DENVER (AP) — A corrections officer who killed a man during a shootout at a Denver motorcycle show said he fired the first shot because members of another biker group were punching and cornering him, according to police reports released Tuesday that offer a new glimpse into the chaotic brawl.
Police proposed charging Derrick Duran, 34, with first-degree murder in the January melee at the Colorado Motorcycle Expo, a gathering of biker clubs from across the country, the 195-page report shows. But prosecutors refused because his self-defense claim made it unlikely a jury would convict him.
Duran, a member of the Iron Order motorcycle club made up mostly of police and military members, told investigators that the violence erupted when members of the Mongols club attacked his group, hitting and dragging them to the ground.
He said he pulled his gun to get them to stop and fired as a Mongol kept punching him in the face, the reports say. That started a gunbattle that left Mongols member Victor Mendoza dead and seven other people shot, stabbed or beaten.
Police have said Mendoza, 46, shot back at Duran, grazing his body and hitting another man before Duran returned fire, killing Mendoza. The reports don't say how investigators came to that conclusion but note that investigators found gunshot residue on Mendoza's shirt sleeves.
Duran told detectives he was "not sorry he defended himself but he is sorry someone lost their life," the report says.
Police came upon a confusing scene, with blood, shell casings and clothes scattered around the stairwell where witnesses said Mongols knocked a beer out of an Iron Order member's hands, starting the fight. Several undercover officers were already at the event, investigating gang activity and aware of the possibility of violence.
The shooting put a spotlight on Iron Order, whose members are becoming increasingly entangled in violence with other biker groups, blurring the line between professionals sworn to uphold the law and a biker culture with a long history of criminal activity, experts say.
Iron Order insists its members have lawfully defended themselves during confrontations provoked by other groups. But experts say friction exists in part because Iron Order adopts hierarchies and emblems more common to well-established gangs.
During his interview with detectives, Duran, known in Iron Order as "Kong," repeatedly referred to fellow members by their "road names": Cactus Jack, Random, Whoops, Wolf and Penguin, among others.
Investigators interviewed a former Iron Order president who said he left the group to start a new club because Iron Order's members had become "too hard to control." Another Iron Order leader told police he knew of at least seven active-duty Colorado law enforcement officers who were members, including a federal agent.
Several Iron Order members told police they were armed with handguns during the show, some because they had permits to carry concealed weapons. Some said they drew their weapons but didn't fire, the reports say.
More than a dozen Iron Order members agreed to talk to police. But some Mongols members refused and referred detectives to their attorney Stephen Stubbs, who has said Mendoza was killed when he tried to disarm Duran.