Suspect In Officer's Slaying Worked At Cherry Cricket

Manhunt On For Raul Garcia-Gomez

The man suspected of killing an off-duty Denver police officer over the weekend worked in Cherry Creek at a restaurant owned by Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, but he may not have been in this country legally, 7NEWS reported.

Denver police have named Raul Garcia-Gomez as a suspect in the ambush shooting of two police officers.

The suspect, identified as Raul Garcia-Gomez, 19, worked as a bus boy at the Cherry Cricket Restaurant, sources told 7NEWS.

Garcia-Gomez didn't show up for work Monday. Police believe he may have fled the state, leaving Monday morning with all of his belongings, 7NEWS reported.

The Cherry Cricket is owned in part by Hickenlooper, who put his interest in the restaurant in a blind trust after becoming mayor. Hickenlooper said he was unaware that Garcia-Gomez had been been hired at the Cricket but he is clearly concerned by the news.

"Restaurants are closely knit and behave very much like families and I can only imagine the shock that someone they work very closely with could, if it's true -- again if it's true -- could do something so hideous," said Hickenlooper.

Detectives spent two hours at the restaurant Monday night investigating. Sources told 7NEWS that the baptism party at which Detective "Donnie" Young was murdered was held in honor of a child of another Cherry Cricket employee.

The mayor said finding the killer is his top priority.

"If they need a bigger reward, my job is to get that reward. If they need more people or more resources of any kind, my job is get them those resources," Hickenlooper said.

Who Is Garcia-Gomez?

"We know this is the face of the person we want," Denver Police Chief Gerry Whitman said at an early-morning press conference. "We know who you are. We have a warrant. There is no option. You have to turn yourself in."

Garcia-Gomez came to Colorado last year from Los Angeles. He and his girlfriend, along with his young daughter, moved into the house on South Vrain and he began working at Cherry Cricket about 10 months ago as a dishwasher, 7NEWS reported.

Garcia-Gomez is a Mexican national who is suspected of being in the United States illegally, 7NEWS reported. 7NEWS has confirmed with federal sources that there is no record of Garcia-Gomez entering the country legally, nor has he ever had contact with immigration authorities. Other than a couple of minor traffic tickets, Garcia-Gomez has no criminal record so there is a concern that he could be trying to return to Mexico, a country that does not extradite suspects who could face the death penalty or life in prison.

Employees at Cherry Cricket told 7NEWS that they saw Garcia-Gomez at the baptism party Saturday evening and that he was not acting strangely. They said he was at the party from 10 p.m. to 10:50 p.m. and that Garcia-Gomez' girlfriend, Sandra (Rosalda) Rivas, is related to Miguel Daniel Rivas, another Cherry Cricket employee who threw the party for his baby boy.

Detectives say for some reason, Garcia-Gomez was asked to leave the party and he returned a few minutes later and gunned down the two officers.

Police say after the shooting, Garcia-Gomez went back to his house and gathered all the photos of himself, presumably to make it harder for cops to find pictures of him. The only picture that officers could find was the photo now on the CrimeStoppers flier.

Garcia-Gomez was last seen driving a white 1995 Dodge Neon four-door with temporary tag 474735C. Police say he may have fled to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, or Mexico, where he has family and friends.

Garcia-Gomez is described as 5 feet 6 inches tall, about 160 pounds with short or shaved hair, a thin mustache and a tattoo on his left hand. Police say if you see Garcia-Gomez or someone who looks like him, you should not approach him. Police say is an armed and dangerous man who doesn't have much to lose.

"He's wanted on an ambush on a police officer so it doesn't look to me like he wants to be taken into custody," Whitman said.

Police say they were led to Garcia-Gomez by a CrimeStoppers tip that was phoned in at 7 a.m. Monday.

His girlfriend has been taken into custody for questioning but officers say they are looking for more help from the community.

CrimeStoppers has offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to Gomez' arrest. Police asked anyone with information about the case to call Crimestoppers at (720) 913-STOP or (720) 913-7867.

Young Remembered

Young, 43, a married father of two and a recipient of the police Medal of Honor, was shot three times from behind early Sunday, police said. Detective John H. Bishop was treated for a minor gunshot wound in his back and released.

Hickenlooper called the attack "cold-blooded murder" and Whitman called it an ambush.

"It's indescribable what he did and how it was done. There are things we are not going to talk about, but he is a threat to society," said police division Chief Dave Fisher.

Young and Bishop were off-duty but in uniform. Both were shot at about 1 a.m. Sunday while providing security at Salon Ocampo, a rental hall often used for birthday and baptism parties. Police said two other officers who were working nearby rushed to the aid of the fallen detectives and saw a man fleeing with what appeared to be a weapon.

Officer Donald Young was shot and killed early Sunday morning.

Young, a 12-year veteran, graduated from the police academy in December 1993 and had worked with the vice-narcotics and domestic violence units. He was assigned to the fugitive-bomb squad when he died.

Young is the first Denver officer shot to death since 1997. Officer Bruce VanderJagt was killed in the line of duty in November 1997 in the notorious Lisl Auman case.

Since Sunday morning's shooting, more than 120 detectives have worked virtually around the clock to find a suspect. They've gone to more then a dozen locations, talked to scores of witnesses, often with Spanish translators.

Officers want to capture this suspect so urgently that many are operating on three hours of sleep.

"They're running on adrenaline and doughnuts, I think. It's been a tremendous thing to watch. These officers will not let go of this," Whitman said.

A federal warrant for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution has been issued for Garcia-Gomez, meaning that FBI and U.S Marshals are now involved and the manhunt has gone nationwide. Garcia-Gomez' picture is also posted on an international FBI database.

"We know every cop across the state and across the country is watching. When you say he killed a police officer, the capture of the man becomes the No. 1 call," Whitman said.

Early Tuesday morning, Young's widow was called and told that her husband's killer had been identified.

"Kelly Young is real strong. She's determined. Her mandate to me is 'Find this guy,'" Whitman said.

Funeral services will be held Friday at 10:30 a.m. at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Because he was a former Marine, Young will be buried with full military honors at Ft. Logan National Cemetery. The public is invited.

Fund Information

7NEWS has learned the city will treat Bishop's injuries and Young's death as "work-related" incidents. That means there will be financial support for both families.

However, special funds have also been established for anyone wishing to donate to funds for the Denver police officers.

For the family of Detective Donald Young, a special fund has been set up at:

Rocky Mountain Law Enforcement Federal Credit Union 700 W. 39th Ave. Denver, CO 80216

For Detective John H. Bishop, send donations to:

Denver Police Protective Association 2105 Decatur St. Denver, CO 80211

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