The best and worst of humanity were on vivid, but brief, display at last week’s first-degree murder trial in Denver.
The defendant was a depressed middle-aged man. Three springs ago, this miscreant was angry at the world for indignities he felt he and his dog had suffered.
Acting with universal malice and after deliberation, this murderer fired 24 rounds from an AK-47 assault weapon. His targets were a beautiful couple of strangers merely walking their own dog during lunchtime in their downtown neighborhood near Coors Field.
Few murder trials have been shorter or less contested. The shootings were videotaped by a security camera. The gunman texted confessions to his best pal, Dan Politica, and to an ex-girlfriend. He then hightailed it to the mountains with multiple firearms and ammunition.
When apprehended that afternoon, the shooter repeatedly stated, “I’m sorry.”
“We’ve been waiting 2½ years for this day and what happened in there just went by … almost as fast as my daughter was slaughtered,” she said through tears. “And our lives were changed forever.”
Bella’s father, Joshua Thallas, has shown tremendous strength throughout this ordeal. He realizes all that’s now gone. These parents lost someone precious. So did Bella’s beloved boyfriend, Darian Simon.
Denver police inaccurately reported an AR-15 had been used and recovered from the accused. Almost instantly, officers must’ve determined this was an AK-47, belonging to one of their own, DPD Sgt. Dan Politica. Hmmm.
During the late spring of 2020, Denver suffered a pandemic lockdown, tumultuous post-George Floyd-murder protests and forceful responses by DPD, some deemed unconstitutional. Already a tinderbox, downtown Denver was further alarmed on Wednesday, June 10, 2020, by reports of this active shooter.
Bella Thallas was slaughtered from behind by this man shooting out of his street-level apartment. He next turned his AK-47 toward Bella’s boyfriend, firing bullets until Darian also dropped.
Darian’s leg was detached by this weapon of war. His femoral artery essentially exploded. Responding police took cover, as did paramedics. They waited until they were sure the gunman was gone.
Jake Pucci heard the 24 rounds and looked out his fifth-floor apartment window. He saw bullets and shrapnel flying. Jake watched a stranger fall.
Instinctively, Jake sprinted down to Darian. Jake comforted Darian, removed clothing to observe bullet holes, tied a tourniquet around Darian’s devastated leg, and enlisted others to stanch Darian’s other wounds. Finally, first responders deemed the situation safe enough to approach.
Not just Jake Pucci saved the life of Darian Simon. Talented surgical teams at Denver Health nursed Darian through eight surgeries.
After countless hours of grueling physical therapy, Darian Simon walked without aid, straight, brisk and tall to and from the witness box. He captivated Courtroom 5E last Tuesday with his extraordinary persona and powerful testimony.
The defense had zero cross examination for Darian Simon, or the witness that followed, Jake Pucci.
My job, as Darian Simon’s lawyer, was to find and expose accurate information about the AK-47, and affix some accountability. With Thallas family attorneys Josh Maximon and Mark Bryant, we pursued truth through a successful civil lawsuit against Dan Politica, and Politica’s inchoate gun company, Tyrant Arms LLC.
At his February 23, 2022, videotaped deposition, Politica explained to me how he was working the frontlines of Denver’s protests in early June 2020. He and the killer texted their disgust with Denver and plans to move away from America.
Politica swore his AK-47 was stolen by his decades-long close friend, probably in January 2020, but he claimed he was unaware of the theft for months.
As a firearms collector, he had more than a dozen guns. Politica deduced his AK-47 must have been stolen around January 2020 when his housemate pal helped him move between homes in Arvada.
Politica maintained under oath he’d also been misled by Denver police to believe the murder weapon had been an AR-15. He claims it was weeks later that he learned the weapon was actually his AK-47. Last he saw that AK-47, Politica swore, it was stored in a slot near the closet of his master bedroom.
Last week’s murder trial jury heard zero about how the murderer acquired his AK-47. The defense did not bring it up. Politica didn’t testify.
Jake Pucci, now 25, had no experience being a witness or attending a trial. Jake told me he was shocked to see the packed courtroom. He was further stunned when I told him that the milky white blonde man sitting at the counsel table was the shooter. No one had told him.
My podcast this past Saturday was Pucci’s first. He politely asked if he could cuss in response to my question about whether he had an opinion about this AK-47.
Jake Pucci, the Colorado hero who witnessed the damage done to Darian, proclaimed the presence of that AK-47 in Denver to be “bullsh*t.”
Craig Silverman is a former Denver chief deputy DA. Craig is columnist at large for The Colorado Sun and an active Colorado trial lawyer with Craig Silverman Law, LLC. He also hosts The Craig Silverman Show podcast.
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