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Denver Police, 911 respond to East Colfax safety concerns after recent gun violence

Denver 911 said people with Verizon and T-Mobile will no longer have to be transferred from Aurora, and Denver Police put a camera in New Freedom Park.

DENVER — At one community meeting in Denver's East Colfax neighborhood, there were interpreters ready to translate information in six languages. 

Many of the people in the basement of Hidden Brook Apartments came here as refugees for a safer life. But the life they found has not always been so safe. 

“What will happen from now on so that no other child, no other family member have to lose a mother due to low life scums wanting to shoot out in the park which is called the 'killing ground' now," said Kyaw Lwin Oo. 

Oo is the son of Ma Kaing, a community leader in East Colfax, who was killed by a stray bullet from New Freedom Park on July 15. 

In the second community meeting since his mother's death, Oo laid out the first accountability measure his community wants leaders to take to help keep them safe. 

"It's a life and death situation," he said. 

The 911 calls made from the East Colfax neighborhood often go to nearby Aurora and then have to be transferred back to the city of Denver. 

“My mother got shot in the head and she is bleeding," said Oo, who called 911 while holding his mother in his arms. "They shouldn’t have said this is the wrong department.”

This is an issue with all cell phone carriers, but the Denver 911 directors said it will be fixed for Verizon customers this week, and T-Mobile customers next week in Denver and Aurora. 

"I understand that you guys have been through a lot and I want to continue to engage," said Denver 911 Director, Andrew Dameron. 

That engagement goes beyond re-routing calls to community members who said they have been hung up on or ignored when dispatchers can't understand them because of the language barrier. 

“I know the men and women of Denver 911, and that does not jive with their values," said Dameron. "That said, there is legitimacy to your stories, to the truth, to the experience of this community, and it’s incumbent upon us to investigate and to make sure if this is happening that it stops immediately." 

The people in the room on Wednesday hope police will continue to engage too. 

“We have been asking for a higher police presence, cameras, lighting in alleys where individuals have been gun downed in their wheelchairs, and we’re not getting it," said Frank Anello, the executive director of Project Worthmore

Denver Police (DPD) said they have made the East Colfax neighborhood a priority ever since 2018. 

"The question is where were we a year ago, and my answer to that is we were here," said DPD Division Chief Ron Thomas. "Clearly we have work to do because you need to understand that we are here and that we are here for you." 

Thomas added that people won't have to stand on the block for long before they see police driving by.  

The day after Kaing was killed, Thomas said they redirected a camera from another neighborhood to this one. They plan to keep it at New Freedom Park until they can pay to put in a permanent one. 

“It is encouraging to see some of the progress that we’ve made in just a week,” said Sharon Knight, the CEO and president of Hope Communities. "Let’s keep it going, and thank you all for your part in that. We’re going to turn this into something very good. Have a good day." 


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