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Pueblo gang member who previously killed someone released, accused of shooting at cops

PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) -- A Pueblo man who describes himself as a member of the "Dukes" gang is now back in jail after an alleged attempted assault with a deadly weapon and then using a stolen handgun to shoot at Pueblo Police officers when they arrested him.

21-year-old Johnny Dennel is no stranger to the criminal justice system. Back in 2018, he was charged with 2nd-degree murder tied to a deadly shooting of a teen in Pueblo. Dennel took a plea deal offered by the 10th Judicial District Attorney's Office down to manslaughter, a much less severe conviction.

Johnny Dennel

Due to this, Dennel was given a five-year sentence in the Colorado Youthful Offender System program, which is described as "a comprehensive model that delivers habilitation programs and services that prepare individuals for successful re-entry while providing for public safety." The program is reserved for young adults ranging from 14 to 19 years old. They are housed on the grounds of the Mental Health Institute of Pueblo.

Dennel's sentence came with a caveat. If he were to violate any conditions of his YOS sentence or be re-arrested for a new crime while on YOS, he could go directly to adult prison for 10 years. However, 13 Investigates has uncovered that didn't happen in this case.

"The judge said on the record, you need to successfully complete this program. If you don't successfully complete the program, then you have this length of the Department of Corrections adult prison hanging over your head," Colorado Springs attorney Jeremy Loew said.

Dennel was released on a parole supervision period of YOS in June 2022. According to court documents, he was equipped with an ankle monitor and was living at Christ Life Ministries in south Pueblo. He was ordered to stay there and not remove his ankle monitor under any circumstances.

A little over a month later, Dennel went AWOL. He removed his ankle monitor and all of his belongings were gone from his room at the Metanoia House at Christ Life Ministries. The Colorado Department of Corrections issued a warrant for his arrest. Pueblo Police then arrested him less than 48 hours later and booked him into the Pueblo County Jail.

Dennel then pled guilty to escaping from this facility, a misdemeanor in Colorado after recent legislative changes, and was sentenced to 90 days in jail. Once Dennel served that time, he was released back into the Pueblo community to allegedly commit more crimes. His 10-year "suspended" sentence was never invoked. 13 Investigates reached out to the Department of Corrections for an explanation on how and why this didn't occur. Annie Skinner, the DOC spokesperson, says they are only required to revoke someone if they are convicted of a felony crime, not a misdemeanor like Dennel was.

However, Loew says that just because the Department of Corrections isn't required to, the presiding judge could have revoked him to adult prison if he wished. Pueblo County District Judge William Alexander chose not to do that.

"What should happen is that the judge should sentence them to that remainder or that suspended sentence. So in this case, the suspended sentence may have been 10 years. The judge should sentence this individual to a ten-year Department of Corrections sentence," Loew said.

13 Investigates found Facebook posts from Dennel that show he regularly called himself a "baby Duke," alluding to his connection to the well-known gang in Pueblo. Just three weeks ago, he put up a post saying "F***12" and "F***Opps," which are derogatory words used to express a dislike of law enforcement.

He even put a social media post with his old mugshot after killing someone saying "they said I was never coming home," and continued by saying he was "back on the blocks where I belong."

According to numbers released by the Department of Corrections, 5.5% of YOS inmates have committed new criminal activity during a YOS sentence that results in termination from YOS through 2022. The recidivism rates, defined as new criminal activity after successful completion of YOS, are as follows: 

4.3% returned to DOC prison within 1 year

17.5% returned to DOC prison within 3 years

26.3% returned to DOC prison within 5 years

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Sean Rice

Sean is reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about him here.


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