80 attend vigil honoring Lobato
Event held one week after police shooting
By Julie Poppen, Rocky Mountain News
July 19, 2004
At least 80 people gathered beneath darkening skies Sunday and held candles aloft to commemorate Frank Lobato, a sickly 63-year-old fatally shot by police a week earlier.
The vigil held outside La Alma Recreation Center just blocks from the shooting site in a west Denver housing project inevitably turned into a political rally.
Fliers were handed out advertising a meeting with Mayor John Hickenlooper scheduled for Tuesday, to be followed by a rally Wednesday.
"We have to find some way to take charge of our city again, to make it ours instead of just the people with money, the people with power," said American Indian Movement activist George "Tink" Tinker.
"The police can't hurt him now," Tinker said, turning toward Lobato's family members.
Family spokesman LeRoy Lemos demanded changes in the Denver Police Department, beginning with the resignation of Chief Gerry Whitman and including charges filed against police officer Ranjan Ford Jr., who shot Lobato.
"At some point these tragedies and tears and vigils have to stop," Lemos said. "Denver police are never held accountable."
Lemos was a member of the police reform commission, a task force appointed in January and charged with reviewing the police department's use-of-force policy and the city's civilian oversight of the department.
Lobato's three adult children and their families huddled near a makeshift memorial in the grass near a mural. There was a photo of Lobato and one of his sons as a child, candles burning and flowers strewn on the ground.
One son, Frank Jr., covered his face in his hands. Next to him, his wife held Frank Lobato III, 4 months old.
Lobato's ex-wife, three children, one spouse and three grandchildren drove to Denver from Sacramento, Calif., in search of answers, Lemos said. Lemos said the family was planning a trip to Denver in August so Lobato, who was in ill health, could meet his grandchildren.
Also in attendance was Lobato's sister, the only surviving sibling out of 16. Lemos said a fourth daughter was scheduled to arrive soon.
Lobato's great-niece Maxine Warren Martinez said she and her cousins called Lobato the "candyman" because he always gave them money or treats when they were children.
"He was always kind-hearted," she said. "The police that shot and killed my uncle . . . I would like him to be tried with at least manslaughter."
Martinez said Lobato had a hearing problem, which is why the television was on so loud when the police entered the room where he was lying in bed.
On the evening of July 11, officers used a ladder to get to the second floor of a unit in the South Lincoln Park projects in search of 42-year- old Vincent Martinez, who was suspected of assaulting and holding his wife against her will. But Martinez fled from a window.
Ford apparently mistook a soda can in Lobato's hand for a weapon and fired a single shot at Lobato.
The case is under review by the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, and Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter said he may ask a grand jury to decide on charges in the case.
The shooting comes on the heels of the first-year anniversary of the officer-involved shooting death of 15-year-old developmentally disabled Paul Childs when he wouldn't drop a knife.
The Childs shooting prompted Hickenlooper to create the police reform commission.