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Man ordered to trial in killing of soldier at off-limits bar

This news story was published on September 16, 2012.
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Lance Benzel, The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) –

A former Colorado Springs tavern where a June melee led to the shooting death of an Afghanistan war veteran was supposed to be off-limits to soldiers, police testified at a pretrial hearing Friday.

According to Colorado Springs police detective Derek Graham, the Golden Cue at 2790 South Hancock Expressway was among several local establishments that Fort Carson soldiers are under orders to avoid.

“It’s on a no-visitation list and off-limits to the military,” Graham told the court in laying out evidence against Dwight Gordon Jr. of Colorado Springs, who is accused of killing 22-year-old Spc. Kendrick James. The tavern relinquished its liquor license in August to avoid a revocation hearing and apparently has closed.

Soldiers can face disciplinary action if caught at a banned business, but the post doesn’t send personnel to check the establishments, Fort Carson spokesman Rick Emert told The Gazette after the hearing.

Police say Gordon, 28, shot James in the torso and wounded a woman bouncer in the leg early June 2 after a large fight broke out on the dance floor and spilled into the parking lot. The bouncer has recovered.

Fourth Judicial District Judge Deborah Grohs ordered Gordon held without bond pending trial on charges of felony assault and first-degree murder, rejecting defense attorneys’ arguments that Gordon fired in self-defense.

The nature of the dispute wasn’t disclosed at the daylong hearingbut allegedly began when Gordon punched one of James’ friends in the back of the head.

Military installations in Colorado Springs routinely restrict personnel from visiting places that draw police attentionbut that did little to deter a number of active-duty revelers who were in attendance.

According to police, James had arrived with his girlfriend and three fellow Fort Carson soldiers, one of whom claimed he fired a .40-caliber pistol into the air to clear the crowd after his friend went to the ground with a gunshot wound.

The bouncer, Autumn Santos, initially denied she was at the bar that night, saying instead that she was wounded while walking down Hancock Expressway and that she crawled to The Golden Cue for help.

After being confronted over the absence of dirt on her knees and elbows, police say the woman told the truth: Her husband, a fellow bouncer, was also a Fort Carson soldier, and she didn’t want him or the bar to get in trouble.

Soldiers were prohibited from entering The Golden Cue as well as Sodo and The Mansion along the city’s Tejon Street club district, according to a list of banned businesses posted to a Fort Carson-affiliated website. The list also includes five massage parlors and two head shops, and bears the signature of Maj. Gen. Joseph Anderson, Fort Carson’s top commander.

The Golden Cue was the scene of an October 2011 episode in which a man was wounded twice and survived.

In fighting charges against Gordon, public defenders said James’ friends largely shaped accounts of what happened and suggested they lied to “cover up” a possible gun battle or some other threat toward Gordon.

Judge Grohs, however, said other circumstances undercut claims of self-

defense, such witnesses who said Gordon had gone out to a car before returning to the bar exit and firing two shots from a .380-caliber pistol.

Although James had announced on Facebook that he was a gun owner, no one saw him with a weapon, Grohs said.

Also, Gordon fled when police moved in to arrest him at his apartment complex on Westmeadow Drive the next day, the judge noted.

After fleeing a traffic stop, Gordon took off running and hid in some bushesuntil a police K-9 unit sniffed out his location.

At the time of his arrest, a friend of Gordon’s was waiting in a car to pick him within 20 feet of Gordon’s hiding spot, according to testimony by Graham. The detective added there was too much police activity for Gordon to make it to the car.

Gordon is expected to enter a not-guilty plea and learn his trial date when he is arraigned on Oct. 15.

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