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'It was like a war-zone': Residents scramble for safety during gunfight at Denver park Wednesday

Condo struck by bullet
Posted at 11:43 PM, Aug 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-12 00:37:41-04

DENVER -- On a normal day, you can see residents sitting on lawn chairs, walking their dogs,or just parked in the shade at Fred Thomas Park.

On Wednesday, there was a large crowd of visitors, not all of them getting along.

Around 7:42 p.m., two groups exchanged gunfire.

Nearby residents scrambled to take cover.

"It was boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. it was like a war zone outside," said Stephen Montez, who owns a condo across the street from the park at 23rd and Syracuse, in Denver's newly renamed Central Park neighborhood.

The fusillade, of more than two dozen shots, was captured by the ring camera at Montez's front door.

"It was just crazy. It was more than just ten bullets," he said. "I mean there was so much (gun)fire going on."

One of the bullets struck the front of his condo, just inches away from a roommate's window.

"The bullet could have gone through the window, but luckily it didn't," he said.

"It was frightening," said neighbor Kelly Klaczkiewicz. "I think when I realized it wasn't fireworks, it was a gunfight, I was shocked this was happening in our neighborhood, and so close to a people who were out in the park."

Miraculously, no one was hit or injured.

According to Denver Police, firearm-related assaults and homicides are on the rise.

Homicides involving a firearm are up more than 42 percent in the first 7 months of 2020 compared to the three-year average of 2017, 2018 and 2019, over the same 7 month period.

Aggravated Assaults with firearms are up 30 percent in the first 7 months of this year compared to the three-year average of 2017, 2018 and 2019, over the same 7 month period.

Gun Violence January 1 - August 2

201820193-year Average 2020
Homicides Involving Firearm 25 292526 37
Persons Shot & Injured 71 947279 110
Shots Fired into Vehicle/Buildings191197256215278

Police were originally called to Fred Thomas Park because of a large crowd.

One neighbor told Denver7 there were nearly 30 people congregated in the Park near the parking lot, most of them without masks.

Police say two groups fired shots at each other and then bolted from the park as police arrived.

Two neighbors say they thought police also fired shots after arriving at the scene, but a police spokeswoman says no officers fired their weapons.

No arrests have been made.

Last March, Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen created the "FAST" unit, or Fire Assault Shoot Team, to address non-gang related firearm aggravated assault offenses.

The team consists of detectives and a sergeant who are strictly dedicated to firearm assaults.

Previously, the cases were handled in the district, by detectives who were working other cases.