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Article Last Updated: 11/14/2008 09:25:52 AM MST

Aurora police walk through the neighborhood where a teen gunman shot and killed Aurora code-enforecment officer Rodney Morales on Thursday. (Karl Gehring | The Denver Post)

Aurora police are tracking numerous leads and possible suspects in the fatal shooting of a 40-year-old code enforcement officer, authorities say.
"We have received a number of tips," said Shannon Lucy, Aurora police spokeswoman. "We are following a number of them."
The shooter is described as black, about 18 or 19, 5 feet 8 inches tall and about 160 pounds. He is considered armed and dangerous.
The suspect, who has not been identified, shot Officer Rodney Morales immediately after he entered an apartment building on the 1900 block of Clinton Street Thursday at 1:40 p.m.
Morales was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead about an hour later.
A massive search involving K-9 teams, an armored car, a helicopter and hundreds of police from Aurora and Denver ensued.
Several streets were blocked off while police conducted a methodical house-to-house search. But the suspect slipped away. Five schools in Aurora and Denver were placed in lockdown for several hours during the search.
Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates called the shooting "cold blooded."
Police could offer no motive for the shooting. Code enforcement officers do not carry guns and their uniforms do not resemble police uniforms.
The officers enforce snow shoveling and other safety and health regulations such as weed control.


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Massive manhunt for gunman who killed Colo. code officer

Gunman at large after killing Aurora worker on the job

Rodney Morales, 40, was shot Thursday afternoon a
few seconds after he walked into an apartment building.

By Hector Gutierrez, Alan Gathright, John C. Ensslin
Rocy Mountain News

AURORA, Colo. - A gunman eluded a massive police dragnet Thursday after he shot and killed a city code officer during a routine inspection.
Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates identified the victim as Rodney Morales, 40, who had worked for the city for about 21/2 years. The chief said the Aurora Chamber of Commerce Foundation is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the killer.
"Rodney Morales was in uniform, and he was not armed," Oates told reporters. "This was a cold-blooded killer."
Morales was shot once in the upper torso just inside the Clinton One Bedroom Apartments in the 1900 block of Clinton Street about 1:40 p.m. Paramedics rushed the wounded officer to University of Colorado Hospital at the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, where he died an hour later.
Dozens of police cars swarmed to the scene and cordoned off a perimeter between East Colfax Avenue on the south, East Montview Boulevard to the north, Yosemite Street to the west and Havana Street to the east.
A 20-year-old woman who lives in a neighboring apartment said she was watching television with her roommate when she heard the distinctive squeak of the building door opening.
"Like less than five seconds later we heard a gunshot, it was like a firecracker sound, but it was loud," the woman said. "That's what me and my roommate were talking about. We didn't hear anybody arguing. We just heard the door open and the gunshot."
The two women then opened their door on the second level and looked down the hallway and saw the mortally wounded officer lying on his side about 15 feet away.
"He was lying in pain because he was like moaning," one of the women said. (The Rocky Mountain News is not identifying the women for their safety.)
A routine complaint
Officers recovered a light-blue, hooded sweatshirt that the gunman shed as he ran south from the scene. The name of the Southpole brand was in red letters across the front.
Police described the gunman as armed and dangerous.
"We're asking people not to approach him," said Detective Robert Friel, Aurora police spokesman. "But if you see somebody matching that description in this area, call dispatch using 911."
Morales and code enforcement officers are responsible for enforcing city rules and essentially maintaining the city's appearance, Nancy Sheffield, director of the city's neighborhood services. For instance, they make sure landscaping is properly maintained and that snow is shoveled from walkways. Code officers undergo extensive training, she said.
Police said Morales and his partner, a female officer, had parked their pickup trucks just across the street from the apartment building. The male officer approached the door and had just entered the home when several shots were fired from a handgun. The witness who was in the building told the Rocky Mountain News she and her roommate heard only one shot.
"They were responding to a routine complaint. This seems to have taken them by complete surprise," Friel said.
"I don't believe, judging by what I know at this point, that they expected to have any kind of a problem," he added. "One of the code enforcement officers stayed behind and did not accompany the other officer to the door. Clearly, they were not expecting a problem when they showed up at this address."
Morales moved from New York to Colorado, said City Councilwoman Deborah Wallace.
"Rodney was well-liked by his employers," Wallace said. "This is a terrible tragedy and sad day for the city of Aurora," Mayor Ed Tauer said. "The city of Aurora extends its heartfelt prayers and condolences to Rodney's family, co-workers and friends.
"He was a highly valued member of our city organization, and he will be sorely missed."
Intense search
For hours after the shooting, SWAT officers toting automatic weapons and using police dogs combed the neighborhood looking for the gunman.
As a precaution, police locked down four schools - West Middle School and Boston, Crawford and Kenton elementary schools - while they searched for the gunman.
School spokeswoman Paula Hans said all four schools will be open today.
Kwami Bonsu, who was helping his sister at the Makola African Market, said police converged on the shooting scene across the street from the business.
"There are so many policemen," he said.
Hundreds of officers, including Denver police and SWAT teams, took part in the search. Several dogs also assisted.
Uniforms but no guns
In Aurora, code enforcement officers are unarmed, but they do carry radios, Sheffield, the neighborhood services director, said. They wear uniforms that are distinctly different from the blue uniforms worn by Aurora police officers, police said. However, they all wear badges.
It's unclear exactly how many code enforcement officers are assaulted each year.
An officer in Warner Robins, Ga., was shot in April when he and another code enforcement officer arrived with three tow-truck drivers to remove junk vehicles from a property.
And, in August 2007, a code enforcement officer in Clarkstown, N.Y., was stabbed as he photographed abandoned, rundown cars at a property.
In Denver, code enforcement officers made nearly 46,000 after-construction property inspections between Jan. 1 and Aug. 1 without incident, said Julius Zsako, spokesman for Community Planning and Development.
Denver's code enforcement officers inspect new construction as well as ensure properties are properly maintained. The latter involves issues like yards that aren't mowed, cars that are parked on unpaved surfaces and upholstered furniture placed outdoors when it shouldn't be.
"Our first contact is educational," Zsako said.
"We've not had any threats or problems," Zsako said.
Rocky Mountain News staffers George Kochaniec Jr. and Judi Villa contributed to this report.

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Police on Friday arrested a suspect in the shooting death of an Aurora city code-enforcement officer.Harry Denard Williams, 22, was arrested at about 5 p.m. at a home in the north-Denver neighborhood Montbello for investigation of murder in the death of Rodney Morales, said Aurora police spokeswoman Shannon Lucy.
Morales, 40, was shot Thursday while attempting to do a routine building inspection at an apartment complex in the east-Denver suburb of Aurora. He was taken to a hospital, where he died.
Authorities launched a massive search Thursday afternoon that involved K-9 teams, a helicopter and hundreds of Aurora and Denver police. Seven area schools were placed on lock-down, and several streets were blocked off.
On Friday, police obtained an arrest warrant and used a "sound-amplification system" to give verbal orders to Williams from outside the residence in Montbello, Lucy said. Williams complied with orders and was arrested without incident and transported to the Aurora City Jail.
Williams has a lengthy criminal record and is currently on probation for a drug conviction, according to Colorado Bureau of Investigation records.
Police did not know the motive for the shooting. Code-enforcement officers enforce snow-shoveling, weed control and other safety and health regulations. They do not carry guns, and their uniforms do not resemble police uniforms.
Morales and another code-inspection officer were at the Aurora apartment complex for a scheduled inspection of the interior and exterior of the building, Lucy said.


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Suspect seized in slaying of Colo. officer

A day after a manhunt fails, police make a highly public arrest.

By Kirk Mitchell and Carlos Illescas
Denver Post

DENVER - A day after a dragnet of hundreds of police failed to capture a man who had fatally shot an Aurora code-enforcement officer, SWAT officers paraded a 22-year-old handcuffed murder suspect in front of a phalanx of cameras at prime time Friday.
Harry Denard Williams, 22, was arrested a few minutes after 5 p.m. on the 5200 block of Victor Way for investigation of murder in the death of Rodney Morales, according to Shannon Lucy, Aurora police spokeswoman.
Lucy was standing in front of a microphone, appearing live on TV with her back to the home that Williams was in, when police escorted him from the house in a scene that became more surreal when relatives and cameramen jockeyed for good vantage points.
"Let me see him. I just want to see him," Williams' relatives said as he was walking toward them.
Denver Police Department SWAT officers had staked out the house for hours Friday while awaiting an arrest warrant.
When police learned a judge had signed the arrest warrant, they used a "sound amplification system" to order Williams out of the house, Lucy said.
Williams complied with orders and was arrested without incident, she said. SWAT officers took Williams to the Aurora City Jail, Lucy said.
Police had set up a perimeter around the house early in the day while awaiting the arrest warrant.
"We've been keeping an eye on the house," Lucy said.
Williams has a criminal record consisting of drug, trespassing and traffic offenses and is currently serving a one-year probation sentence on a drug conviction, according to Colorado Bureau of Investigation records.
A man shot Morales immediately after he entered an apartment building at 1:40 p.m. Thursday in the 1900 block of Clinton Street.
A massive search involving K-9 teams, an armored car, a helicopter and hundreds of police from Aurora and Denver ensued, with officers going house to house.
But the suspect slipped away.
Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates called the shooting "cold-blooded" and asked for community help in identifying the suspect. Numerous tips poured in Thursday night and Friday, Lucy said.
Police could offer no motive for the shooting. Code-enforcement officers enforce safety and health rules such as weed control and do not carry guns.
Mark Brooks, the manager of an apartment building on the same block, said he had talked to Morales the day before he was killed about the trash at the Clinton Apartments, so he was "coming back to check it out" on Thursday, he said.
Sherry Hinton, who lives next door to the shooting scene, said she saw Morales and a female officer taking pictures of the front of the apartment building on Thursday.
Then Hinton went inside and came back out when she heard sirens. Morales' partner, whom officials have not identified, was "hysterical, saying 'hurry up, hurry up' " as police raced to the scene.
"She was screaming and running, trying to flag down the police," Hinton said. "I think he got shot because he had a badge, and they thought he was a police officer."
Brooks said Morales had come over to his apartment complex and knocked on the door Thursday, but Brooks didn't answer because he was busy.
"I didn't answer the door," Brooks said. "If I had, maybe he'd be here today."
Brooks said he had talked with Morales 10 to 15 times.
"He was a tough guy, but he was a kind guy," Brooks recalled.
"He gave me advice and good compliments about how I was keeping the grounds clean."
Meanwhile, those who live in the apartment building where Morales was shot and other residents on the block were a bit on edge Friday morning.
Luis Quinto lives in the Clinton Apartments. Although he was not home at the time of the shooting, he said gunshots regularly can be heard in the neighborhood.
"It's scary," Quinto said in Spanish. "There's always a lot of police around here. There's a lot of violence around here, too. You hear gunshots a lot."
Liliana Villa and her family live across the street from the shooting scene. They said the event has shaken their sense of safety.
"We're worried, too, because it could happen to us, and we have a baby," Villa said.
At the Carniceria Mexicana just down the street, employee Antonia Amaro said the shooting was the talk of the day at the meat and food market.
"Everybody's asking, 'What happened?' " she said in Spanish.
The police presence Thursday frightened her son, who witnessed dozens of SWAT officers carrying rifles throughout the neighborhood, searching every yard in the area for the suspect.
"He didn't know what was going on," she said.
Alma Salas, who doesn't live at the Clinton Apartments but visits friends there, said she felt compassion for the victim's family and hoped that police catch the culprit.
"I feel for the family," Salas said. "You can't even be safe anymore. He was just doing his job."

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Code officer's "beautiful smile" left mark

By Carlos Illescas
The Denver Post

AURORA - Last Thursday, Rodney Morales was being "classic Rodney." He was smiling and laughing and joking with everyone.
But the kindness and happiness that he brought to those fortunate enough to know him ended that day last week, silenced by bullets that seemingly came out of nowhere while he was on a routine inspection.
On Tuesday afternoon, about 600 family members, friends, co-workers and others gathered at the Queen of Peace Catholic Church to remember the Aurora code-enforcement officer and give that kindness and comfort back to his family. "To his family, you have given us a friend and a richness that is hard to find," said City Councilwoman Deborah Wallace, who had gone on a ride-along with Morales and remembered that "beautiful smile that Rodney had."

One by one, others recalled that amazing smile.
"I remember one time I told Rodney that I liked his 'do, and he said he had one of those heads that didn't do hair," recalled Ron Moore, one of Morales' bosses. "Rodney was always up for a good time."
A former New York City police officer, Morales, 40, was shot and killed after he entered an apartment building for a routine inspection Thursday afternoon in the 1900 block of Clinton Street.
His partner, Lindsey Viall, was waiting outside when the shots rang out. She didn't get to say goodbye then, but she did Tuesday. She read a poem at the memorial that she wrote about his death.
"Time plays tricks on us, and sometimes we don't even know it," Viall said, as she tried to hold back tears. "We wish we had more of it or something could have changed.
"I'm sad and I'm scared, but I'm smiling and I'm proud. I still grieve every day. I'll absolutely miss you."
Many said Morales was always the life of the party. He liked going to concerts at Red Rocks and LoDo and listening to the Dave Matthews Band. He would volunteer to work after hours and on weekends. And he was a big Oakland Raiders fan.
Morales' brother, Keith, got up from his seat, kissed a picture of Rodney, then gave it two fist pumps. "My brother was a great man," Keith recalled, his voice hoarse. "He was my friend, and I love him so much. He was my hero."
Code-enforcement officers from Centennial, Greenwood Village, Englewood, Park County, Aurora and other areas showed their respect for Morales. Even those who didn't know him came, just because.
"I was very shocked and surprised," said Bob Gunning, who works for John's Towing, which contracts with the city. "I just wanted to come today to show my respects for him and his family."
Harry Denard Williams, 22, was arrested Friday in connection with Morales' death. He is being held in the Adams County jail without bail.
Aurora officials who attended the service said the apparent randomness of the killing makes it even more difficult to comprehend.
"As we think of Rodney's passing, it simply doesn't make sense," Aurora Mayor Ed Tauer said. "It's wrong." Morales is survived by his mother, Sandra Rodriguez; sister, Lisa Cruz; sister-in-law, Mary Morales; brothers, Michael and Keith Morales; cousins, Charles and Corina Spence; and his former wife, Larissa Morales.
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