Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock says violence on the 16th Street Mall will not be tolerated.
He said the pipe-wielding suspect who attacked two people at 16th Street and Cleveland Place Wednesday night was likely involved in four other incidents earlier in the evening.
“I’ve instructed the City Attorney’s Office to make a request to the DA that restrictions be placed on this individual (keeping him off the mall) and that we prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law,” the Mayor said.
He said It’s likely that Clarence Seeley, who is from Indiana and who had only been in Denver for nine days, will be charged with Felony Aggravated Assault.
When asked why we’re seeing an increase in violence on the mall, Hancock said there are more travelers coming to Denver.
“Let me be clear,” he said. “Marijuana is driving people to the mall."
Police said they don’t know if Seeley was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but they said he was incoherent when they arrested him Wednesday evening.
“He did create a disturbance when we took him into custody and turned him over to the Sheriff’s Department,” said DPD’s Deputy Chief of Operations, David Quiñones.
Quiñones told Denver7 that Seeley fits the description of a suspect mentioned in four separate incidents called in to police from 5:23 p.m. until he was arrested at 6:10 p.m.
Video shows Seeley running around with a lengthy pipe in his hands swinging at people and hitting some of them.
A separate video, not released publicly, shows one of the victims falling to the ground after getting struck in the head. He appears to be convulsing.
Rebecca Smith witnessed the attack and the immediate aftermath. She said the suspect appeared to take joy in what he had done.
“He was like, ‘Grrrrr,’” she said, demonstrating how he flexed his muscles with his arms pointing downward. “I was like, ‘Wow.’ So I started to call police.”
When asked what she thought that demonstration was all about, Smith replied, “When he did that little “Hulk (Hogan) thing, I just knew he was out of his mind.”
“Those of us who live here know there are challenges along the Mall,” the Mayor said. “But… the images being (shown) are not what Denver is about.”
Hancock said thousands of people enjoy the mall every day without getting assaulted.
“We’re moving quickly to make sure we deal with this effectively,” he said. “We’re expecting record-breaking tourism this weekend.”
16th Street Mall visitors say overall, they feel safe on the mall. Still, it's hard to combat the perception of safety when a video like this goes viral.
Business owners are trying to promote a positive image. This weekend they are inviting residents and visitors to Meet on the Street. The event runs for five consecutive weekends in the summer.
"This being my front yard, it’s a bit discouraging that I have to come out and convince people this is still a great place to be," said John Ott with Premier Ventures, Inc.
Katie Barstow was surprised when we showed her a clip of the assault.
“I’ve never seen anything that violent before on the mall,” she said.
Another visitor, Tami-Su Dwyer, questions where the suspect got the pipe.
“Was it just around, or did he bring it with him?” she wondered.
She said her family also discussed what might have happened had the victims been able to protect themselves rather than just run and duck or hide.
Hancock said it will take a concerted effort by Denver Police, private security, downtown businesses, and mall visitors to deal with the spike in violence.
“We can’t arrest our way out of this,” he said. “We want people who see something to call police.”
The Mayor added there have been ongoing issues near the corner of 16th and Cleveland for some time.
“We need McDonald’s to step up to the plate and be a partner with us,” he said, “and not to feed people who are not purchasing their products.”
The Mayor also said he wants businesses to ask people to move along, especially those who may be resting or leaning against their buildings.
Hancock said police are stepping up their presence along the mall. He also said the Downtown Denver Partnership is hiring more private security.
The security guards will apparently not have authority to arrest anyone, but Hancock said they can act as “eyes and ears” for police.
Visit Denver released the following statement in response to the video:
We are encouraged with the steps taken by the City and Downtown Denver Partnership to address the issues of safety and security on the Mall.
As the agency that represents the hospitality industry’s 1,200 businesses and 54,000 jobs, and Denver’s 16 million visitors who spent $5 billion last year, VISIT DENVER shares the Mayor’s opinion that the situation is unacceptable and that incidents like those captured on video should not be tolerated.
The plan allows us to address these issues head-on and not let them jeopardize our hard work and success.
We are confident that, through these combined efforts, we will solve these problems and continue to make Denver the place we all want to live, work and play.