The last words Christopher Rhodes remembers his ex-girlfriend telling him as she gasped her dying breath echo deep in his soul months after her killing.
He found Taryn Meyer, the cellphone in her hand, the 911 dispatcher still on the line. Meyer was slouched behind a door in Rhodes’ apartment, her knees buckled underneath her from the gunshot wound that tore across her torso and took her life.
“She took one breath and looked at me and said, ‘I love you,’” Rhodes said. “And that was it. I know she died right then.”
It was a double homicide. Fatally shot alongside Meyer, 38, was Elwood Johnson, 34, whose life was claimed two days before his birthday. A transient man fatally shot them when they tried to reclaim for Rhodes an apartment the homeless man had taken over by force, police said.
Rhodes said he was in the apartment's parking lot when Johnson came stumbling down, shot in the left thigh and torso. He said he rushed into the apartment to find his friend's life ebbing away. Gone was a woman who tipped whenever she ate at McDonald's, her small gesture at making life better for others.
The Denver Police Department’s communications bureau logged the call for help at 2:27 a.m. on July 24. Two more bodies to tally in 2021, a year that by its end would see a grim toll of 96 homicides in Denver — excluding fatal shootings by police — the city’s largest total in at least three decades.
The man police charged in the killings, Jakeob Voorhis, 23, shared a common characteristic with 46% of those arrested for homicides in Denver in the last two years as homicides spiked. He was under supervision — the terms of which he regularly flouted — for previous crimes.
A review by The Gazette found that of the 92 homicides with an arrest in Denver from January 2020 through November 20, 2021, at least 42 of the alleged assailants were either on parole, community corrections, probation or pretrial supervision or had absconded from such supervision. Pretrial supervision is different from both parole and probation in that those on it have not been convicted of a crime.
The analysis excludes juvenile suspects, cases declined by prosecutors — both categories for which police would not identify suspects — and cases for which police have not yet made arrests.
Denver police say the number of homicide arrests tied to people already under supervision increased 32 percent in 2021 compared to the previous year.
Court records show instances when both parole and probation officers could have intervened more forcefully before a victim ended up dead.
Those on probation escaped swift revocation back to prison or jail even as they illegally toted handguns, incurred new criminal charges, violated protection orders, moved without warning, skipped domestic violence classes and anger management training, threatened violence, used illegal drugs, tampered with drug tests and failed to show up for scheduled meetings with the officers supervising them.
Meanwhile, those on parole also had violations that ranged from dodging parole officer appointments to moving without permission from authorized residences and failing to appear for drug testing. One parolee became a fugitive from supervision after he became a suspect in the June 1, 2020 fatal shooting of a man along 16th Avenue in Aurora. By the time he was taken into custody on June 8, 2020 for the homicide in Aurora, he had killed again, Denver police say. He had fatally shot an eyewitness to the first homicide and left her body in an alley behind Federal Boulevard one day before his arrest for the fatal shooting in Aurora, according to a Denver police report.
Amid lax supervision, parole, probation and pretrial caseloads spiked in 2020 when a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic struck. Probation officers struggled to meet their job expectations during staffing shortages and turnover. A new state law restricted parole officers’ ability to revoke misbehaving felons they supervised back to prison.
Executive orders from Gov. Jared Polis issued at the height of the coronavirus health crisis authorized discretionary parole releases to about 170 prisoners with medical conditions that put them at higher risk of death from the virus.
Parolees fleeing and absconding from supervision increased dramatically in the past two years. And new risk assessment tools put in place nearly a decade ago have resulted in the release of more defendants from jail pending trial on personal recognizance bonds, which do not require putting up money or property that must be forfeited for failed court appearances. Along with the rise in personal recognizance bonds, more defendants are failing to show up for court hearings, Denver data shows.
As homicide arrests of those under supervision have risen, so has pushback from law-enforcement officials, who say recent criminal justice reforms have weakened accountability in the criminal justice system. They point to spiking crime rates as justification for a course correction.
Other public officials and reform advocates fear rolling back reforms will end up being counterproductive, resulting in over-incarcerating non-violent offenders, who can be released without exacerbating recidivism rates, according to studies.
And those advocates further argue that a broad-brush approach that fashions wholesale policy changes for those on parole and probation along with those on pre-trial release, who haven't been convicted, isn't proper since each category of supervision has unique characteristics and challenges. Using crime statistics to argue for tough-on-crime policies also ignores influences on crime linked to poverty and behavioral health, they say.
Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen is among those in law enforcement who have become most outspoken.
"The lack of consequences and accountability for individuals who are committing crimes, these repeat and violent offenders, is why we are seeing these spikes," said Pazen, stressing that he believes new laws and policies are to blame.
Most of the arrests of those on probation were being supervised for convictions in courts outside Denver.
Voorhis was convicted of nine criminal charges in Jefferson and Arapahoe counties between 2018 to 2021 yet he still was allowed to remain out on the streets on probation. He choked a girlfriend, pistol whipped a man and threatened three others with a handgun, police reports state. He broke the eye socket of a fellow inmate who asked if he would trade some peanut butter for a meal tray. Yet he got chance after chance despite failing to comply with probation terms that required him to submit to regular check-ins, drug and alcohol testing and inpatient drug treatment.
“If they had done their job, my friend would be alive,” said Rhodes, who also contends that four days before Voorhis allegedly killed his friends, Voorhis broke into Rhodes’ apartment, threatened to shoot him in the face with a .380 caliber Glock handgun and kicked him out of the apartment. He blames the judicial system, probation officers and police for failing to heed the warning signs that Voorhis was a danger.
"He shouldn't have been on the streets at all," Rhodes said. "No, he should not have had a probation. What the hell was he doing on the streets?"
Even Voorhis’ father, desperate to get his son off the streets, in September 2020 called Arapahoe County Sheriff’s deputies and asked them to intervene, telling them his son “was involved in some serious crimes and needed to go to jail,” according to one police report.
It was only after Taryn Meyer and Elwood Johnson were killed by gunfire that Arapahoe and Jefferson County probation officials finally moved to revoke Voorhis’ probations. Court documents filed after the fatal shootings in Denver show that he was repeatedly out of compliance with the terms of his probations, well before police charged him in the shooting deaths. Officials with the county probation departments did not respond to requests for comment.
Voorhis' defense lawyers signaled during a recent court hearing that they will pursue a self-defense claim. They argue that he was startled and threatened during the unannounced visit to the apartment he had moved into and believed he was the target of a robbery.
The judge ruled that because Voorhis plans to claim self-defense, he has a right to bond. He set bond at $2 million, with a reduction hearing scheduled for Feb. 7.
Law enforcement outrage
Cases like Voorhis’ are prompting concern from both law officers and public officials. Those joining Pazen in weighing in on the ongoing cycle of violence tied to people already under supervision for past crimes include Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, former Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, former Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey and former Denver Safety Manger Murphy Robinson, who announced his resignation at the end of 2021.
“I would be absolutely outraged if a family member of mine was killed by a felon in possession of a gun, who is on supervision,” Pazen said during an interview in the summer, as homicides in Denver spiked. “Like, how does that happen? How do we allow that to happen? If we keep going down this path, we’re going to have more and more people dying in our streets, and it should not happen.”
Denver police recorded 95 homicides in 2020 and 96 in 2021. The figures exclude fatal shootings by police officers.
Hancock highlighted his concerns in July during his state of the city address. He said at that time that an increase in Denver’s violent crime rate “is being compounded by the release of violent criminals too quickly from custody, putting them right back in the community to reoffend. This must be corrected.”
Dean Williams, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, repudiated those opinions in a prepared statement: "Scapegoating or blaming other intergovernmental agencies in this important work, especially since the data is clear that parole policies are not actually responsible for the homicide increase in Denver, is counterproductive. We would always welcome a collaborative approach in helping the Denver Police Department address the city's troubling crime rate. This work is too important for divisive rhetoric."
Williams, who declined requests for an interview, said an evaluation by Crime and Justice Institute, a Boston-based research nonprofit, found that Colorado's move to expand the eligibility for release of more low-risk offenders and to streamline their release on parole while concentrating more resources on high-risk parolees had good outcomes. That evaluation found those granted early parole releases and placed on less strict parole supervision due to low risk levels "were significantly less likely to receive a new charge, new conviction or return to prison for a new crime."
Christie Donner, executive director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, cautioned that trying to explain why the system doesn’t catch someone before their behavior escalates to violence is particularly difficult in the context of homicides, because their circumstances are so situational.
Many homicides aren’t premeditated but instead are committed in a situation that escalated into violence, she said, and deaths classified as homicides by police also include unintentional killings or accidents that resulted in someone’s death.
“The iceberg underneath the water is all of these situational circumstances where nobody saw it coming,” she said. “And if something in the situation was even slightly different, then the homicide would never occur.”
Grouping people on pretrial release together with people on parole and probation in policy discussions frustrates Rebecca Wallace, the Colorado Freedom Fund’s senior policy counsel. People awaiting a resolution to their cases are fundamentally different from people on a type of post-conviction release, she said, because they have not been convicted of a crime.
“The concept of putting them together suggests that they are designed similarly and that we can judge their outcomes similarly. When in fact, for instance, if dangerous people are buying their way into pretrial freedom, or if money is not effectively keeping us safe, that is really not a judgment on whether our system of rehabilitation is working,” she said. “It is a judgment on the cash bond system, which I think many in the criminal legal reform space like me would agree is absolutely broken.”
Strains in supervision systems
Along with instances of lax supervision that show up in court documents, The Gazette reviewed probation quality assurance reports, probation and parole personnel numbers, legislative testimony and data on early releases — all of which show a confluence of factors accompanied the rising numbers of offenders under supervision who ended up arrested for homicides.
Probation officers in Denver struggled with staffing shortages and casework standards, according to reviews of their work conducted by their superiors.
In the fiscal year that ended in July 2020, Denver’s adult probation department couldn't fill about a third of the probation officer positions authorized in its staffing model. About half of the management positions in the staffing model remained vacant for that year.
The next fiscal year, the department still didn't meet the staffing model, with 12% of probation officer positions in the model left vacant. Hiring was far worse for support staffing and administrative positions, with the vacancy rate exceeding 40% for those positions in that year.
A judicial department spokesperson said the staffing model was based on ideal workloads, which is currently funded at 70%. "Unfortunately, we do not have enough positions to meet workload," Rob McCallum said in an email. He said about 8% of the funded positions in Denver's probation department currently are vacant.
Along with the staffing issues, Denver’s probation staff struggled to meet expectations, quality assurance reports show. From June 2019 to December 2020, nearly 40% of probation officers involved in behavior modification programs in Denver needed to improve their skills or were in the development phase of their job training, according to internal department reports.
About 80% of probation officers staffed to courts that work with veterans, the mentally ill and driving under the influence convictions either were rated as needing improvement or in the development phase, the quality assurance data shows. Only roughly a quarter of the probation officers overseeing sex offenders were meeting expectations set for them during those months. And less than 40% of the probation officers engaged in transitioning offenders to lower levels of supervision met the department’s expectations in that time frame.
One Denver probation officer “has difficulty maintaining his caseload and keeping track of his client,” one review read. He had not made any effort to contact "numerous clients" on probation for several months, according to the review of his work. After his supervisors began holding weekly meetings with him to improve his performance, that probation officer retired.
Another Denver probation officer “who struggles with matching the sanction to impact the identified behavior that is targeted for improvement” eventually resigned. As he left, he told his superiors that “he did not have a passion for the job.”
Problems continued into 2021. In that year, another probation officer had not kept pace with expected revocations, which had increased “to include writing revocations previously placed on COVID hold,” according to one staffing report. The inability to meet that pace “is largely due to errors within revocation referrals submitted by officers,” the staffing report states.
A review of Colorado’s most recent set of standards for adult probation shows few guidelines for probation officers to determine how to respond to violations of probation terms. One section says officers have to respond to all violations “in some way” and keep documentation but doesn’t elaborate. McCallum said Denver probation officers rely on a behavior modification program to supervise those on probation. Adherence to the program "is under constant review by supervisors and administrative personnel," he said.
Legislative reports show that at a time when the state is asking probation officers elsewhere in the state to use a new assessment tool — known as Strategies for Behavior Change — the state has only four trainers and one training manager to help train 1,260 probation staffers on the new process.
“The data illustrate that Colorado is very under-resourced to other states,” stated a recent legislative budget briefing detailing training issues for the state’s probation departments. Colorado’s judicial districts “have long struggled with the very limited resources at the Division of Probation Services,” and the state “has not been able to meet their minimum training needs for staff,” according to the briefing document.
Fleeing parole intensifies
Under executive orders from Gov. Jared Polis authorizing flexibility in parole releases, more prisoners paroled in 2020 than the year before. The number of offenders under parole supervision in Colorado rose to 11,589 on Sept. 30, 2020 — an increase of 15% in one year. The state did not increase parole staffing to account for the increase in parolees.
Since the expiration of Polis' executive orders, the parole population has subsided back to earlier levels. But even as the number of parolees has levelled, the number of those that have fled parole supervision has skyrocketed. By August 31, 2021, corrections officials reported more than 1,433 parolees had absconded, their whereabouts unknown, more than double the number of parolees reported on abscond status a year earlier.
Corrections officials also released more prisoners into a specialized home-based incarceration program in 2020, more than doubling their numbers from May 2019, when 147 were in the program, to May 2020, when 349 inmates were enrolled in that program.
Along with that increase in home incarceration came a dramatic spike in those in the residential program awaiting regression back to prison for failing to comply with the terms of their release from prison. Those in that specialized program awaiting regressions back to prison increased six-fold from May 2019, when 20 were on that status, to May 2020, when corrections officials reported 123 home-confinement prisoners on that status.
A change in the law
At the same time, a new law enacted three years ago, SB2019-143, restricted the ability for parole officers to revoke parolees back to prison. That law, sponsored by Democrats Sen. Pete Lee, Sen. Julie Gonzales and Rep. Leslie Herod, placed a broad swath of what are termed technical violations as no longer eligible for revocation back to prison and specified that revocation should be reserved primarily for parolees that commit new crimes.
Violating the terms of parole supervision by skipping drug tests, engaging in drug use and a host of other violations, no longer could result in revocations, according to the new law.
However, technical parole violations involving possessing a deadly weapon, failing to comply with requirements of sex offender treatment, absconding or willful failure to appear, illegal contact with a victim and willful tampering or removing an electronic monitoring device were deemed as permissible reasons to revoke parole for people assessed to be less than high risk.
The new law also specified that when the state’s prison capacity reaches 97%, the Department of Corrections must make recommendations to the parole board about non-violent inmates with an approved parole plan deemed eligible for release. The law also has provisions intended to redirect people into treatment and re-entry programs.
Williams, the department of corrections executive director, said none of the parolees arrested on homicides in Denver had committed violations serious enough to warrant revocation back to prison, and that would have been the case even without the new law. The legislation "did not in any way limit our ability to arrest parolees for serious violations or criminal behavior," Williams said. "There are many ways to manage lower level technical violations that do not include going back to prison, and our staff regularly utilize those options including additional treatment and increased monitoring."
Limited treatment options
The law enacted in 2019 impacted a parole system already struggling to find treatment options for parolees struggling with behavioral health and substance abuse issues, according to legislative testimony submitted by the Colorado Parole Board, which rules on requests for discretionary parole releases and revocations brought before it.
“No, there are not adequate behavioral health and substance abuse treatment options for individuals in the community,” the board wrote last month in response to submitted questions from legislators seeking to gauge the impact of the 2019 legislation.
Treatment options have declined in the wake of the legislation. Due to COVID-19 concerns, the corrections department closed an intensive residential treatment program with 17 female beds and 24 male beds for parolees, and that treatment option has not been restored.
“There are limited behavioral health service options for parolees brought before the board on a revocation hearing with significant behavioral health issues,” the parole board further wrote to the legislature. “There are a limited number of options available, both within institutions and our communities, to address the needs which will ultimately reduce risk. Often, the result is the parolee absconds and/or picks up a new law violation.”
A shortage of community-based options also worries Greg Mauro, Denver’s director of community corrections. He said currently more than 100 people who have been accepted by the city’s community corrections as eligible to move into a re-entry facility are currently languishing in prison because there isn’t a spot for them. More than 30 people in Denver’s jail are waiting for a community corrections space, he said. The risk is that those people eventually will have to be released, and that their release could come without a halfway house program that could provide support for their transition back to the community.
In 2019, City Council ended contracts with private prison operators CoreCivic and GEO Group, a move that has been criticized as sudden because the city did not have replacement halfway house operators lined up. Denver lost about 500 halfway house beds as a result, and the city renewed a contract with CoreCivic for a maximum 250 beds through June 2021 as a stopgap while the city searched for replacement operators.
Currently Denver has about 350 beds between five community corrections facilities.
“We’re really starting to see the pain of that right now,” Mauro said.
The city plans to open a women’s community corrections program, called Project Elevate, at the former Tooley Hall halfway house in Northeast Park Hill. City Council voted to purchase the site from GEO in 2019 for $1.3 million. Mauro said the city hopes to eventually open a men’s program as well.
Denver in 2013 also put in place an assessment tool that assesses risk to guide pre-trial release decisions, moving the city away from a system that previously had relied on set bond amounts tied to specific violations.
Personal recognizance bonds rise
As the use of the assessment tool has become standard practice in Denver, more inmates awaiting trial are getting released from jail on personal recognizance bonds. Under that arrangement, defendants do not have to put up any money or property to secure their release from jail that they would have to forfeit if they failed to show up for court appearances.
In the fiscal year that ended in July, more than two-thirds of defendants in Denver charged with crimes involving alleged felonies, domestic violence or a repeat offense driving under the influence — the categories for which Mauro said Denver's pretrial services program conducts screening interviews — have been released pending trial on personal recognizance bonds.
Nine years ago, just about 11% of defendants released from custody and supervised by Denver's pretrial services were released on personal recognizance bonds, according to annual fiscal year data provided to the state judiciary. Back then, just one out of every 10 defendants on pre-trial supervision failed to show up for scheduled court hearings. In the fiscal year that ended last July, the failure to appear for court appearance had risen to roughly three out of every 10 defendants on pre-trial supervision. And 12 percent of those on pre-trial supervision in Denver had a new criminal filing in the last fiscal year — a record high for the last nine fiscal years.
Mauro strongly supports the notion that people should not languish in jail before trial because they can’t afford to post a bond. But he said that focusing on bond type in bail reform is a misplaced understanding about the relationship between cash bail and a person’s likelihood of reoffending. Established data has shown no significant difference in someone’s likelihood of committing a new offense based on whether judges released them on a personal recognizance bond or required them to pay a cash bond, he said.
To him, rather than money bonds, bail reform should focus on broadening the swath of offenses that someone can be legally detained for without bail if they’re deemed to be a flight risk or pose a public threat.
Among the offenses bail can be denied for in Colorado are first-degree murder, violent crimes when the person is on probation or parole for a previous violent crime and some types of sexual assault. Widening the net of offenses for which bail can be denied would require a state constitutional amendment.
Judges “need the tools to detain the people that should be detained and release the people that should be released. And then we can quit confusing the issue by discussing bond type or money,” Mauro said.
Wallace said she is frustrated when safety officials make what she sees as overly broad statements about bail reform contributing to increases in violent crime, because she believes it implies changes in recent years to bail policy have forced judges' hands into granting pretrial release to people accused of crimes.
"Despite statements by some in law enforcement that there's some mandate that has passed in the legislature that judges have to release people accused of violent offenses on PR bonds or low money bonds, no such law exists," Wallace said. "The vast majority of pretrial legislation that has passed in the past (several) years has passed with broad bipartisan support, and it leaves judicial discretion intact."
Adding up the numbers
Of individuals arrested for homicides in Denver from January 2020 through November 20, 2021, 11 were on pre-trial supervision or had absconded from pre-trial supervision, including two released from jail on a personal recognizance bond. Nine were on parole status. Three on parole had reached their mandatory release date from prison and weren't released on discretionary parole. Four others were on parole from juvenile detention.
Nine of the supervision homicide arrests involved individuals on local district court probation, of which three were being supervised by Denver probation officers. One was on probation for a federal court conviction, and another was in a halfway house program. Another individual was on probation for a California conviction.
Six other individuals were on both district court probation and either a pretrial supervision or a pretrial abscond, which means that even as they were on probation for former convictions, they were facing new criminal charges. One probationer also was on pre-trial for weapons charges in two separate incidents, but had warrants for his arrest issued when he failed to make court appearances for the charges of being a previous offender in possession of a weapon.
Chief Pazen said that according to the police department’s tracking 58 people died in homicides in Denver from 2020 through 2021 in which police arrested suspects already under supervision for past crimes or pre-trial release.
“That's a lot of loved ones that are not going to be able to go on family vacations, that are not going to be able to go on holidays with their families, to see kids graduate; to do all of these things that life brings us,” he said. “And until we can we wrap our arms around that as a society, it's almost like déjà vu.”
However, annual fiscal year data from Denver shows most of the people under pretrial supervision don't get charged with a new crime. Of 8,535 people released from custody and supervised by pretrial services in 2020, 7,987 did not have a new criminal case filed while on supervision. The group had a court appearance rate of 69.7%.
In 2021, 6,902 out of 7,864 people ordered to pretrial supervision in Denver were not charged with a new crime while under supervision. The statistics are according to annual pretrial services reports compiled by the state judicial branch.
To Pazen, starting the conversation about policymaking at homicides is too late. He said enforcement needs to get stricter on crimes such as car thefts and people with felony convictions possessing guns that have the potential to escalate into violence. People stealing cars tend to use them to commit other crimes, for example, he said.
“What if we focused on this stuff earlier on?" he asked. "Then we would have fewer homicides that we're dealing with, and from my perspective, that is where we need to pay more attention.”
A state law passed last year — a sweeping measure that mostly made tweaks to the misdemeanor code — narrowed state law restricting firearms possession by previous offenders to convictions for crimes covered by the Victims Rights Act.
But it increased felon-in-possession offenses from a Class 6 felony to Class 5, which upped the maximum penalty from 18 months to three years. The law change also makes a prison sentence mandatory if an offender brandishes or uses the gun while committing a crime.
A long trail of missed signs
Voorhis had an extensive history of violations, beginning in 2018, and was on multiple probations for three felony convictions in two separate counties when Denver authorities charged him in the July 24 fatal shootings of Meyer and Johnson.
In 2017, a Morrison police officer caught Voorhis, when he was 18, with a runaway minor Voorhis said was his girlfriend, a stolen gun, and the pried open gun safe in the back seat of a Toyota Camry he was driving. He repeatedly failed to show up for court dates after he bonded out of jail. A judge granted him a break, sentencing him to 18 months of probation, but Voorhis flouted the terms of his supervision. He skipped inpatient drug treatments, appointments with his probation officer and required drug and alcohol testing. The Jefferson County judge revoked his probation and sentenced him to 60 days in jail.
Soon, he was in trouble again. Over the next three years, he pleaded guilty to choking a girlfriend, drug distribution charges, felonious assault, two felony menacing charges and violating bail bond conditions. On three occasions police arrested him on gun-related charges, two of which involved threats against three people.
Voorhis’ father warned in another instance that his son planned to trade illegal drugs for a stolen handgun.
He eventually ended up in Christopher Rhodes’ apartment, tagging along with a person Rhodes already knew. Rhodes said Voorhis walked him at gun point back to the apartment’s bathroom, where he forced him to kneel in his bathtub.
“He said he’d shoot me in the face and kill me and take my apartment and all my stuff,” Rhodes recalled, adding that he escaped by pleading for mercy and promising to move out of the apartment and into an RV he was repairing.
Rhodes claimed that two days after that incident he told Denver police officers gathered in a parking lot that an assailant had taken over his apartment. He said the police told him to take the issue up with the landlord. Voorhis' defense lawyers pointed out in a recent court hearing that there's no record of Rhodes filing a formal police report against Voorhis' alleged taking of the apartment until after the homicides.
Rhodes said that two days after he approached police, Meyer and Johnson promised that they would get his apartment back for him. He said he begged them not to go to the apartment and warned them that Voorhis was violent.
"She looked at me and said, 'He won't shoot a pretty face like mine. I'll be right back,'" Rhodes recalled her as saying.
During the early morning hours of July 24, she and Johnson confronted Voorhis, according to a police report.
Police say that in Facebook messages to a friend, Voorhis admitted to the killings while telling a friend that "they were legit holding us hostage."
"I grabbed the banger, and I got them both,” Voorhis allegedly wrote to the friend after the fatal shootings, according to a police report. The autopsy indicates that Meyer also was pistol whipped on the head and face.
For Pazen, Denver’s police chief, such outcomes have become all too common. He fears they will continue unless changes are made.
“I don’t think we should accept this as the new reality because people are dying and families are losing loved ones,” Pazen said in a recent interview. “Folks are committing violent acts. The role of government is to protect its community members. Until consequences and accountability are rolled back into it, we’ll be here doing this again and having the same conversation in 2023.”