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Juvenile accused of killing teen near Denver skate park has been charged as an adult

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Posted at 12:34 PM, Dec 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-06 14:34:22-05

DENVER — A suspect who was 16 years old when he allegedly murdered another teen near a Denver skate park will be charged as an adult, according to the Denver District Attorney’s Office.

Prosecutors with the district attorney's office juvenile unit filed a criminal case against Owen Darian Ruiz, now 17. He faces charges of first-degree murder after deliberation, first-degree murder with extreme indifference, possession of a weapon by a previous offender and juvenile, destroying or tampering with physical evidence, prohibited use of a weapon, and possession fo a handgun by a juvenile.

Ruiz was 16 years old on April 23, 2022, when he allegedly killed 16-year-old Juan Herrera-Lozano at the Denver Skatepark, which is located at 2205 19th Street just across 20th Street from the City of Cuernavaca Park.

Officers with the Denver Police Department responded to the park around 6:20 p.m. that evening after receiving a report that a person was "down in the street" and the suspects had fled the scene in a dark-colored sedan, according to the arrest affidavit for Ruiz. Police found Herrera-Lozano lying in the street with gunshot wounds and he was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced deceased at 6:38 p.m., according to the affidavit.

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At the crime scene, detectives spoke with a witness who said Herrera-Lozano had locked his keys in the trunk of his car by accident and was looking for somebody with a slim jim to help him unlock the car, the affidavit reads. The witness said he told the teen that he was parked across the street and may have one. As the witness and Herrera-Lozano walked across the road, Herrera-Lozano stopped at a newer black vehicle. The witness told police he then heard shots fired and saw a Black male from the black car fire several shots at the teen, who then fell onto the street. The shooter and three others in the car then fled the scene, the witness said, as outlined in the affidavit.

Several other witnesses told police a similar story and described the suspect vehicle in the same way.

Police found a High Activity Location Observation (HALO) camera from the area and watched the video from the time of the shooting, the affidavit reads. It showed Herrera-Lozano walking across 19th Street and the driver of the black car parallel parking. It showed the teen start to walk back across the street and then look at the black car. The video froze at this time, but picked up with Herrera-Lozano standing outside the driver's side door. According to the HALO video, the rear driver's side door opened and the teen started to run away and then fell on the street. The suspect vehicle then drove off, according to the affidavit.

Crime scene investigators found six 9mm fired cartridges in the street. An autopsy by the Denver Office of the Medical Examiner said that Herrera-Lozano had three gunshot wounds to his upper torso. His death was ruled a homicide, according to the affidavit.

On April 25, DPD posted a Metro Denver Crimestoppers flyer asking for more information on the crime. It included a photo of Herrera-Lozano and the dark car that he approached just before he was shot.

During the investigation, police determined that the car was a newer model Chevrolet Malibu.

Investigators knew that new models of cars are equipped to communicate through cellular providers from major networks, allowing the car to operate as a Wi-Fi hotspot, according to the affidavit. Investigators were able to review responsive data from AT&T and OnStar between 6:10-6:20 p.m. from April 23 with a tower dump search warrant. From there, they excluded any vehicles that did not match the suspect car description. By the end of this process, they were left with one 2022 Chevy Malibu, according to the affidavit.

A deeper dive into the vehicle led to investigators learning it was a rental from Enterprise Rent-a-Car. They also learned the renter's name. The car was returned on May 2, the affidavit reads.

Using the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBN), police were able to confirm the fired cartridges from the crime scene matched ones from a separate shooting on Pearl Street in Thornton from April 21. Police investigated the latter case as an illegal discharge of a firearm.

On May 17, a NIBN notification alerted investigators that a 9mm Taurus firearm had been recovered on May 5 in Thornton and when it was test-fired by police, the cartridges matched those from the shooting near the Denver skate park, according to the affidavit.

On June 27, police spoke with the person who had rented the Chevy Malibu. He explained that his Jeep had been damaged in a crash, so he got the rental. He said he had not loaned the car to anybody and was the only person with a key. He said he had no knowledge of the homicide, according to the affidavit.

A few days later on July 1, police obtained a search warrant for that man's cell phone. During a second interview, the man said again that he had no involvement in the homicide, but then said he was at the skate park at the time of the murder. He told police his friend had been driving the rental car. The group then drove to Thornton, picked up two young females and a young male, and headed to the skate park, according to the affidavit.

The man said he was in the front passenger seat while his friend was parking the car. He said he was trying to fall asleep when "he heard yelling and then gunshots," according to the affidavit. He told police he believed the male in the backseat had fired the gun. Then, they drove away.

On July 5, the man told police in a separate interview that he believed the shooter had been wearing an ankle bracelet because he recalled hearing audio coming from it, according to the affidavit.

The investigator reached out to the Thornton Police Department regarding the May 17 shots fired and firearm recovery. The department said the suspects who fired the gun may have run into a certain apartment. When Thornton police contacted the people inside, one was Ruiz. Police also learned that the gun found in the apartment was the same one used in the Denver skate park shooting, according to the affidavit.

Going off of the car renter's tip, police contacted a company called BI Incorporated and confirmed it monitors and stores data related to GPS ankle monitors in Adams County, according to the affidavit. On Aug. 1, investigators drafted a search warrant for the GPS records for Ruiz's ankle monitor. The records confirmed Ruiz was at the skate park at the time of Herrera-Lozano's death.

As the investigation continued into November, detectives interviewed the driver of the suspect car. He said he remembered parking and hearing Ruiz, who was sitting behind him, yell something like, "Do you remember me?" to a person in the street, according to the affidavit. The driver said that the person replied, "No," and Ruiz said, "Owen," before getting out of the car and shooting at the person, according to the affidavit.

Several people in the car identified Ruiz as the suspect when police asked during interviews.

By this time, police learned that Ruiz had been sentenced to one year in the Division of Youth Services stemming from a probation violation on unrelated charges out of Adams County.

Ruiz has an advisement on Dec. 15 for the murder case.