Man killed had a gang history

Updated: September 2, 2003, 11:17 AM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- Gang rivalry may have been the cause of a weekend bar shooting of six people, including Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Joey Porter, police said Monday.

Porter was shot in the buttocks Saturday night outside the All Sports Bar and Grill. He was moved Monday from Denver to a Pittsburgh hospital.

"I saw him Sunday, spent about an hour with him. He was very frightened," said Sonny Lubick, Porter's coach at Colorado State University. "It could have been a lot worse."

The coach had introduced Porter to the Rams before their game Saturday against Colorado, and Porter and fellow Steeler Clark Haggans were on the sidelines for the game.

No one has been arrested in the shooting, police spokesman Sonny Jackson said. "We are looking at every possibility. It could have been gang activity. You have to ask whether it was random," Jackson said Monday.

A man killed in the shooting, Christopher Wilford, 28, had a history of gang activity with several arrests. His sister said Wilford was the intended target.

"He liked talking," said the woman, who asked that her name not be used. "He loved to run his mouth and he was probably the target," she told the Rocky Mountain News.

She said her brother was a member of a Denver gang that had been fighting with another local gang, but said she doesn't want people thinking of him as an expendable gang member or criminal.

"He ain't shot nobody, he ain't hurt nobody," she said. "I feel like whatever he did in the past ain't got nothing to do with today."

Wilford had been arrested on charges of burglary, assault, escape and distribution of drugs. He was convicted of attempted escape in 1996, and ordered to serve two years in prison. He also was waiting a hearing on a drug charge.

Police believe the shooter climbed a chain-link fence -- which surrounds the business and its parking lot -- and shot at the crowd of about 150 people leaving the bar. Investigators say it appears the shooting was planned.

The bar was closed Monday. Six glass vases containing two flowers each lined the chain-link fence.

Club owner Terry Johnson spent Monday tearing down a 6-foot wooden fence -- located just inside the other fence -- that the shooter hid behind, saying he wanted to make the place more secure. He planned to reopen Tuesday.

The All Sports Bar and Grill is located in an area where industry and residences mix, and has one of the highest crime rates in the city.

The bar had been rented out by a group of CSU alumni for an "official showdown after-party," Johnson said, following the CSU-CU football game. Uninvited regulars, including Wilford, showed up and were allowed in after signing their name and giving their phone number.

Johnson was in the back of the bar cleaning up at about 1:45 a.m. when he heard shots. Porter ran the length of the building after being hit, ducked into the bar through a second door, then ran to the kitchen, Johnson said.

Steeler coach Bill Cowher said Porter was expected to recover and would not be put on the injured reserve list, which would have sidelined him for the season.

Police said Porter was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press

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