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Jessica Vernon was killed at the Super 8 near the intersection of Aeroplaza Drive and East Fountain Boulevard.

One month after Southeast Colorado Springs suffered the fourth deadliest mass shooting in Colorado history, gun violence continues to take lives. Three deadly shootings in Southeast Colorado Springs during the month of June illustrate the scope of the problem.

Most recently, 34-year-old Jessica Vernon was killed early on the morning of June 26 at the Super 8 Hotel on Aeroplaza Drive, according to a news release from the Colorado Springs Police Department. CSPD has arrested and charged 31-year-old Kenneth William Naranjo Jr. for the murder. “On June 26, 2021, at approximately 5:56 a.m., CSPD’s Communication Center received a report of a shooting in the 1700 Block of Aeroplaza Drive. When CSPD officers arrived on the scene, they located one deceased adult female,” the press release said. 

The death is being investigated as a homicide, and is the 20th homicide in Colorado Springs for 2021. CSPD asks that anyone with information regarding this investigation call 719-444-7000; or to remain anonymous, call the Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 719-634- STOP (7867) or 800-222-8477.

In addition to the homicide investigation, CSPD responded to a domestic violence incident at the 2700 block of Triple Crown Way on that same day. A shelter-in-place notification was sent to residents when the suspect initially refused to come out following a domestic disturbance. The incident took place in the same neighborhood as the May 9 mass-shooting that claimed the lives of six people.  

On June 27, a man was stabbed in the 400 block of Ellers Grove. According to the CSPD blotter, “The investigation showed that both parties involved are known to each other. They had gotten into a verbal and then physical altercation. During the physical altercation, the suspect began striking the victim several times in the head. The victim then stabbed the suspect in an attempt to stop the physical assault. Both parties were transported to the hospital for treatment for serious but not life-threatening injuries.” Police arrested Johnny Grady.

CSPD also recently announced arrests in the pair of fatal shootings that took place June 17. The first shooting occurred at approximately 12:20 a.m. at the 3800 block of East Pikes Peak Avenue. According to a CSPD news release, “Officers were already in the area responding to an unrelated call for service when they heard the shooting occur. Arriving officers located an adult female suffering from what appeared to be gunshot wounds. Officers performed life-saving measures while waiting for advanced medical care; However, the female was [pronounced] deceased on-scene. No other injuries were reported.” The victim was later identified as 51-year-old Gwendolyn Watson.

The suspect in that shooting was identified as 34-year-old Paris Toler-Anderson, who has been charged with first-degree murder. According to CSPD, “On Thursday, June 24, 2021, Paris Toler-Anderson, the suspect in the death of Gwendolyn Watson, was taken into custody by the United States Marshal Service (USMS) in San Antonio, Texas.”

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Roberto Carlo Delgado Cruz was arrested for the June 17 murder of Dominique Smith.

 

The second shooting took place at the 7-Eleven at the intersection of Circle Drive and Fountain Boulevard. According to CSPD, “At approximately 12:50 a.m., the CSPD communications center received a shots fired call for service in the 2800 block of East Fountain Boulevard. When officers arrived on scene, they located an adult male suffering what appeared to be a gunshot wound. Despite life-saving measures by officers and medical staff, the victim was pronounced deceased on-scene. Preliminary information obtained on scene indicates that the suspect fired multiple shots in the parking lot of the business, ultimately striking the victim, before fleeing the scene.” The victim was later identified as 31-year-old Dominique Smith.

According to CSPD, “Detectives applied for and obtained an arrest warrant for 29-year-old Roberto Carlo Delgado Cruz on the charge of murder in the first degree. He was taken into custody on June 17, 2021, and booked into the El Paso County Jail where he remains in custody.” 

Heidi Beedle is a former soldier, educator, activist, and animal welfare worker. She received a Bachelor’s in English from UCCS. She has worked as a freelance writer covering LGBTQ issues, nuclear disasters, cattle mutilations, and social movements.