Rasta bus driver gets 80 years for marijuana murder.

Keith Hammock
Keith Hammock

A Rasta man in Denver has been convicted of murder among other charges and sentenced to 80 years in prison.

Keith Hammock was once the driver for the Rasta Bus, a service that won a Best of Denver award. Unfortunately he will not be doom any driving anytime soon unless he wins a future appeal of his sentence.

Hammock was sentenced to eighty years in prison for a 2016 shooting of two teens who invaded his home marijuana grow. One of the teens died in the incident.

At around 2:08 a.m. on October 9, 2016, the Denver Police Department (DPD) received a call from a fourteen-year-old boy who said he’d been shot and his fifteen-year-old male friend was dead. The teen didn’t know his location, but a DPD shot-spotter report pinpointed the address as being near Hammock’s residence, at 2830 Race Street.

Upon their arrival at the scene, detectives found a black semi-automatic handgun and eyeballed “numerous mature suspected marijuana plants” growing nearby, some in five-gallon orange buckets.

Shortly thereafter, the cops contacted Hammock and Eleise Clark-Gunnells, the actual owner of the house; she identified Hammock as her roommate and former boyfriend and said he was the one growing the marijuana. Shortly thereafter, after obtaining a warrant, law enforcers searched the second-floor bedroom occupied by Hammock, where they located two long rifles, spent cartridge casings and ammunition, as well as a window screen that appeared to have been altered or damaged.

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Hammock wasn’t immediately charged with a crime in the incident, but writer Alan Prendergast, who explored the question of whether Colorado’s Make My Day law should be expanded in 2013, suggested that the measure might not be applicable in this instance. “Although such attempts are rarely successful, the statute has sometimes been part of a self-defense claim in the shooting of a troublesome relative, a spouse’s lover or a drug dealer peddling bad meth,” Prendergast noted, adding that “whether the law has any application to pot growers seems to depend largely on where the pot is being grown. There’s no allowance in the law for shooting fleeing suspects who’ve already departed the residence, nor does it generally cover fracases in the street.”

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An additional factor involved the status of the grow — and the conclusion didn’t break in Hammock’s favor. A week-plus after the shooting, the Denver District Attorney’s Office charged him with two counts of first-degree murder, four counts of attempted murder, and one count each of manufacture and cultivation of marijuana. The filing also alleged that Hammock wounded a seventeen-year-old in September 2015 in a similar shooting.

The trial finally got under way in July, and after five days, a jury convicted Hammock, but not of murder in the first degree.

Instead, he was found guilty of second-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder, first-degree assault with a deadly weapon and two marijuana counts — one for processing or manufacturing, the other for cultivation.

Nonetheless, the sentence Hammock received was heavy. According to the Denver District Attorney’s Office, the eighty-year jolt represents “the maximum combined sentence for the murder and assault convictions.”



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