By Sunday morning, the evidence was collected, the crime-scene tape was gone, the mobile-command unit was back at the station, one young man was dead and another was in the hospital. Both had been shot.
Late Friday night and all day Saturday, Littleton police took over the entire neighborhood at Fox Street and Berry Avenue, tucked between Cherrelyn Manor nursing home and Living Word Tabernacle church.
On Saturday afternoon, neighborhood children gathered to watch detectives catalog copious amounts of evidence. They marveled at the news van parked down the street. They watched stoically as a black pickup truck, one window shattered out, was towed away. They pointed at empty shoes lying in a driveway, a baseball cap in the middle of the street. They asked if the body was still under the red tent and were told it wasn’t. They told how their moms ran to their bedrooms to check on them when the shots rang out.
Neighborhood teens gathered in a front yard described how things went awry at a party gone out of control. Gang members with “previous beef” clashed, they say, and guns came out. A little after 11 p.m. Friday, shots reverberated throughout the neighborhood. Just a block away at the time, police arrived quickly on the scene.
They found an 18-year-old dead in the street. A 17-year-boy was transported to Swedish Hospital.
A young girl watching police work Saturday afternoon said one boy was her longtime friend who recently became the father of a baby boy. Her friend said she’d just returned from the hospital, where the younger boy was in surgery. His condition remains unknown, and police have yet to identify either of them.
Sunday morning, rumors flew and police remained silent. But congregation members gathered at Living Word Tabernacle to find strength in communion and a renewed commitment to the neighborhood.
Like the neighborhood, it’s a diverse congregation. Young and old, black and white hugged, sang joyous hymns, cried and held their children perhaps a little closer than the Sunday before.
“I think our young people are so lost,” Pastor Paula Holmes told them. “You know if you carry a weapon, you’re probably going to use it. We’ve got to start reaching out more to the children in this neighborhood.”
Exactly a year to the day before Holmes said those words, another boy was shot in the neighborhood.
Evaristo Galindo, then 17, told Littleton police officers he was alone in Progress Park when he got shot on Oct. 21, 2011. Doctors said there were bird-shot pellets lodged in his shinbone and jawbone, according to the police report.
Galindo told police he had "problems with everyone" but would not say who might have shot him or why.
A disturbance was reported about 10:30 that night near West Prentice Avenue and South Lakeview Street, immediately south of the park. Witnesses heard gunshots, fighting and squealing tires. Two witnesses reported they saw up to 15 people in the intersection, some yelling “South Side” and “SPV 13,” indicating gang activity.
The Littleton Police Department’s Special Enforcement Team had been tasked with paying special attention to gang and drug activity in the city. However, it was disbanded in May.
The northeast neighborhood for years has been the focus of much outreach from groups like Greater Littleton Youth Initiative, Littleton Immigrant Integration Initiative and North Littleton Promise, which was formed specifically to serve the area.
“A group of community-minded people from Centennial Covenant Church learned about the suburbanization of poverty and began to explore if there was indeed a struggling community in suburban Littleton,” reads NLP’s website. “After talking with local law enforcement, they discovered a community in northeast Littleton where gang involvement, truancy and teen pregnancy were prevalent.”