Our card this week is K. Rue Lolo, the Queen of Hearts from Colorado.
As I’m sure you’ve already noticed, this is the second episode we’re releasing today.
It’s a bonus mini episode, a little shorter than a normal one, because there isn’t a ton
of information, but we knew that this was a case that still had to be told.
Cases like this are often hard for us to tell because there’s not always a lot to the investigation
once police realize the victim wasn’t the intended target.
But K. Rue deserves to have his story told just as much as any of the other cases that
you’ve listened to me tell, because he was a kind-hearted, family-oriented 24-year-old
who was visiting relatives in Denver, Colorado, when he was brutally gunned down for seemingly
For more than a decade, K. Rue’s friends and family have waited in agony for answers,
and for justice.
I’m Ashley Flowers, and this is The Deck.
Around 9 p.m. on October 16, 2009, Detective Mark Kreider with the Denver Police Department
was relaxing after a long week when he got a call that there had been a shooting at Garden
Court Apartments, a large apartment complex on Denver’s east side.
A young man had been shot multiple times and was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced
Detective Kreider was told that the scene at the apartment complex was already swarming
with officers, paramedics, firefighters, and night shift detectives.
So as lead investigator, he decided his energy was best spent conducting interviews with
He responded to police headquarters, where 911 callers from the shooting were waiting
to be interviewed.
A few of them had just heard the shots ring out, and that was it.
But others had actually walked outside to see the young man lying in the courtyard,
And one of the callers said a person visiting them actually ran out to the courtyard and
tried to administer first aid by covering his wounds.
But none of the callers had actually witnessed the shooting.
Detective Kreider knew that the lack of witnesses was going to hurt the investigation, but he
was hopeful that the night shift detectives were having better luck at the scene.
And they were.
Paramedics had cut the man’s clothes off before rushing him to the hospital, and in
the pockets of his clothing, investigators found various items, one of which was immediately
helpful to the investigation.
It was a Minnesota State University ID card for their victim, K. Rue Lolo.
Detectives also recovered several items from the scene that were around the victim’s
Detective Kreider didn’t want to say what those items were, but he said there’s no
way to know if they belonged to the shooter or shooters, or if they were there before
These items, they weren’t like items that were directly related to the shooting.
These were just personal items.
And I say personal items, it could be trash.
But why is it here?
Why is it next to K. Rue?
Did somebody drop it?
Did a resident drop it?
Did the shooter drop it?
Did a guy with the shooter drop it?
Just in case, investigators took those items into evidence.
After the crime scene was cleared and the 911 callers interviewed, investigators canvassed
the whole apartment complex, knocking on doors, showing anyone who answered a picture
of K. Rue to find out if they’d seen something or if they knew him.
And several people said they did know K. Rue.
In fact, many of the people that they spoke with were actually related to him.
Police learned that K. Rue himself didn’t live at the complex.
He lived on the other side of town, but several of his cousins and extended family members
did live there, like a dozen or more.
But it was one of them who told police that K. Rue was there visiting her that evening.
The two of them were waiting for another cousin to arrive when K. Rue told him that he was
going to step outside to make a call, but then K. Rue never returned.
Now his cousin didn’t know why he never came back.
In fact, according to the Denver Post, none of them had realized that the young man killed
in the courtyard was one of their own until officers came knocking on their doors.
Police went on to talk with all of K. Rue’s family at the complex, hoping to learn if
he’d had any recent arguments or if there was anyone who would want to harm him.
And most of them said that, to their knowledge, he didn’t.
He hadn’t even lived in Denver that long, he had just moved there a few months ago.
They said he was a nice guy who got along with everyone.
But there was one of his relatives who said that there was something that happened recently
that stood out to him.
He thought he heard of an issue that K. Rue had at this convenience store where he worked.
Basically like a run-in with a customer that led to police being called.
But investigators couldn’t find any record of any police responses to that convenience
store involving K. Rue.
But you know, just in case the report slipped through the cracks somehow, they actually
went to the store to see if anyone there knew about this supposed fight with a customer.
They talked with K. Rue’s supervisor and one of his co-workers, and neither of them
knew about any incident involving K. Rue.
They said he didn’t have a problem with anybody.
So investigators focused back on the scene at the apartment complex, looking for any
kind of evidence that would point to what happened to K. Rue and why.
We pulled some surveillance cameras and what we have are vehicles driving north and south
down on Syracuse Street, which is the road in front of the complex.
But in 2009, the quality was not very good.
We could just see vehicles.
We can’t even make out, you know, if it was a sedan or an SUV, we primarily see headlights.
And we don’t even know if they were involved.
Even early on, the police department’s investigation hit a wall.
And while police were scrambling for leads, K. Rue’s family was still processing the shock
of his murder.
I mean, of all people, why him, they kept asking.
He immigrated to the U.S. from Ethiopia over a decade prior and lived in Minnesota up until
four or five months ago.
He moved to Denver to be closer to his extended family, to get a job and fulfill his dream
of going back to school.
And he was working hard to make that dream a reality.
His family told the Denver Post that he registered for classes at the Community College of Aurora
shortly before his death.
Victimology in a homicide investigation is extremely important.
You really need to get to know your victim.
That can open up so many doors to an investigation.
With K. Rue’s victimology, all we found was he was a good guy.
He was just a good guy.
He didn’t have any vices.
He didn’t drink.
He didn’t smoke.
He wasn’t involved in gangs.
He didn’t go to bars.
K. Rue was a good kid.
He was a good guy.
This was an innocent, innocent guy.
He didn’t have an enemy in the world, as far as I know.
And this just shouldn’t happen.
As the days went by, and Detective Kreider learned more about K. Rue, he became more
and more convinced that it might have been a case of mistaken identity.
I mean, he couldn’t find a soul in the world who wanted to harm K. Rue.
I don’t know if K. Rue Lolo was the person they thought he was.
He was walking through the apartment complex at night with his hoodie on.
He was their dad.
But investigators didn’t know who else the shooter or shooters might have been after.
There wasn’t anyone obvious at the apartment complex that they may have wanted to target,
and there weren’t any other fatal shootings in the area that detectives could link to
K. Rue’s murder.
So, if it was a case of mistaken identity, the shooter had to be someone else.
But investigators didn’t know who else the shooter or shooters might have been after.
So, if it was a case of mistaken identity, the shooter hadn’t come back to kill again
after they realized that they’d shot the wrong person.
Which meant finding the intended target would be difficult, maybe impossible,
if an intended target existed at all.
In the weeks following K. Rue’s murder, his name started falling out of the headlines.
And Detective Kreider knew that keeping the public’s eye on this case was the only way
it was going to get solved.
So, to get people talking, Detective Kreider and several of K. Rue’s relatives gathered
at Garden Court Apartments and invited local media to attend.
They passed out flyers, the family talked to the media, they were doing anything they
could to keep the case relevant.
That’s one thing when you’re working a murder, you really want to keep it, when you don’t
have much to go on, you want to keep it in the public realm because you want people to
And that’s what we wanted, but like most homicides, this one may happen on Friday and you may
get two more on Saturday.
Not me as a detective, but in Denver.
And the media moves on, people move on, and we didn’t want that to happen.
We wanted to keep this out front.
So, we had a meeting with K. Rue’s family, and they said, you know, we’re going to need
you to come back and we’re going to need you to come back and we’re going to need you to
We wanted to keep this out front.
The renewed media attention did draw out a few new tips from the public, most notably
a Crimestoppers tip.
They got a caller who said that they overheard someone they knew talking about the shooting.
The tipster didn’t give much more information than that, but they did provide a nickname
for the person, which was enough for investigators to track him down.
But when detectives talked to this guy, he denied any involvement in the killing, or
knowing anything about it.
Investigators also talked to some of his friends and associates, and they agreed with what
the man said.
They didn’t think he was involved.
So we don’t know if the information the tipster provided was truthful.
Maybe they just want us to contact these folks.
We don’t know.
Or whether the person was not being truthful.
But we have no reason to believe they were involved in it.
After that dead-end tip, the investigation lost momentum.
As the weeks crept by, Detective Kreider became more convinced of the mistaken identity
But the tips had stopped trickling in, and K. Roo’s case went cold for years.
In the fall of 2012, the Ethiopian community in Denver had grown frustrated with the lack
of movement in the investigation.
So they kind of took matters into their own hands.
The community rallied together and used their own money to raise the reward in K. Roo’s
case from $2,000 to $10,000.
A billboard was put up a few blocks from the apartment complex where K. Roo was killed,
advertising the reward, and asking the question detectives, members of the community, and
K. Roo’s friends and family had been pondering for the past three years.
Who killed K. Roo Lolo?
Everyone was hopeful that the billboard and the increased reward would encourage tips.
They just got radio silence in return.
Detective Kreider said no new leads were generated, despite their best efforts.
And sadly, that’s where the case has stayed for the past decade.
These are the cases that you wake up at three o’clock in the morning looking at your ceiling
Because again, K. Roo, he wasn’t drug dealing.
He wasn’t in a gang.
He wasn’t doing robberies.
He was a 24-year-old kid that immigrated to this country for a better life.
And he gets killed at 1150 Syracuse in Denver.
Yeah, we owe it to him.
We owe it to his family.
We owe it to Denver.
K. Roo was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
And it’s likely for that reason and nothing more that he lost his life.
But despite K. Roo’s case remaining virtually motionless for the past 10 years, Detective
Kreider hasn’t given up hope.
We need somebody to come forward.
There were too many people that called 911.
These apartments all have balconies.
It was a cool evening.
It wasn’t a cold evening.
You hear gunshots.
You’re going to look out your window.
All we’re asking is just what you saw when you looked out your window.
And not just that.
They tell friends.
They tell girlfriends, who now may be ex-girlfriends.
Anybody with any information on this, just call.
It can be anonymous.
Just give us the information.
This is an important case to us.
It’s an important case to Denver.
It would be phenomenal.
It would be great to solve this case, obviously.
For K. Roo’s family, for Ethiopian community, for the Denver community.
That’s one phone call.
As an homicide detective, you love the phone call you get to make when you’re first off
That’s one phone call that I would really like to make.
You guys know that all of the cases I have covered on the deck have been heartbreaking.
There’s something particularly gut-wrenching about K. Roo’s case.
I mean, he wasn’t bothering anyone.
He wasn’t living a high-risk lifestyle, yet he was brutally gunned down, likely because
someone thought he was somebody else.
The person or people who killed K. Roo have enjoyed freedom for 13 years, not having to
face the consequences of stealing an innocent life.
K. Roo deserves justice, and his family deserves answers.
If you have any information about K. Roo Lolo’s murder in 2009, call Crime Stoppers at 720-913-STOP.
Callers can remain 100% anonymous, and there is currently a $10,000 reward being offered.
The Deck is an audio Chuck production with theme music by Ryan Lewis.
To learn more about The Deck and our advocacy work, visit thedeckpodcast.com.
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Do you approve?