also was billed as a birthday party for Denver Nuggets star Kenyon Martin, who has said he and other Nuggets left the club before any trouble arose.
Broncos To Attend Funeral As Team
Williams' teammates and coaches, along with owner Pat Bowlen and other team personnel gathered with Williams' relatives at the team's training complex on Wednesday for a private memorial.
Also in attendance was former teammate Trevor Pryce, who plays for the Baltimore Ravens.
Some of the players wore sweats, others jeans and others suits as they solemnly filed into the building.
"I would like to thank you all for the love and support that our family has received during this sad time," Williams' mother, Rosalind Williams, said in a statement afterward before flying back to Texas.
"Dee lived his life to the fullest. ... I know from all of the public outpouring of sympathy, my son in his short time on this earth touched many lives."
The Broncos will charter a flight to Fort Worth, Williams' hometown, where the funeral will be held at Great Commission Baptist Church this weekend. It will be open to the public.
TheDenverChannel.com will livestream the funeral at 11 a.m. MST on Saturday.
"I think it will be very special for our football team to be there as a group and to not only support Darrent's memory but his mom, and we're going to have everybody in the organization go," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "It is something we have to do as a family."
A memorial will be held for Williams Thursday at his high school in Fort Worth.
Although only 5-foot-8, Williams was full of confidence. He had 88 tackles and four interceptions in 2006 and returned two punts for 50 yards in his final game hours before his death, a 26-23 loss to San Francisco that eliminated the Broncos from playoff contention.
Williams had a 7-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter who live in Fort Worth. A memorial fund was set up in their honor, and Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony said he wanted to honor his friend, possibly by setting up a college fund for Williams' children.
Anthony said he was with Williams at the nightclub in the hours before he was slain.
In 2003, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Joey Porter was shot outside a Denver sports bar, and last April, Nuggets guard Julius Hodge was shot while driving on Interstate 76 in Denver. Both shootings occurred after disturbances at nightclubs and neither case has been solved.
Hodge, who played Tuesday night for the first time since he was shot five times April 8, said Williams' killing brought back nightmares of the night he was attacked.
"I pray every night for him and his family and friends," Hodge said. "They haven't found who shot me and I've pretty much let it go, but I pray that they find whoever shot him."
Police have asked anyone with information about the fatal shooting or the SUV to contact them. Tipsters can remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at 720-913-7867.
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