Denver parks employee, Damion Baca, accused of being gang member who shot man in drive-by attack

DENVER - A Denver Parks and Recreation employee is accused of being an admitted gang member who shot a man six times in a drive-by shooting in December, according to court records obtained by 7NEWS.

Denver police arrested Damion Baca, 33, during a traffic stop Monday on an attempted murder warrant.

During a Tuesday morning court hearing, a judge doubled Baca's bond to $100,000 and said if the defendant is released on bond, he must wear an electronic tracking anklet. He remained in the Downtown Detention Center on Tuesday afternoon.

Baca has been a fulltime employee for Denver Parks and Recreation for eight months and he was an on-call employee starting in 2010, agency spokesman Jeff Green told 7NEWS. He is a utility worker whose assignments include clearing snow from trails, general maintenance and repairs.

- Man shot six times in gang attack -

According to an arrest affidavit, police suspect Baca is the trigger-man in a drive-by shooting that wounded a 24-year-old man in the alley behind the 3500 block of Vine Street on the night of Dec 21, 2013.

Witnesses say a four-door sedan traveling down the alley stopped as the man was standing with his wife behind their home.

A man in the front passenger seat said, "What's up, Eastside Oldies," before "hanging out" the window and firing about 10 shots, the affidavit said. The victim was hit six times, but survived. The man's wife and another female relative escaped injury.

The wife told police the couple's home had been struck by gunfire during two other drive-by shootings in the previous two to three months, the affidavit said.

The victim told police the man who shot him was a light-skinned Hispanic in his 20s or 30s. The victim said the man declared he was an Eastside Oldies 13 gang member before opening fire. The victim believed he was targeted because he was a former member of a rival gang, the affidavit said.

The victim and his wife said the suspect vehicle appeared to a tan or gold Mercury Grand Marquis or Ford Crown Victoria.

The victim said the driver of the car was light-skinned Hispanic woman in her mid-20s with blond hair. He said there was an 18-to-20-year-old man in the backseat.

- Parks worker suspected in 2nd drive-by shooting -

On the evening of Jan. 10, Denver police responded to another drive-by shooting in the 3800 block of High St. -- just four blocks from where the man was shot in the Vine Street alley.

A witness told police a man was "hanging out" the front-passenger seat window of a Lincoln Continental, firing a handgun at someone on the sidewalk. No one was wounded in the shooting.

Patrol officers scouting the neighborhood for the suspect vehicle found a silver Lincoln Continental parked on a nearby street.

Police said a 31-year-old woman, Star Rivera, was in the driver's seat of the Continental. The Denver Parks and Recreation employee, Damion Baca, was seated in the front-passenger seat. Police said Baca was "extremely intoxicated."

"Baca is a self-admitted Eastside Oldies 13 gang member who uses the moniker 'buff,'" a police detective wrote in the affidavit. A backseat passenger, 33-year-old Abel Banuelos, was also described as a "self-admitted Eastside Oldies 13 gang member."

Baca is the registered owner of the Continental, police said. Officers noted that the Lincoln Continental is similar in body style to the Mercury Grand Marquis described by witnesses as the possible suspect vehicle in the drive-by shooting of the man in the Vine Street alley.

Lacking sufficient evidence to hold the trio in the Continental, police let them go.

But the investigation continued.

Officers visited Banuelos' nearby home and, after spotting a handgun trigger-lock, police obtained written consent to search the residence. They found two shotguns, a handgun magazine, a handgun case, a handgun shoulder holster and ammunition for 9mm and .45-caliber handguns. Banuelos was arrested for being a convicted felon in possession of firearms, the affidavit said.

- Shooting victim IDs Continental as shooter's car -

Police later showed photographs of the silver Lincoln Continental to the victim of the alley shooting. The victim told police "this is the car" used in the shooting, saying he might have initially mistaken it for a gold car because of the lighting in the alley that night. Another witness also said the Continental appeared to be the shooter's car.

Police said the shooting victim's description of the gunman and the woman driving the suspect car matched the description of Baca and Star Rivera, the affidavit said. However, the victim was unable to pick a 2008 photo of Baca out of a photo lineup.

A witness to the alley shooting viewed a photo lineup and said a photo of Baca and a second man in the lineup "resembled" the shooter.

- Baca, Rivera arrested during traffic stop -

On Monday afternoon, Denver police stopped a Cadillac at 11th Avenue and Lipan Street. Rivera was at the wheel and Baca was in the passenger seat. Baca was arrested on the attempted murder warrant in the alley shooting. Rivera was arrested on unrelated warrants and has not be charged in connection with the drive-by shootings.

Baca has a five-page criminal arrest history in Colorado, according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation database.

He pleaded guilty in 2001 to felony menacing with a real or simulated weapon in Denver and was sentenced to three years in the state Department of Corrections, according to court records. He has other prior arrests for dangerous drugs, parole violation and reckless endangerment.

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