Witness: Accused cop killer fired, running from fight at crowded City Park

Rollin Oliver, 21, faces 1st-degree murder trial

DENVER - A witness says the man accused of killing a Denver police officer was looking back and firing a handgun as he ran from a fight at a crowded jazz concert in City Park, according to newly released records.

A judge on Thursday ordered Rollin Oliver, 21, to stand trial on a charge of first-degree murder with extreme indifference in the June 24 slaying of Officer Celena Hollis.

The shooting happened on a Sunday night in front of hundreds of people who had been attending "Jazz in the Park."

Police said Officer Hollis was moving to break up a fight when she was shot in the head.

In a sworn statement supporting Oliver's arrest, homicide Detective Jaime Castro said that just after 8 p.m. an officer at the concert saw a disturbance and heard several gunshots.

Then the officer saw Hollis fall to the ground with a head wound. He radioed for an ambulance, saying an officer was down.

Hollis was transported to Denver Health Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead at 8:35 p.m.

A witness told police the gunman was a black man, about 5 feet 9 inches tall and heavy set. He was wearing a dark gray T-shirt and khaki shorts. A sergeant radioed the description to responding officers.

An officer searching the park soon found Oliver, clad in a gray T-shirt and khaki shorts. Police found a loaded handgun tucked in Oliver's waistband and arrest him, the affidavit said.

Investigators interviewed more than 30 witnesses, several of whom said they saw the shooting.

One man told investigators he heard someone say, "He has a gun."

The witness said he saw a black man running away, "looking back and firing a small handgun," the affidavit said.

The witness said the gunman's hair was in cornrows and he was wearing a black T-shirt with light or possibly khaki shorts.

During an interview at police headquarters, Castro said Oliver told him he attended the jazz festival with his friend, Chuck Elwood.

After the concert ended, Oliver said he and Elwood were walking back to their car when they were surrounded by several men, the affidavit said.

One of the men punched Elwood, knocking him down, Oliver told the detective.

Oliver said he feared he was going to be punched, so he pulled out his gun and fired twice at two men, who then stopped coming at him, the affidavit said.

Hollis was standing about 50 yards from the gunman when the bullet struck her, the affidavit said.

Oliver told Castro he ran to the north side of the park, where he was arrested.

During Thursday's preliminary hearing, defense attorneys said Oliver had brought a handgun to the park for self protection. They said Oliver had been shot before and had to undergo several surgeries and learn how to walk again.

Defense attorneys argued Oliver fired the gun in self-defense as he tried to flee gang members who were beating up his friend.

Prosecutors, however, said Oliver was holding the gun with both hands as he fired indiscriminately into the crowd.

Castro testified during the hearing that Oliver admitted under questioning that he knew he could hit someone by firing into the crowded park.

The detective also testified that four bullet casings recovered at the scene matched the gun found in Oliver's waistband when he was arrested.

A bullet fragment recovered at the scene contained some of the slain officer's DNA and also matched the other bullets fired from Oliver's gun, Castro said. Another bullet was found buried in the ground.

Defense attorneys argued that Oliver should face trial on lesser charges, saying there was no premeditation and he didn’t intend to kill anyone.

But the judge said the trajectory of the bullets, one hitting the ground and another hitting high on the wall of the park pavilion building, indicated that Oliver was indiscriminately shooting into a crowd and this warranted a trial on first-degree murder.

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