On Sunday evening, January 12, 1958, Don Seick and his wife Eloine were out for a drive after visiting a few friends. They had left their six children, ages six years to two months old, at home in the care of her brother, Dan Gonzales. Gonzales said later he saw his brother-in-law put on his shoulder holster and put in it a .32-caliber, Llama semi-automatic pistol before leaving the house.
At the time Gonzales joked that one day the police might arrest him for carrying a concealed weapon. That would be ironic, Seick said, since as a police officer he was required to always be armed. But, Gonzales said, you’re on vacation. Doesn’t matter, Seick responded. A police officer is always on duty and expected to stop trouble wherever he finds it.
Seick, 27, had been a Denver Police officer for just over three years. It had been his dream job ever since attending St. Patrick’s grade school in Denver. Assigned to the Traffic Division, his supervisors said he was “a very satisfactory officer, [with] high intelligence, unusually good appearance and excellent disposition.” His serial number was 1035.
Only three months before, he and Eloine had bought a house at 5840 W. 2nd Ave. in Lakewood. Seick had planned to spend his vacation painting and making repairs to it. A Denver native, he had worked as a house painter before joining the police department and would still do painting jobs on the side to help support his large family.
It was just after 8:30 p.m., when the couple drove by Guy’s Frontier service station at 4991 Federal Blvd. Seick would sometimes stop there for gas and chat with the proprietor, Edmund Guy. He slowed down when he realized that he couldn’t see Guy in the office, where he usually could be found. As he drove over to the gas pump to take a better look, a man whom he did not recognize quickly walked out the door and turned to walk west on 50th Avenue. He wore a green jacket with bright yellow sleeves, a dirty felt hat and khaki pants.
Seick knew something was wrong and that he should not let the man out of his sight.
When the man saw that the car from the service station had started to follow him, he pulled his hat down low, shoved his hands into his jacket pockets and quickened his pace. He turned left at the next intersection. It was here, in front of the house on the southeast corner, 4990 Green Court, that Seick stopped his car to ask the man what he had been doing at the service station. “Nothing, just walking around,” came the ready reply.
When the man started to walk towards him, Seick told him to take his hands out of his pockets, then opened the door to get out. The man took out his left hand but kept the right hand in the pocket. Seick told him again, more forcefully, to remove his other hand immediately. The man ignored the command and moved closer. Seick, not yet fully out of the car, tugged at the zipper to his jacket to get to his pistol. He yelled across to his wife “duck!”; that there was “going to be trouble.”
The man was now standing in front of Seick, just beyond arm’s length. In his right hand was a pistol. When Seick unholstered his gun and thrust it towards the threat, the man lunged and knocked it out of his hand with his own gun. He fired a single shot, striking the policeman on the left side of his chest. Don Seick fell dying on the street next to the curb. He had no chance. The bullet had severed his spinal cord.
Eloine Seick screamed, got out and ran around to her husband. The gunman stood over her, pointing his weapon at her head. She pleaded with him to not shoot her. The gunman hesitated, then relented. He picked up Seick’s pistol and walked over to a car parked across the street, got in it and drove away.
Eloine Seick ran to the porch and pounded on the door. Mike Pomponio, a former state senator, opened it immediately. He had just returned home and saw what had happened but did not hear the shot. He was already on the phone to the police. She ran back to her husband, knelled down and held him as his life slipped away from him.
District Four Patrolmen Russell and Scheer arrived a few minutes later. A Denver General Hospital ambulance, called car 98, with attendants White and Thomas, got there a few seconds later.
Detectives, patrol and traffic officers, sergeants and command officers from around the city responded. Among them were Detective Paul Humphrey and Lieutenant James Shumate from the Identification Section. They gathered evidence and documented the scene. Detectives P.J. Grace and J.E. Goebel were chosen to be the lead investigators. Others included Sergeant Montoya, Officer Costo and Detectives Carroll, Schroder, Hanrahan, Crow and Hammon. The investigation was assigned a permanent case number – 269148 .
It was soon confirmed, just as Seick had suspected, that the gunman had held-up Edmund Guy at gunpoint and forced him into the restroom before leaving the service station with $80 from the cash register. Not long after the shooting, he abandoned his car a few blocks east of Green Court. He knocked on the front door at the Trujillo residence at 4733 Decatur St. to ask to use the telephone to call a taxi. It was just after 9 p.m. Rose Trujillo, who was home alone with her three children, let him in. She told him that there seemed to be a lot of police driving around the neighborhood and wondered what was going on. He told her that there had been a “terrible” auto accident on Federal Boulevard. When the Yellow Cab taxi arrived, the man left in it.
Mrs. Trujillo had a bad feeling about him. “I probably wouldn’t have thought anything about it until he said that. Then it occurred to me that maybe he had hit somebody and was leaving the scene of the accident.”
A neighbor told her that a policeman had just been shot on Green Court. Mrs. Trujillo knew then she had to call the police to tell them what had happened at her house. Detective Humphrey and Lieutenant Shumate lifted two fingerprints the suspect had left on the dining room table, along with his palm print from the telephone.
Taxi driver Bob Morris had his own suspicions about the fare he picked up on Decatur Street. “When I picked him up,” he said, “he kept saying he had lost his class ring and was on his way to look for it.” He told Morris that he only had two dollars on him, but wanted to be driven to a restaurant, Our Café, located at Alameda and Federal, to look for the ring. Once they got there, however, he told Morris he had changed his mind and went over to a drug store to buy a soft drink.
“What are you going to think of a guy who is nearly broke, but drives across town to look for a ring, then decides he wants to buy a coke, ” Morris told reporters later.
Morris was a long-time letter carrier for the postal service who moonlighted driving a taxi. He would soon learn how lucky he was that he too was killed tonight. When the man got into the cab, he sat in the front seat, unlike most fares who sit in the back. When the two-way taxi company radio transmitted a description of the suspect wanted in the robbery at the service station and the shooting death of a police officer, the man became very nervous. He told Morris he had had no idea that taxi cab radios aired such information. Morris downplayed it, saying that most of his other fares didn’t know either. He dropped him off at 9:20 p.m.
By 9:45 p.m., Morris was at police headquarters giving detectives a description of the man and sifting through a stack of mug books to see if he recognized the man in any of the photos. “I didn’t recognize any of the mug shots,” he said, “but I told them which parts of various pictures would make up a face like his.” From his description and those given by Edmund Guy, Eloine Seick and Rose Trujillo, Detective Dexter Landau, a police composite artist, was able to draw a close likeness of the suspect.
On Tuesday, Detectives Gilbert and Riggs confirmed the suspect’s identity from the fingerprints taken at the Trujillo residence. He was Donald Carl Zorens, a 24-year-old parolee and two-time loser, who had been released from prison only six months earlier after serving a three-year sentence for committing a string of armed robberies of Denver businesses, including two service stations.
Later that night, he was arrested without incident by Lieutenant Haefliger, Sergeant Carrocia and Patrolmen Drake, Reilly and Buzick, at his mother’s house at 1455 S. Broadway. Zorens lied about his name, telling the officers that he was Ronny Barrett and didn’t know anyone named Donald Zorens. He was taken to police headquarters and interrogated by Division Chief J. E. Childers and Captain C. V. Stanley. It didn’t take long before he admitted who he was and to his role in the robbery and murder.
On Wednesday afternoon, he made a written statement confessing his guilt. Zorens told detectives where they could find the murder weapon (a .32-caliber Remington semi-automatic pistol) along with Seick’s gun. He had stashed them beneath an old shed behind the café at Alameda and Federal. He had thrown away the hat he had been wearing somewhere along Federal and burned the jacket.
After picking him out of a lineup, Eloine Seick was walking down a hallway when she saw Zorens sitting in Chief Childer’s office. She pushed her way in to confront him, and at the top of her voice, screamed, “You’re the man who killed my husband! You ought to be dead!” Zorens responded only by holding up his hand against his face and turning away from her. Later, during the trial, he was overheard to say that he wished he had killed her when he had the chance.
At the funeral on Wednesday, hundreds of mourners crowded into Annunciation Catholic Church at 3601 Humboldt St. Seick’s long-time close friend, the Rev. Thomas Barry, celebrated the mass. “I have known Donald Seick for 18 years,” he said. “He was a good boy, a good man and father and a good policeman. He was an honor to the police force and to the uniform he wore.” Final absolution was given by Denver Archbishop Urban J. Vehr. A police motorcade escorted the funeral procession to Mt. Olivet cemetery in Wheat Ridge.
First-degree murder and other charges were filed against Zorens by the District Attorney’s office. DA Bert Keating said he would try the case himself and ask for the death penalty. In January, 1959, Zornes was convicted of first-degree murder, but instead of receiving the death penalty, was sentenced to serve the rest of his “natural life” in prison.
Not long after the trial, the Seick family moved to Virginia Beach, Virginia, where Eloine remarried. The six children – Nanette, Donald Junior, Susan, Larry, Randy and Trainse, grew up there. As adults, each of them would come back to Denver at one time or another; some to stay and others only for a short time.
The only one to follow their father into a law enforcement career was Donald Junior, who was a detentions deputy for the Travis County Sheriff’s Department in Austin, Texas. As a young man, he had gone on ride-alongs and considered joining the Denver Police Department. One day in 1974, when he was 21 years old, Donald Junior was surprised when Division Chief Luby asked him to come to police headquarters. The chief said he had something important to tell him. He couldn’t believe it when Luby told him that Zorens had been paroled, after serving only 16 years of his supposed “natural life” sentence.
Years later, he learned that Zorens had been involved in a jewelry store robbery and shootout with police in Colorado Springs but had managed to get away. He was recaptured after pulling another heist and getting into another shootout with police in Arizona. He died in prison in Arizona in the 1990s.
Eloine Seick died in 2011 and was buried next to husband at Mt. Olivet. She never forgave Zorens for what he did. Memories of that awful night and about the good man Donald Seick was continues to this day to cast a long shadow over his family. In 2016, his daughter Nanette Seick-Adair, wrote this on-line posting on the Officer Down Memorial Page:
I was just introduced to this site by my niece, Maysha. Thank you everyone for your thoughts and prayers! Daddy I miss you so much, and now Mom is with your spirit in heaven along with Larry [her brother], aunts, grandparents. You have been missed for so long, and I can hardly wait to see you in heaven ! You and Mom are my Hero’s !! RIP
Bernadette Seick, the wife of Roger Seick, Donald’s younger brother, posted this in 2014:
This was such a senseless and tragic loss and hurt many so deeply. I am Donald’s brother’s wife, and I too feel cheated since I never had the good fortune to meet Donald. My husband Roger and I think of you so much, and I have seen your pictures. Thank you for your service to the citizens of Denver. You gave the ultimate sacrifice.
Roger Seick wrote:
Thank you Big Bro. You are missed but will always remain in my memories. I will always remember our years together.
Donald Seick, Jr. shared two of his own memories. Sometimes his dad would let him come with him on painting jobs. His father would give him a few boards and a can of paint and a brush to use on them while he painted houses. Another time, one of his sisters crawled through a window at a neighbor’s house to help herself to cookies that had just been taken out of the oven. It didn’t take long before her father and his partner happen to drive up in their police car. Whether they just happened by, or Eloine Seick had called them, isn’t clear. But what is certain is that the gentle scolding he gave his daughter made a lasting impression on her and the other kids.
Officer Don Seick’s death was not the only murder committed at 4990 Green Court. Fifty-seven years later, on May 6, 2015, the 61-year-old resident, Samuel Grady, was shot through the front door and beaten to death. The three thugs responsible were apprehended, convicted and sentenced to long terms in prison.
Lest we forget.
Telephone interview with Donald Seick, Jr., May 22, 2015Denver Police Department: criminal case file folder 269148Denver Police Department: 1955 and 1958 employment and attendance records Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Bureau of Vital Statistics: Certificate of death 00572 Donald Leroy Seick
Colorado State Archives: Colorado Department of Corrections inmate record 31595 Donald Carl Zorens
Denver Public Library Western History Section: The Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News, January 1958-March 1959
Westword October 25, 2016 issue: “How a Passed-Out Shoplifter Led to Life in Prison for Eric Fuhs,” by Michael Roberts
Denver Police Law Enforcement Museum
The Denver Police Department Pictorial Review and History 1859-1985
The Denver Police Department History Yearbook 2003
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial: Officer Down Memorial Page
Mt. Olivet cemetery