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Police err in manhunt

State agencies told of suspect's identity after 4-hour delay

By Sarah Langbein, Rocky Mountain News
May 26, 2005

Within a half-hour of Denver police notifying the media of a manhunt for suspected cop killer Raul Garcia-Gomez, out-of-state agencies from New York City to Los Angeles knew what he looked like and what type of car he was driving.

But officers closer to home, in Colorado towns along the suspect's likely getaway route, remained in the dark.

Law enforcement officials acknowledged Wednesday that more than four hours passed on May 10 before all Colorado law enforcement agencies were alerted to the identity of investigators' primary suspect in the death of Denver Detective Donald Young.

The slip-up has prompted a call for additional training and possibly a written policy as to which law enforcement agency is responsible for issuing statewide alerts.

"We have taken immediate steps to make sure this doesn't happen again," said Lance Clem, Colorado Department of Public Safety spokesman. "This was a misunderstanding."

The statewide "be-on-the-lookout," or BOLO, for Garcia-Gomez slipped through the cracks after Denver police asked the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to notify the rest of the country.

According to Clem, the nationwide system bypasses the state from which the alert originates. CBI believed Denver police would notify other agencies across the state.

Typically, local law enforcement departments are responsible for spreading the word throughout Colorado, Clem said. It's unclear whether the delay jeopardized the manhunt for the still missing Garcia-Gomez.

The last record indicating Garcia-Gomez was in Colorado was at 4:08 p.m. May 8 when he left work at the Cherry Cricket, where he was a dishwasher. Nearly 36 hours passed before his identity was made public.

This is the second recent mix-up involving the sharing of information between Denver police and CBI. In February, the agencies acknowledged that an apparent computer glitch caused a two-month delay in efforts to link suspected serial rapist Brent J. Brents to a previous assault. At the time, CBI officials faulted police for not running their own search on the state's database.

CBI and Denver police officials said Wednesday they do not intend to point fingers in the Garcia-Gomez case. Instead, the two agencies plan to focus on shared goals, according to a statement released by Denver police. "DPD and the CBI agreed today that the CBI (statewide alert) policies and training must be updated to include a requirement stating that the originating agency will complete a local broadcast . . . CBI will assist by confirming that both transmissions occurred," the statement said.

Timeline of events

• 1:05 a.m., May 8: Call of "officer down." Denver police Detectives Donald Young and John Bishop are shot while working an off-duty security job at the Salon Ocampo banquet hall.

• 1:33 a.m., May 8: Young is pronounced dead.

• 1:37 a.m., May 8: A be- on-the-lookout, or BOLO, alert is sent to metro agencies regarding the fatal police shooting. No details are given about the suspect's identity.

• Around 5 a.m., May 8: Raul Garcia-Gomez, yet to be identified publicly as the suspected shooter, allegedly makes a confession to his girlfriend, Sandra Rivas.

• 8 a.m., May 8: Garcia-Gomez clocks in at the Cherry Cricket, where he is employed as a dishwasher.

• 4:08 p.m., May 8: Garcia-Gomez punches out at the Cherry Cricket.

• 12:20 a.m., May 9: Denver police send out a statewide BOLO with additional information about the shooting but no information about the suspect's identity.

• Sometime in the morning, May 9: Denver police receive information through an anonymous CrimeStoppers call, identifying Garcia-Gomez as a suspect.

• 2:08 a.m., May 10: A warrant for Garcia-Gomez is entered into a national database. The warrant lists a description of the suspect, which includes his name, the vehicle he's driving and its ID number.

• 2:56 a.m., May 10: Denver police request a nationwide BOLO from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. A CBI supervisor reviews the request.

• 3 a.m., May 10: Denver police hold a news conference to announce Garcia-Gomez's identity.

• 3:34 a.m., May 10: The nationwide BOLO is sent out by CBI. It goes to every state except the state from which it originated.

• 7:30 a.m., May 10: CBI realizes the alert was not sent to all Colorado agencies and contacts Denver police.

• 7:49 a.m., May 10: A statewide BOLO with Garcia-Gomez's information is issued by Denver police.

• May 11: Denver police announce they are no longer searching for Garcia-Gomez's vehicle. Media outlets later report the car was recovered in Los Angeles. or 303-892-2536