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Fireworks thrown at Lakewood encampment, unhoused community decries violence

Unhoused people in Lakewood say they've experienced multiple violent incidents recently
Westbound lanes of W. Colfax Ave. closed at Pierce St. for Lakewood police shooting investigation Thursday
Posted at 5:45 PM, Jul 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-07 08:06:44-04

LAKEWOOD, Colo. — Recent violent crimes in Colorado against unhoused people are shedding light on the difficulty of life on the streets.

On Thursday morning, two suspects were arrested in Lakewood after police said they were throwing fireworks at encampments.

Unhoused people in the area told Denver7 this was not the first time they have faced violence from the public. Nathan Carrion said he was near a bus stop close to the encampments talking to a friend when he saw a bright flash of light.

"Didn't really seem like the Fourth of July," Carrion said. "I was just sitting there talking to a friend and all of a sudden, all I saw was a big flash low to the ground, instead of it being high up."

According to the Lakewood Police Department, a passenger in a car was shooting fireworks at encampments while driving westbound on W. Colfax Avenue around 1 a.m. Thursday. When a Lakewood police agent responded to investigate the incident, the driver allegedly turned the car toward the agent and moved forward.

The agent fired a shot at the car. Nobody was hit. Both the driver and the passenger of the vehicle were taken into custody. The agent is on leave, per department protocol.

The Lakewood Police Department has a group called the Community Action Team, which helps connect unhoused people to important resources. Still, Carrion said those individuals have experienced other violent incidents recently.
"The past couple of days, people have been throwing fireworks at the homeless left and right," he said. "So, it's not something you can really stop."

Fireworks thrown at Lakewood encampment, unhoused community decries violence

In addition, on June 20, 52-year-old Craig Bruce was gunned down while soliciting along an off-ramp of W. 6th Avenue in Lakewood. A suspect has been arrested in that case.

At Haven for Hope, a Denver resource center for the unhoused population, employees frequently hear service recipients speak of the violence they experienced due to homelessness.

"We're talking about human beings, and it's never going to be OK to turn to violence for human beings," said Tawyna Trahan, executive director of Haven for Hope.

Derrick Vaughns, director of operations at the organization, said many people have dehumanizing opinions about people who are struggling with homelessness.

"We have to break the stigma," he said. "We have to break the lies that a lot of people believe in about homelessness."

Until the stigma is broken, Carrion said he wants people to know something about himself and his friends on the street.

"Most of us do not want to be homeless," he said. "Most of us want to be off the street. And we try."

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