Defendant Who Shot and Killed Two People Outside of a Westminster Bar Convicted of First-Degree Murder
Brighton, CO —Today, District Attorney Brian Mason is announcing the First-Degree Murder conviction of Steven Muniz, 40. An Adams County Jury returned multiple guilty verdicts on Thursday, December 23, 2021, after nine days of trial.
On March 5, 2021, Stephen Muniz attended Sportswatch Bar and Grill along Lowell Boulevard in Westminster with family, friends, and members of the gang he is a self-admitted member of. At some point during the evening, the group that Muniz was with became embroiled in a confrontation with another group of individuals at the bar. The altercation became physical when Muniz punched one of the people from the other group, but it ended a short time later.
In the early morning hours of March 6, 2021, individuals began to leave the bar, including Keith Ames, 33, who was one of the men involved in the confrontation earlier in the night. As Ames left the bar, Muniz followed behind. As they reached the parking lot, Muniz confronted Ames. At some point during this additional confrontation, Muniz fired four shots from a 9mm handgun, two of which struck Ames in the back. He was later pronounced deceased. The other two shots struck Jessica Ybarra, 31, in the foot and back as she stood in the parking lot nearby. She also died as a result of the shooting.
After firing the four shots that killed Ames and Ybarra, Muniz fled on foot and jumped in the truck of a friend, Robert Manzanares. The two drove away from the scene. Nearly two weeks later, thanks to a detailed investigation by the Westminster Police Department, Muniz was identified as the shooter and was taken into custody.
“This was an unconscionable and reprehensible crime,” said District Attorney Brian Mason. “The defendant murdered two people in cold blood to settle a petty score. His violent actions left two families reeling and a city asking why? Now he faces a lifetime in prison for his crimes – and our community will be safer for it. I appreciate the jury returning a just verdict – and I’m grateful to the Westminster Police Department and my entire prosecution team for their extraordinary work on this challenging case.” On Wednesday, December 22, 2021, an Adams County Jury convicted Steven Muniz of four counts including,
First-Degree Murder—After Deliberation (2)
First-Degree Murder—Universal Malice (2)
Muniz will be sentenced on January 5, 2022, at 1:30pm before Judge Priscilla Loew.
On December 3, 2021, an Adams County jury convicted Manzanares of Accessory to a Crime for his role in this incident and he was sentenced to three years in the Department of Corrections.
District Attorney Mason assumed the oath of office on January 12, 2021. The 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office endeavors to seek justice on behalf of the citizens of Adams and Broomfield counties in felony and misdemeanor cases. DA Mason and his staff are dedicated to transforming the criminal justice system to better serve the citizens of the 17th Judicial District.
Ms. Gazelka is a forensic therapist and clinician in Denver, Colorado. She is currently focused on providing therapy and assessment services to adult offenders in the community corrections and parole systems as a supervisor at Correctional Psychology Associates (CPA). Her education and career have been devoted to the intersection of psychology and law since 2000. Ms. Gazelka has been working within the field of forensic and correctional psychology since 2006, providing therapy in the community and acute mental health care and risk assessments in county jails. She has practiced as a Licensed Professional Counselor since June 2012. She also became a Licensed Addiction Counselor in March 2014. She was listed as a full operating level DVOMB Approved Provider in June 2019 and started a fledgling DV program oriented to Colorado’s Department of Corrections at CPA in September 2019. Ms. Gazelka was appointed to the Domestic Violence Offender Management Board (DVOMB) in March 2019 and has started her second term with the board. Ms. Gazelka has been recognized for her work as Contributor of the Year at CPA in 2010 and 2012, as well as having been awarded an Alumni Impact Award for her forensic work in the community by University of Denver’s GSPP in 2019. Ms. Gazelka received her Master of Arts degree in Forensic Clinical Psychology from University of Denver's Graduate School of Professional Psychology in 2009. Ms. Gazelka also received her Juris Doctorate from William Mitchell College of Law in 2007, obtaining attorney’s licenses in both Minnesota and Colorado (currently inactive).
Alex Castro Croy
Alex Castro Croy is a bilingual, bicultural, Trauma and Addiction Counselor and owner/Lead Clinician of Life Recovery Centers in Denver and Northglenn Colorado.
A first-generation immigrant from Mexico who accomplished his dream in higher education receiving an AA in Pastoral Ministry (Dallas, Texas), Bachelor of Science in Human Services (MSU in Denver, Colorado) and MA in Community Counseling from Regis University (Denver, Co). He is continuing to pursue his MA/Ph.D. from Pacifica Graduate Institute in Jungian and Archetypal Studies.
Alex’s passion includes training, teaching, counseling, and consulting. He has been an Adjunct Professor for the Human Services Department at MSU-Denver for 9 years. He has served as an Interventionist for the Latino GLBTQ community, Drug Court Probation Officer at Denver Juvenile Court Probation (8 years), Bilingual Diversion Officer for Denver DA office (5 years), and currently owner and director of Life Recovery Centers (7 years). He has worked with a variety of clients from all walks of life and his eclectic therapeutic interventions have proven to be effective in treating trauma and addiction.
Thea Wessel is an addictions counselor with a private practice in Colorado. She has been working in the criminal and addiction fields for thirteen years. Ms. Wessel earned her Masters in forensic psychology from the University of Denver and has her LPC, LAC, MAC, NCAAC, and ADS. She is working towards her Ph.D. in Transpersonal Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies. Ms. Wessel continually challenges herself and others to provide quality addiction treatment and ways to continue to educate the community about addiction issues.