Celena Hollis murder: Michael Hancock says gang speculation a distraction
Since Denver cop Celena Hollis was shot and killed over the weekend, there has been a lot of speculation concerning the possible gang-affiliation of the suspect -- but according to Mayor Michael Hancock, reporters are asking the wrong questions. In this case, the gang question, Hancock told Westword today, is a distraction.
After the mayor made an appearance this morning at an all-day Denver City Council retreat, Westword asked Hancock what he thought of all the questions and concerns about potential gang violence that have come up since Hollis was killed and the DPD arrested suspect Rollin Oliver.
We first asked Hancock whether he has received any official confirmation that Oliver was affiliated with a gang -- a claim that several news outlets have investigated, digging up various forms of evidence. Among them: a jail-admittance form on which Oliver self-identified as a gang member.
"I have never had it confirmed to me," said Hancock as he prepared to leave the Studio Loft of the Denver Performing Arts Complex, where the council was meeting. "To me, that's not the issue. The fact that we lost an officer, the fact that we have a young man walking around with a gun ready to use it -- those are the bigger issues to me."
Sam Levin Mayor Michael Hancock talking to the City Council at its annual "Priorities Retreat" this morning.
So what does he think of media speculation of gang violence?
"It's a distraction issue," he replied. "The issue is we have young people with guns...[who] are willing to use it on the streets. That's my issue. Whether someone was a member of a gang or not is not.... You know, the reality is, we've got to deal with our young people who are illegally carrying these guns on our streets. That's where my focus is. And the fact that we lost an officer."
As we've noted in our previous coverage, the mayor and the Denver Police Department seem reluctant to characterize the problem as gang-related, perhaps hoping to avoid comparisons to the infamous "Summer of Violence" in 1993.
Given the buzz over the last three days about Oliver's possible gang connections, we asked Hancock whether he was concerned about comparisons to the season nineteen years past.
"You know, I'm not going to go there," he said. "I'm going to deal with today -- deal with what's happening on our streets today. If we keep looking back, we're never going to be able to deal with the issues of today. That's where my focus is."
Page down to read Councilman Albus Brooks's take on the issue, and more from Mayor Hancock.