DENVER – A Denver police officer trying to break up a confrontation was shot and killed Sunday at a city park where hundreds of families had gathered for a free weekly jazz concert before gunfire erupted and sent hundreds fleeing.
The officer, who was shot in the head, was taken to a hospital where she was pronounced dead, police spokesman Sonny Jackson said. Police were searching for a suspect in what Jackson described as an isolated incident.
At least three shots were fired shortly after the jazz band playing on a lake-side pavilion stage finished, sending waves of people running through park grounds where some concert goers who were initially unaware of the shooting remained seated on picnic blankets and lawn chairs.
More than 1,000 people were at the City Park Jazz concert, the fourth of 10 shows scheduled for this summer in the annual series that draws families and people of all backgrounds to one of the city’s more popular summer events. The mayor said late Sunday that the concerts should continue.
“We will not surrender what we consider special in this city to anyone,” Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said.
Nakira Doss, a jazz singer herself, said she hopes the series continues. The 28-year-old mother was at the show Sunday and sitting near the stage with her children, ages 4, 5 and 7, when she heard at least two shots. As people ran past, she said told her children to “get on the ground” and then she laid herself over them.
“I’m trying to show them music, but at what cost,” she said, nodding toward her own children.
City Park is one Denver’s most famous and sprawls across several hundred acres east of downtown. It holds the Denver Zoo, Museum of Nature and Science, as well as ponds, trails and recreational fields.
After shots rang out, scores of people ran from the northwest side of the pond and stage area, confusing crowds on the south side of the pond who were still lingering over conversation and picnics in lawn chairs and blankets. Someone announced from a loudspeaker on stage that the park was closed and told park goers to leave from the south side.
Nakira Doss, 28, was sitting near the stage when she heard at least two shots. She said she covered her three children, ages 7, 5 and 4, as other concertgoers ran past.
Samuel Bell, 19, of Denver, said he was in the parking lot looking for a space for his scooter, which police later cordoned off with yellow tape. He said he heard several shots.
“We just arrived at the park. It was crowded, it was looking fun,” Bell said. “And then ‘pa- pa-pa-pa’ outta nowhere.
“We just ducked,” Bell said. “We pulled off in enough time to get away. It was crazy.”
He said he saw police officers administering CPR. He estimated he was about 10 to 20 feet away from where the officer was shot.
Associated Press Writers Rema Rahman and Thomas Peipert contributed to this report.