Shooting that left 10 injured likely started as a drug deal and was unrelated to Nuggets celebrations, Denver police say

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Police move away from the center of the street celebration on 19th and Market streets in LoDo Monday night, June 12, 2023, after the Nuggets won the NBA Championships for the first time in team history, beating the Miami Heat 94 to 89, closing out the series after winning four games to Miami’s one.

Updated 12:55 p.m.

Denver police said the shooting that left 10 people injured was unrelated to the Denver Nuggets celebration and likely stemmed from a dispute during a drug deal. 

The 12:30 a.m. shooting happened in the 2000 block of Market St. near Coors Field. A video Denver police released showed dozens of police were stationed at a nearby intersection to monitor the celebrations when dozens of gunshots were fired..

“Officers located multiple individuals who had been injured by gunfire and began rendering aid until ambulances could arrive,” Denver Police Department Commander Matt Clark said. “Simultaneously, other Denver police officers located and detained individuals who were believed to be involved in the incident.”

Others who were injured were celebrants, and not involved with the drug deal.

One suspect, who sustained a gunshot wound, ran from the scene and was chased by officers. When the suspect was apprehended, officers found a firearm and suspected fentanyl pills on his body. Another arrest was made in a parking lot across the street from the shooting, where a driver of a vehicle was confronted by police. When police searched the car, they found a firearm hidden under the driver’s seat. 

The two suspects, 22-year-old Ricardo Vasquez and 33-year-old Raoul Jones, are being held on several charges, including possession of a weapon by a previous offender, and possession of a controlled substance.

“I think our strong suspicion at this point is if five or six of those were completely innocent bystanders and others had some level of involvement in the altercation,” said DPD Chief Ron Thomas.

The investigation is ongoing.

Our original story continues below.

Ten people were shot just north of 20th and Market in downtown Denver – including the suspect – during a street celebration following the Denver Nuggets NBA Finals victory Monday night.

The shooting occurred sometime shortly after 12:30 a.m. on a city block that was flooded by thousands of people celebrating Denver's first NBA championship.

Three victims were taken to the hospital in serious condition. The six other victims and the suspect in custody sustained non-life-threatening injuries.

According to Denver Police, the shooting began during an altercation between several people. It's unclear what caused the altercation.

Thousands of people were on the streets after the NBA Game in Ball Arena between the Denver Nuggets and the Miami heat. Many fans shot off fireworks, danced in the street, played music and climbed light posts in what has become the usual post-championship celebration tradition in Denver, with the epicenter at 20th and Market near Coors Field. That included a heavy Denver Police presence – much like the heavy police presence at celebrations after the Stanley Cup Victory a year ago.

However, after midnight, the jubilation began to shift toward tension. Skirmishes between fans began to break out as well as intense interactions between police and fans. DPD was slowly clearing the street before the shooting occurred.

Denver Police said another person was shot in a separate incident nearby at 15th and Tremont and a pedestrian was hit by a car that sped away from 4th and Broadway.

Police are investigating all the incidents.