Garcia-Gomez Won't Be Extradited If Death Penalty Sought

Injured Officer Expresses Relief With Capture Of Garcia-Gomez

After nearly a month, the man accused of shooting and killing Denver police Detective Donnie Young and injuring Detective Jack Bishop has been caught and now officials are focused on bringing him back to Colorado.

Raul Garcia-Gomez, 20, was arrested Saturday evening in Mexico as he was leaving a small market in Culiacan, in the state of Sinola, Mexico, Denver police said. Culiacan is about halfway between Mexico City and the U.S. border.

The Mexican Consul General in Denver held a Monday afternoon news conference to discuss the case.

He said that authorities in Colorado have 60 days to present a petition for extradition for Garcia-Gomez, but did not say if it would be honored. He said the murder suspect would not be turned over if the death penalty were sought in the case. He also said a possible punishment of life in prison without parole would also preclude extradition from Mexico.

The Mexican Supreme Court has ruled that those punishments are unconstitutional.

"It could be done, if they wanted to," said Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., an outspoken opponent of illegal immigration. "But I don't think they want to and I don't think they're gonna."

Tancredo praised the Mexican government for the quick arrest of Garcia-Gomez but said there should be no conditions set for his extradition.

The Denver District Attorney's Office indicated Monday that it might seek a grand jury indictment of Garcia-Gomez because it might aid in his extradition.

Denver police detectives have flown to Mexico City to speak with officials and interview Garcia-Gomez. If he fights the extradition process, the task of bringing Garcia-Gomez back to Denver will not be easy.

"If he wants to fight coming back, we are going to have to go through the court systems down there to get him back. This is not going to be a something that is done in a week or so. It is going to take some time to get this accomplished," Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey said.

Morrissey said the process will take months, possibly a year.

Police said Garcia-Gomez was hiding out in Culiacan with some distant relatives and appeared surprised when he was surrounded by U.S. marshals and agents with Agencia Federal de Investigacion, Mexico's equivalent of the FBI.

Officers believe Garcia-Gomez has been in Mexico since May 11.

Investigators tracked down the suspect by drawing up a huge family tree and diligently going door-to-door to his relatives, Denver police said.

In order to extradite Garcia-Gomez, legal scholars say the U.S. government must promise the Mexican government that Garcia-Gomez will not be charged with a capital crime.

But in the end, attorneys say the final decision is up to Mexico's president, Vicente Fox.

"Given the fact we are seen as a 500-pound gorilla that can push its weight around, I think with the Mexican government, because of immigration issues and other items with the U.S. government, we have a great deal of clout," said Ved Nanda with the University of Denver law department.

If authorities in Denver have a difficult time bringing Garcia-Gomez back, they can choose, with the Mexican government's permission, to prosecute him in Mexico.

Though Mexican law allows for the death penalty, no prisoner has been executed in Mexico since 1937. Morrissey said waiving the death penalty is a decision that he can't make yet.

"That's certainly a complicated decision that has to be made after speaking to the victim's widow and certainly to Detective Bishop, family members ... That's a decision that I don't have to make now but I certainly am going to include the people that need to be talked to about that decision," said Morrissey.

Four other people, suspected of helping Garcia-Gomez hide out, have also been arrested.

One of those suspects, a Denver man, is expected to be charged Monday. Jaime Arana-Del Angel is accused of being an accessory after the fact to first-degree murder. Detectives believe he helped Garcia-Gomez flee Denver.

In Los Angeles, police arrested three family members -- Garcia-Gomez's father, Mercedes Castaneda Gomez; his sister, Ayde Gomez; and a man who may be his uncle, Santiago Nicholas Hernandez.

Police say they are not sure what they can do about the people in Mexico who allegedly harbored Garcia-Gomez.

Bishop Expresses Relief

It was in the early morning of May 8 that Young and Bishop were gunned down at the Salon Ocampo dance hall. Bishop expressed relief that the man they had been searching for has finally been caught.

"As I walked out of church Saturday evening with my family, I received a phone call from Chief Whitman informing me that the U.S. marshals had taken Raul Garcia-Gomez into custody in Mexico. However, additional information was needed for confirmation. Later the same evening, a second call from Chief Whitman confirmed that, 'We got our guy.' I experienced a great sense of peace hearing those words. My family has been on edge wondering where Gomez was and being concerned about the safety of others. We are relieved and incredibly thankful with this news and have gained a great sense of satisfaction knowing that he is in custody. There has not been a day that has gone by since May 8th that I haven't thought about this tragic event. I am hopeful that we will see the return of Raul to Denver to stand trial," Bishop said in a released statment.

"I'd like to express my deepest gratitude to all the law enforcement agencies -- Denver police, U.S. Marshal's Office, FBI, LAPD, and Mexican police -- that have dedicated a great deal of their time to this investigation and who have never given up to make his capture a reality ... I realize that there is still a lot of work to be done and the dedication by all those involved in this case has been incredible. The arrest of Raul was huge, huge, for me, my family, for Donnie's family, the police department and the city of Denver," he said.

Although Young's widow is still dealing with his death, she too is relieved that the man suspected of killing her husband is under arrest.

Kelly Young said she feels as if a burden has been lifted from her family's shoulders. She wants Garcia-Gomez tried in Colorado but also believes the top priority is that justice be done.

"You're handed what you're handed. Whether he's in prison here or there is not going to make us feel any better," Kelly Young said.

She believes the arrest will spare other families the pain that her family has gone through.

"I'm sure that he would do it again and I certainly did not want any other family to go through what my family and this community has gone through. I mean, there's a lot of people out there that miss Donnie very much," said Young.

Kelly Young said the capture took her by surprise because she knew Garcia-Gomez would be caught, but not so soon.

Previous Stories:

Print this article Back to Top