CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo. (KDVR) — What happens after a gun is used in a crime? Sometimes, it can be complicated to track.
One handgun used by a teenager to shoot a police officer in Cherry Hills Village, Colorado, in 2018 was traded with or sold to several other teens before a different man later used the weapon to shoot at a semi-truck driver in Aurora.
Evidence obtained by KDVR, WOOD TV8’s sister station in Denver, after both shooting cases were closed shows how a web of young people had access to the same gun, and that they used various methods, including Facebook, to get rid of it before it was linked to the crimes.
SOCIAL MEDIA OFTEN SHOWS GUN EXCHANGES
“It’s a rather involved case in the sense that there were a lot of people that had possession of the firearm that was used after the shooting occurred,” said former Aurora, Colorado, Police Detective Andy McDermott, who worked as a lead investigator.
“It’s not unusual at all to see someone utilize a firearm in a crime and then pass that on only to receive another one,” McDermott said. “Sometimes, they’ll trade. Sometimes, they’ll purchase. Sometimes they’ll steal them, but it’s very common to see them exchanged, and we see a lot of that through social media.”
Police records say Angelo Alston had a Beretta 92FS handgun, and he tried to sell it for $400 on Facebook before police believe he used the same gun to shoot former Cherry Hills Village police officer Cory Sack during a 2018 home invasion and armed robbery.
Alston was 17 at the time of the shooting. Another teen immediately tried to get rid of the gun on Alston’s behalf. In October, a judge sentenced Alston to 44 years in prison.
“Any juvenile who thinks that they’re not going to be held accountable for a violent criminal offense — if they pull the trigger, if they commit an aggravated robbery — they need to know that the consequences are severe,” said 18th Judicial District Attorney John Kellner, who prosecuted the police shooting case. “They could be tried as adults if the situation warrants, and if not, there are still consequences that are coming down the line to them.”
HOW THE GUN WENT FROM TEEN TO TEEN
According to recorded interrogation videos and police records, Alston handed the gun off to Angelo Herrera, who was 18 at the time of the shooting. Kellner said Herrera received a three-year prison sentence for selling the gun after the shooting.
Manuel Tolmich-Chavez, who was also 18 at the time, received the gun from Herrera, according to interrogation videos obtained by KDVR.
“He actually hit me up about the gun and said that one of his friends had it for sale and that they were trying to get rid of it for a low price,” he told McDermott during an interrogation. “I figured like, something’s wrong, you know? Something’s wrong,” he said, pointing out the type of weapon it was, a Beretta 92FS.
According to McDermott, the weapon is “a popular handgun among the general public,” but “it is a weapon that is rarely found in the street gang culture.”
Tolmich-Chavez told investigators when he accepted the gun, he was told it was “hot” and “just to get rid of it,” but he did not ask specific questions about where the gun had been or why it needed to be transferred to someone else.
Tolmich-Chavez said he did not know that the gun had been used to shoot a police officer, but he assumed that it was either stolen or had been used in a crime. He used Facebook to contact a 17-year-old to whom he transferred the gun.
“What you got to trade for Beretta92fs,” he wrote in a Facebook message to the boy. “I don’t got no pics It’s hot that’s why I need to dump it’s in good condition.”
After the trade, that boy told police he received $100 for passing the gun to Jovan Maciel, 22. Maciel used it to shoot at a semi-truck driver a few weeks after Sack was shot.
Maciel’s recorded interview indicated he “borrowed” the gun but “gave it back” to the 17-year-old “the next day.”
Maciel was sentenced to three years at a community corrections facility, according to Chris Hopper, a spokesperson for the 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office that represents Adams County, where the crime happened.
Hopper said Tolmich-Chavez received a deferred sentence with three years of probation. However, if a defendant violates probation, they must serve the full sentence, Hopper said.
Three other teens were convicted and sentenced in relation to the Cherry Hills Village police officer’s shooting that led to the crime weapon getting passed around.
Caesar Navarro-Arriola, who was 15 at the time of the Sack shooting, received a five-year sentence in the Division of Youth Services for his involvement in that case, according to Kellner.
Carlos Hernandez-Carsi, who was 17 during the shooting, received two years of probation, and Luis Lorta-Reyes, who was 19 when the Sack was shot, received a two-year prison sentence, according to Kellner.
Federal technology used to crack the case
“Younger and younger people seem to be getting a hold of firearms a lot more easily than they used to or are just more willing to use firearms in crimes,” said David Booth, the special agent in charge of the Denver field division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or the ATF.
“It’s absolutely concerning to us,” he said.
Booth said ATF’s National Integration Ballistic Information Network, a software repository for bullet-casing images collected from crime scenes, linked the gun used in the Sack shooting in Cherry Hills Village to the gun used to shoot at the semi-truck driver in Aurora.
Booth said the technology gives detectives a starting point for their investigation.
“The casings that are recovered from crime scenes just show that these two casings were fired from the same firearm. Sometimes, we can recover that firearm through an investigation, sometimes we can’t because it could be gone. It could be destroyed. It could be hidden, and sometimes, we’ll never find it,” he said.
No one ever recovered the firearm used to shoot Sack or to shoot at the semi-truck driver, McDermott said, but there was enough evidence to link the two crimes to the same gun and eventually determine who pulled the trigger in both cases.
“It was incredibly complex because we did not find anybody at the scene,” Kellner said of the Sack case. “We had to rely on both DNA analysis and firearms analysis to ultimately connect the dots and put the gun that shot Cory Sack in the hands of the shooter, Angelo Alston.”