Pubdate: Sun, 16 Sep 2007
Source: Fort Collins Coloradoan (CO)
Copyright: 2007 The Fort Collins Coloradoan
Author: Trevor Hughes


Sheriff's Office Says Information Indicates Marble Was Undercutting
Mercado's Prices

Sheriff's investigators confirm they are pursuing leads that suggest
Steven Marble was muscling into the local cocaine market by
undercutting prices offered by rival Pedro Mercado, setting the stage
for a violent confrontation in LaPorte that left Marble dead and
Mercado hospitalized.

Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden confirmed his office is looking
into whether the two men were rival cocaine dealers and said it's one
of several angles investigators are pursuing.

Alderden, speaking substantively about the case for the first time,
said he fears Marble's death might trigger a wave of retaliatory
violence by Marble's fellow Sureno gang members against Norteno
associates of Mercado, who remains hospitalized at Medical Center of
the Rockies in Loveland with a slashed neck. And he said Mercado's
friends might seek retribution for his injuries.

Further, Alderden said Sureno members might be looking to make names
for themselves through violence as they push to succeed Marble as a
major leader of the local gang.

"According to our sources, Marble was the head of the Sureno gang in
Larimer County," Alderden said. "He was sent in from Greeley."

Alderden confirmed investigators are looking into whether Marble was
undercutting Mercado by as much as $20 a gram of cocaine. On Friday,
the Sheriff's Office issued a warrant for the arrest of Mercado.

Alderden said the two men and their associates met in LaPorte on Sept.
8 to discuss an ongoing dispute between them.

He said deputies have interviewed the man suspected of knifing
Mercado, but he declined to discuss whether charges were pending. He
also declined to identify the man.

The Sheriff's Office has arrested two other men, Calvin Bennett and
Richard William Bastian, in connection with Marble's death.

The exact timing of events Sept. 8 remains unclear. Deputies were
called to LaPorte, an unincorporated town northwest of Fort Collins,
about 9:30 p.m. They found Marble dying from six bullet wounds.
Authorities later found Mercado near Fort Collins, suffering from a
slashed neck.

The dispute between the men has been playing out violently for months,
Alderden said, with several drive-by shootings, taunts via
and outright threats.

Alderden agreed to discuss the case publicly after the Coloradoan
confirmed many aspects of the incident through multiple interviews
with friends and family members of both men. Those interviews were
done through telephone conversations and face to face with some
members who came to the Coloradoan.

However, as the story unfolded those sources ceased to contact the

Also, they wished to remain anonymous due to fear of

Marble's mother, Yvonne Garcia, who had strongly defended her son in
an earlier conversation with the Coloradoan, could not be reached.

Investigators are connecting the dots between Marble's death and at
least two drive-by shootings earlier this year - one in Fort Collins
on the Fourth of July that was aimed at Marble, and another in June
that targeted Mercado' s trailer home south of Fort Collins.

The Sheriff's Office and Fort Collins police believe that much of the
gang-related violence in the past year is tied to a small group of

"It's a core group of guys who keep causing the problem," Fort Collins
Detective Marc Neal said. "If we could get rid of about eight to 10
guys, we could significantly improve our situation. We would almost go
down to nothing. It's getting rid of a few key people."

According to the Sheriff's Office, 324 self-described gang members
have been booked into the Larimer County Detention Center since
January. While some of those are repeat offenders, Alderden said it's
clear that the number of gang members in the area is growing.

Part of the problem, Alderden said, is that cities such as Greeley and
Longmont have already recognized their growing gang problems and
started cracking down, driving them into Larimer County and Fort Collins.

"Everyone else has put their thumb down," Alderden said. "We don't
have the thumb."

Both Greeley and Longmont have created special anti-gang units to
fight gang influence in their cities.

Alderden said he recently issued a memo ordering that no fewer than
four sheriff's vehicles be on the streets at any one time, in part
because he fears gang violence could flare at any time.

"People think we've got 20 cars out there. We've only got four,
sometimes," he said.


Mercado-Marble dispute timeline

Here is a timeline of events that led up to the Sept. 8 fatal shooting of
Steven "Big Happy" Marble and stabbing of Pedro Mercado:

Dec. 6, 2002: A 17-year-old man is stabbed eight times following a
party at 1901 Water's Edge. Multiple witnesses described a heavy gang
presence, especially men in red and blue and mainly from Greeley.
Police arrest Marble, who was 19 at the time, for the stabbing. Marble
pleads guilty and spends four years in prison.

June 24, 2007: Someone fires a shotgun at the trailer home of Mercado,
420 E. 57th St. in Loveland. No one is hurt. Deputies in early
September arrested Tino Martinez in connection with the case.

July 4, 2007: A drive-by shooting wounds a female bystander near the
intersection of Cherry and Franklin streets in Fort Collins. Two men
were arrested in the case, but charges were ultimately dropped against
one of them. The trial against William Baker, who faces attempted
first-degree murder charges stemming from the incident, is set to
begin Dec. 18. Deputies say Baker may have been trying to kill Marble.

Sept. 8, 2007: Sheriff's deputies find Marble dying from six bullet
wounds in a parking lot between a liquor store and a pizzeria in
LaPorte. Mercado's neck is slashed in the same incident, deputies say.
Two men have been arrested. Deputies say Mercado and Marble may have
been fighting for control of the Larimer County-area cocaine trade.

Friday: Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden said Mercado, who is at
Medical Center of the Rockies, is a suspect and that a warrant has been
issued for his arrest. Mercado's arrest will be dictated by his recovery,
Alderden said.
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