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Students arranged fight before Nome Park shooting that injured 6, affidavit says

Daniel Ruelas, 16, and three 15-year-old suspects were arrested in connection to November shooting that left six students injured, according to Aurora Police.

AURORA, Colo. — A 16-year-old suspect is being charged in connection to a November 2021 shooting in Nome Park that left six students in Aurora injured.

Daniel Ruelas, 16, is being charged as an adult with the following counts, according to the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office:

  • 16 counts of attempted first-degree murder.
  • Three counts of first-degree assault.
  • Possession of a handgun by a juvenile.
  • Sentence enhancers including use of a deadly weapon and causing serious bodily injury.

Ruelas' next scheduled court appearance is a reverse transfer hearing set for 9 a.m. on July 20 in Arapahoe County District Court.

Credit: 18th Judicial District

The shooting happened around 12:45 p.m. on Nov. 15 at Nome Park near Nome Street and 12th Avenue, according to APD.

Five of the victims were taken to the hospital, and an 18-year-old later took himself to a hospital. Police said one of the victims was taken into emergency surgery. All were expected to survive, however, APD said two of them had a long recovery ahead of them.

All of the victims were students at Aurora Central High School. Their names were not released, but police identified them as a 14-year-old boy, a 15-year-old girl, a 16-year-old boy, a 16-year-old girl, a 17-year-old boy, and an 18-year-old man.

Aurora Police Department has also arrested three additional 15-year-old suspects in connection to the shooting.

PREVIOUS: More teens arrested in Nome Park shooting, community leaders continue to push to stop the violence

According to the arrest affidavit, investigators discovered 21 9mm shell casings and five 7.62 x 39 shell casings at the scene, as well as a "300" emblem in the street next to the casings.

Multiple victims and witnesses reported two vehicles were possibly involved in the shooting, which were identified as a black Chrysler 300 and a black Chevrolet Tahoe, according to the arrest affidavit.

One witness near the swings reported one of the suspect vehicles had both passenger windows rolled down, followed by gunfire coming from one of the suspects inside, the affidavit says. The witness said there were "a lot" of people in the car, and he said he could not recognize anyone inside because they were wearing masks, according to the affidavit.

Another witness in the park reported seeing shooting from a black sedan, and said she overheard people saying earlier "there was going to be a shooting today," the affidavit says. She added two names redacted from the affidavit were "going to be shooting today," but she did not know where the possible shooting was going to take place.

Two women who contacted police said they were parked facing Nome Street, and saw a black sedan drive past them according to the affidavit. They said the passenger side windows were down, and inside were two to four men, one with a long gun partially out of the window, and another with a handgun, the affidavit says.

The women said the the vehicle turned north onto Nome Street before the men inside began shooting towards the park, according to the affidavit. They also "indicated that the males in the car looked directly at them and were flashing their guns out of the window."

The affidavit says another witness reported seeing some of the incident, and said saw a man in a black sweatshirt standing between trees on foot and shooting east towards the tables in the park.

The dean of students at Central High School reported seeing what appeared to be a black Chrysler 300 leaving the scene while checking the school's north cameras, which is pictured below:

Credit: 18th Judicial District

One of the victims told investigators she believed the shooting happened because of a fight between some students a few weeks prior, and that she thought one of the shooting suspects was a student whose name was redacted, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit says another victim reported being in the park to watch the a fight that was supposed to take place between two people who fought the previous week when he saw the Chrysler and Chevy circling the park several times. The victim said he thought one of the fighting participants (whose name was reacted) was in the Chevy and the other (an unknown Aurora Central High School senior) was already in the park, according to the affidavit.

The victim said his back was turned to the street when gunfire erupted from the Chrysler, which had stopped in front of the park, and his leg was grazed by a bullet, according to the affidavit.

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Another witness reported thinking a student whose name was redacted was one of the shooters because she had seen him two previous times in the Chevy, the affidavit says. When investigators attempted to interview the student, they said they were a passenger in the Chevy that day before his mother ended the interview, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit says a caller from the address where the registered owner of the Chevy lived said they owned the SUV being shown on the news and wanted to meet with investigators.

Investigators met with multiple family members, whose names were redacted, and the affidavit said one told them he was the owner of the Chevy, but his younger brother was the one who drives it. The group said they lived about 10 minutes away in Aurora, and the Chevy was currently in their garage, the affidavit says.

Investigators interviewed one of the family members, who said he drove the Chevy to school with his younger brother and others whose names were redacted, the affidavit says, and then left school around lunch time with two other occupants. They heard a fight was taking place in Nome Park, so they decided to drive around the park to find it when gunfire broke out, the affidavit says. The interview was then stopped by the family when investigators asked follow up questions.

The affidavit says investigators executed a search warrant and the address where the Chevy was located, and it appeared the SUV had been cleared out and cleaned, and also discovered new and used car wipes in the SUV and residence.

RELATED: Prayer vigil held at Nome Park to discuss change

An Aurora Central High School staff member told investigators they believed a student whose name was redacted was possibly the Chrysler's driver because she recognized him in the car while driving by on a previous occasion, and also mentioned two redacted names associated with the Chevy because they dropped her friend off at her house numerous times over the summer.

Investigators confirmed the registered owner of the Chrysler was the mother of the student named by the staff member, and the affidavit says. A license plate reader identified the vehicle parked in the 14700 block of East 2nd Avenue in Aurora, and the affidavit said detectives investigating the car discovered a bullet hole in the trunk, and just below was an imprint where a "300" emblem was located. The size of the missing emblem appeared to match the one found at the scene, according to the affidavit.

Credit: 18th Judicial District

Detectives had the Chrysler, which was not reported stolen, towed to the police department's evidence bay, the affidavit says. During a search of the vehicle, the affidavit says investigators discovered two spent 9mm bullet casings inside.

Credit: 18th Judicial District

The registered owner of the Chrysler told police she sold the vehicle a year ago to a friend who she believed had moved to Mexico, according to the affidavit. 

When interviewing the woman's son, the affidavit says he initially said he had never been in the car, that it had been sold a year ago, he didn't go to school the day of the shooting and he had no knowledge about the incident. 

After consenting to a DNA swab, investigators said they found the car and warned it could lead to a DNA match, the affidavit says, and the son then admitted to driving the car that day with his friends because of a fight that was supposed to take place.

He continued saying someone whose name was redacted and his friends had been "beefing" with him his friends, and they were going to fight in Nome Park, the affidavit says. When he was driving the Chrysler by the park, he saw the other fight participant's friends were armed with handguns standing near a tan minivan, the affidavit says.

He said he stopped the Chrysler by the group and rolled down the windows to ask if they were going to fight, and the group respond by shooting at his Chrysler, according to the affidavit. He said one of the backseat passengers who was a Aurora Central High School student then returned fire with a long gun he described as an AK-47 or AR-15 rifle, the affidavit says.

The investigator, who had previously seen surveillance video of the scene including footage showing the tan minivan, noted that when the Chrysler passed by the van for the final time individuals ran away and ducked as if they were shot at first, the affidavit says. As the Chrysler sped away it appears individuals in the park returned fire, and the investigators also noted that the Chrysler only had a bullet hole in the trunk and not the passenger side, suggesting the occupants fired first and sped away before being shot at, the affidavit says. 

At that point the investigator arrested the suspect, the affidavit says.

Credit: 18th Judicial District

The mother of one of the students who was supposed to participate in the fight contacted police and arranged an interview, according to the affidavit. The boy said he was jumped at Nome Park a week before the shooting and wanted a fair one-one rematch with no weapons, according to the affidavit. 

He showed Instagram chat messages between himself and the other fight participant, whose name was redacted, arranging the meeting at the park, the affidavit says. He said two of his friends went with him to the park for support, and learned one of them had called for additional backup from Polo Gang members, who were standing next to the tan minivan, according to the affidavit.

He did not see any guns among anyone in the park, and said he would have called off the fight if he did, the affidavit says.

While waiting, he noticed the Chrysler and Chevy circling the park, and said he felt the other fight participant was in one of the vehicles because he knew the Chevy was associated with his friends, according to the affidavit.

He believed the vehicles' occupants were attempting to see how many friends he brought for backup, the affidavit says, and they continued to chat on Instagram during this time:

Credit: 18th Judicial Distract

He said the Chevy finally stopped circling and parked, while the Chrysler did another lap before stopping about 35 to 40 feet away from him, the affidavit says. He then gestured towards the car and said, "Are we gonna fight or what?" which is when the Chrysler's passenger windows went down and three unknown shooters began shooting, the affidavit says.

He said two of his friends were hit, but he was not, and one of the Polo Gang members returned fire, as the Chrysler drove away, according to the affidavit.

He did not know if any gunfire came from the Chevy, but noted its passenger front window was rolled down halfway just before the shooting, the affidavit says.

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According to the affidavit, investigators learned of a 15-year-old Aurora Central High School student who had been arrested a few months prior near the park for possession of a handgun and arranged an interview.

The student initially said they stayed home sick from school, heard about the fight in Nome Park from a friend while shopping, but instead went to his grandmother's home instead, according to the affidavit. 

After further questioning he admitted he was in the Chrysler during the time of the shooting, and was read his Miranda rights before continuing with the interview, the affidavit says.

He said by someone whose name was redacted and an unknown woman in the Chrysler when he ran into them while shopping, and they drove to a park near the intersection of East 6th Avenue and Dayton Street where they smoked weed, according to the affidavit.

The student reported seeing a black handgun on the center console that was handed to him before he handed it to another person in the car, the affidavit says.

He named the occupants in the car that he knew, and added that he did not know a woman in the car or a male around 15 years old they picked up while circling the park, according to the affidavit. 

The student also said a black SUV was circling the area with them, and he previously known it to be associated with two redacted names, the affidavit says, but did not know who was inside the SUV on this occasion. He also said he did not believe any gunfire came from the SUV, the affidavit says.

After making another lap around the park, he said the unknown male in the back seat pulled out a small handgun and the woman pulled an AK-47 rifle from a backseat compartment, the affidavit says. 

They continued circling the park while the occupants discussed looking for the person in the park who was supposed to participate in the fight, according to the affidavit, and the student said his understanding was there was going to be a fist fight and they had guns incase it did not go well.

He said driver pulled the car up to the park, stopped and rolled down the passenger windows, the affidavit says. The student said the passenger in the front seat, whose name was redacted, began firing a handgun out of the window, according to the affidavit.

At the same time, he said the woman behind the driver seat leaned over him and the man in the middle seat and began shooting the AK-47 out of the rear window, while the male in the middle seat also leaned over him and begin firing a handgun out of the same window, the affidavit says.

When asked to demonstrate the back seat positioning by investigators, "it became quite obvious and comical to all that it was an impossibility," the affidavit says.

The student told police he did not see anyone get shot because he closed his eyes, estimated about 20 people were in the line of fire and that the two shooters in the Chrysler fired at least 10 gunshots, according to the affidavit. He said the car continued then went north on Nome Street when someone in the park returned fire, the affidavit says. The Chrysler then turned right onto onto East 13th Avenue, and the male in the backseat fired three to four more shots towards the park, the affidavit says.

The affidavit says he marked the approximate locations where the gunshots came from on the map below:

Credit: 18tyh Judicial District

The student continued to deny being a shooter at anytime during the incident despite being told that multiple witnesses saw a male shooting from his position in the car, and was then arrested, the affidavit says.

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During an interview, the affidavit says the same student subject told investigators he was originally driving the Chevy with friends the day of the shooting, saying they were driving around Nome Park looking for the person his friend was supposed to fight.

He said it was supposed to a fist fight, and at one point the group crossed paths with his sister, who was driving the Chrysler, according to the affidavit. He said the sister told him she was ditching school and was not looking for a fight, according to the affidavit.

The student said that at one point the Chrysler and Tahoe stopped next to each other, and he got into the driver seat of the Chrysler along with three of his friends including Ruelas, the affidavit says. He told investigators one of the passengers had a gold-colored AR-10 rifle stolen from a house safe with Ruelas earlier in the year, which the had the stock removed to make it shorter and easier to conceal, the affidavit says. He added that Ruelas and another passenger both had handguns which were possibly stolen at the same time as the rifle, and that neither he nor his sister had any weapons, according to the affidavit.

He said they continued to drive around looking for the other fight participant when he noticed the tan minivan with several men nearby, and said he though they were armed because one of the hand a pistol grip sticking out of his waistband, according to the affidavit.

The student said they then pulled next to the van, rolled down the passenger windows, and was going to ask them where the other fight participant was, but said the men began to approach the stopped Chrysler and one of the passengers inside began firing at them, the affidavit says. He added that he thought his friends started shooting because they feared the approaching group were going to shoot them, according to the affidavit.

He said he immediately sped away north on Nome Street when the shooting started, and when they turned onto East 13th Avenue the passengers were still shooting back towards the park and someone shooting at them, the affidavit says.

The student then drove the to the 14600 block of East 2nd Avenue and dumped the car there to avoid being found with it in his possession by police, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit says he admitted the person he previously identified as an unknown man was actually Ruelas. He said he was initially covering for Ruelas and another person whos name was redacted because they had known each other for 10 years and were "extremely tight friends," the affidavit reads. He also identified the occupants of the Chevy, whose names were redacted, and said there was no shooting from the SUV during the incident.

In another subsequent interview he positively identified Ruelas and two other male suspects whose names were redacted as shooters during the incident. The sister also identified Ruelas and another suspect in her car.

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According to the affidavit, investigators interviewed a woman who said she was ditching school and driving the Chrysler around Nome Park when she ran into the group that would get into the Chrysler.

She moved into the backseat, and said that she did not know any of them had weapons at that point, before later seeing a cream-colored rifle from one of the occupants sweatpants, the affidavit says.

She said she did not know why they kept circling Nome Park, was unaware of the planned fight and noticed a crowd of roughly 30 people gathered in the park, the affidavit says.

She reported the car eventually slowed down, two occupants rolled down the passenger windows and one fired the rifle at the crowd in the park about 30 times, according to the affidavit. Then Daniel and another occupant fired about 6 to 8 shots from handguns towards the crowd in the park, the affidavit says.

She reported that someone in the car fired first after being instructed to shoot people in the park through speakerphone by someone inside the Chevy, according to the affidavit.

She said one of the occupants complained about being shot in the back, before they realized it was actually a burn from one of the hot weapons, the affidavit says.

She drew on the map below the direction that the three occupants, including Daniel, fired shots towards, which was directly at the large group in the park, according to the affidavit.

Credit: 18th Judicial District

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