DENVER (KDVR) — Police in Denver are looking into the possible connection of two homicides on the South Platte River Trail. The cases raised concerns about safety near homeless communities, including from a man who was bitten near a camp.
A woman was shot and killed after midnight on Sept. 6 near East 45th Avenue and North Washington Street, police said. Three days later, a man was shot and killed after midnight near South Platte River Drive and West Florida Avenue. Police are looking for more information about a male suspect.
While initial police reports said both victims were homeless, FOX31 spoke with the family member of one victim, who said that person was not unhoused. Still, the deaths brought strong reactions from community groups like Citizens For A Safe and Clean Denver.
“That would be horrific, I mean that’s just not fair. These people on the street have serious problems,” said organizer Craig Arfsten, who suggested addiction and mental health issues are a big factor.
The group is calling for an expedited effort to address the root of the problem.
Man bitten near Denver homeless camp
Denver Mayor Mike Johnston declared an emergency around homelessness in Denver, which has the nation’s 10th-largest population of people living on the streets. The mayor’s plan is to house 1,000 people by the end of the year.
Denver resident Jim Noone told FOX31 that encampments are too close to neighborhoods. Noone said he was assaulted by a woman running from an encampment on Sept. 6.
“I was bitten repeatedly by a woman having a psychotic episode,” Noone said.
Noone, who said he would press charges, told FOX31 he is waiting for medical test results.
“I was worried about the possibility of tuberculosis, COVID, hepatitis,” Noone said.
Noone told FOX31 it is important to show compassion for those who are unhoused, but the well-being of every member of the community must be considered.
“Just can’t forget that there are residents living in this community who are in danger,” Noone said.
Denver Rescue Mission seeing greater need for help
Arfsten told FOX31 that the city’s leaders must consider the effect the growing number of encampments is having on all residents.
“Absolutely, it’s a human right to feel safe in this city,” Arfsten said.
The Denver Rescue Mission is seeing an increased need for assistance. Spokesperson Stephen Henkel told FOX31 that community support and volunteering can make a difference.
“We all have tough times that we’re going through, and it’s important to treat everybody with the dignity and grace that they deserve,” Henkel said.
Anyone with information about the South Platte River Trail homicides is urged to contact the Denver Police Department.