AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — A Colorado man kidnapped at gunpoint in front of his wife and kids has police in the city of Aurora to thank for his rescue.
Denver police officers, who were called first, now face an internal affairs investigation to learn why they failed to fully investigate the case.
Brandon Sharp, 34, and William Holland, 40, have both been charged with first- and second-degree kidnapping by Arapahoe County prosecutors. Another three so-called bounty hunters remain on the run.
Armed bounty hunters storm apartment
The kidnapping took place on Nov. 4, when five men dressed in black and armed with guns, who identified themselves as bounty hunters, stormed the apartment of 25-year old Jose Salguero-Martinez in Aurora.
The group’s ringleader, Holland, posted a portion of the alleged crime on Instagram under the handle FRA Investigations with the caption: “This guy ran from New York since 2015, 6 years later here we are.”
In the video, you hear a man tell relatives of Salguero-Martinez, “Can you get a jacket for him, get a jacket, he’s going to need a jacket. It gets cold at night. You need a jacket man, he’s going to be with us for awhile.”
A female relative of Salguero-Martinez can be heard asking, “So you guys take him down to the county, the cops don’t pick him up?” and one of the so-called bounty hunters responds, “We do everything.”
Victim held for ransom in hotel
According to a criminal affidavit, the so-called bounty hunters then took Salguero-Martinez to a Best Western hotel. Hotel surveillance video shows Salguero-Martinez being walked into the hotel in handcuffs with a black hood over his head and an alleged bounty hunter on each side of him.
Once at the hotel, Holland called the aunt of Salguero-Martinez and said the bounty hunters would need $1,500 or Salguero-Martinez would be handed over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
According to the affidavit, the aunt went to family members and raised $1,500 plus another $250 dollars the bounty hunters suddenly demanded to cover the hotel room, only to be told the bounty hunters now needed another $5,000 to secure Salguero-Martinez’s freedom and to make the ICE warrants go away.
At that point, the family realized they were victims of an extortion scam and called Denver Police. But according to Holland’s arrest affidavit, Denver Police “did not see anything suspicious” when they went to the hotel room and saw Salguero-Martinez with his kidnappers.
Instead, the affidavit states: “The suspects produced some type of paperwork stating they were Bail Bondsman which DPD accepted as legitimate. After reviewing the paperwork, DPD departed the area and advised (the aunt) to do the same.”
Salguero-Martinez was then moved to a Radisson Hotel in Aurora. When Aurora police were contacted by the family of Salguero-Martinez, officers contacted an ICE Supervisory Detention and Deportation Officer, who confirmed ICE “had no reason to order the arrest of Salguero-Martinez.”
“Thankfully, Aurora PD was able to reach out to one of my ICE officers to get the confirmation that this was not someone we had targeted,” said John Fabbricatore, the Denver Field Office Director for ICE.
In an interview, Fabbricatore said ICE would never authorize bounty hunters to barge into an apartment, kidnap someone at gunpoint and hold them at a hotel.
“No, that is not part of the immigration bond process. We do not use bounty hunters,” Fabbricatore said.
When Aurora police arrived at the hotel room, they discovered Salguero-Martinez was “handcuffed to waist chains which were secured by a combination padlock.”
Salguero-Martinez would later tell police he could hear the suspects arguing at one point about what to do with him and “one of the suspects suggested they just kill Salguero-Martinez. This suggestion was denied by another suspect that said they could not kill him because he had a wife and kids.”
Undocumented people vulnerable to extortion
Bianey Bermudez is with the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition and said undocumented people are vulnerable to being kidnapped for money because often they’re afraid to ask police for help.
“It’s awful, but it’s not surprising,” said Bermudez, who added the failure of immigration reform, and a pathway to citizenship that could help millions of undocumented residents in America, is partly to blame for the kidnapping of Salguero-Martinez.
“This is a direct result of that, of how people are being exploited,” Bermudez said.
William Ellenburg is a bail bondsman and said that Holland did everything wrong if he was trying to execute an arrest warrant.
“He (Holland) shouldn’t have touched him, he shouldn’t have knocked on that door,” said Ellenburg, who added bounty hunters and bail bondsmen are not allowed to force entry into someone’s home to effect an arrest in Colorado.
Ellenburg said Holland was foolish to post his alleged crime on Instagram.
“That was a nail in his own coffin. He basically just showed everybody that him and his team are a bunch of criminals,” Ellenburg said.
Bounty hunter already faced criminal charges
Not compliant is Holland, who was supposed to stay out of trouble while free on bond. It turns out Holland has six other pending criminal cases, including two previous incidents in Arapahoe County where he’s been charged with impersonating a police officer.
As for the failure of Denver Police to arrest Holland in the kidnapping/extortion case, Ellenburg said Denver Police “owe the family the apology.”
Bermudez said Denver’s lack of investigation “just shows how little and invisible our community is and how we don’t have any protections.”
Fabbricatore said he wishes Denver Police had called his office from the beginning, like Aurora Police did.
“That would have been ideal had they done that,” said Fabbricatore, before adding, “In a situation like this, where we had a non-citizen that was kidnapped by a supposed bounty hunter, we need to make sure that we are working with local law enforcement to make sure that does not happen.”
Denver Police declined an interview request, saying it would be inappropriate to comment when there’s a pending internal affairs investigation.