‘Still waiting for Johnny’s justice’: Unsolved shooting haunts Northern Colorado 5 years later
Fort Collins Coloradoan
David Jacoby doesn’t need any reminders of the day his brother John Jacoby was brutally gunned down while riding his bike north of Windsor.
As one of the initial responders on the call, the UCHealth EMT has the image burned in his brain: Johnny’s familiar bike trailer along Weld County Road 15 about a mile and a half from his apartment. Johnny’s blood soaking the ground where he lay. His brother unresponsive as first responders performed CPR.
But on May 18, 2020, the fifth anniversary of his brother’s unsolved homicide, the reminders flooded his brain.
David was working his EMT shift in Windsor the day Johnny died and again exactly five years later. Like this year, that day five years ago was the start of EMS Week. It was a fine spring morning.
And then suddenly it wasn’t.
“It’s a really rough day,” David said while standing next to Johnny’s grave in Windsor’s Lakeview Cemetery on the five-year anniversary of his brother’s death. “My wife says I kind of get mopey during this time. She’s good with it and helps me through it.”
It’s not only the pain of the loss of his beloved brother — called the “Ambassador of Windsor” because of his friendly demeanor while greeting all he passed on his daily bike rides through the quiet town.
It’s the sting of the killer — or killers — never being found despite a yearslong investigation by the Northern Colorado Shooting Task Force, which was formed after a series of shootings that spilled from spring into early summer 2015.
“(We’re) still waiting for Johnny’s justice to come out,” David said.
“I think we will get justice,” he added, looking down on his brother’s grave. “It would be nice if it was sooner rather than later, but like my wife said, ‘God’s just not ready yet.’ “
Just another day in Johnny’s life
May 18, 2015, was a typical day in the life of John Jacoby, or Johnny, as most referred to him.
The talkative 47-year-old had a learning disability since birth. He worked as a sacker at Kings Soopers and had been part-time caretaker for the town of Windsor. On the morning of his death, he chatted with one of his many friends who worked for the town of Windsor. Then he left the Windsor Meadows Apartments where he lived, presumably just before 10 a.m., and headed north on Weld County Road 15 on his bike, his trailer in tow.
He was riding to a friend’s house to paint his fence, an odd job that Johnny was always willing to do for friends. About 1.5 miles from his apartment and about a tenth of a mile from the nearest home, something went terribly wrong.
Thirty-five yards short of reaching Weld County Road 72, the road on which his friend lived, someone shot Johnny — once in the side and once in the face — and left him for dead on the side of the paved road in broad daylight.
A passing motorist saw the body around 10:15 a.m.
David said the initial call on his emergency radio came in as an automobile versus bicycle crash, possibly fatal.
“It was really rough when we pulled up to the scene,” David said. “I could see Johnny’s trailer. I didn’t see him because there were some bystanders and police around him, but I knew he was the only one with that trailer.”
As David and a fellow EMT got closer, they saw Johnny lying unresponsive in a pool of blood.
“It obviously scared me, but we just started taking over care,” said David, who also was one of the first EMTs to arrive on scene when his father and mother had emergency medical calls from which they died and when his only other sibling, Mark, was injured in a vehicle crash.
“This is Windsor, so we don’t think of shootings first,” he said. “After we saw all the blood, we started CPR and then, as is our protocol and my experience, you stop when it becomes really futile.”
David said after they discontinued CPR and the scene settled down, he looked around and the scene didn’t make sense, didn’t appear to be a crash.
“We didn’t do a good thorough exam at the time and didn’t notice that he had actually been shot twice because we didn’t want to disrupt the crime scene,” David said. “We found out later through the coroner’s office and police that he had been shot.”
Shootings rock Northern Colorado
The bedroom community of Windsor is ranked among the safest communities in Colorado — and was five years ago.
But that image was shattered with Johnny’s death, the town’s first homicide in eight years.
To make matters more unsettling, another drive-by shooting had seriously injured a 20-year-old Milliken woman just weeks prior.
Cori Romero was traveling on the Harmony Road on-ramp at Interstate 25 on April 22, 2015, when someone pulled up beside her and shot her, according to Bob Coleman, head of the Northern Colorado Shooting Task Force. The bullet went through her neck, but she recovered.
Coleman said Romero, who initially thought she was the victim of a hit-and-run and called 911 after pulling to the side of the road, never got a good look at the shooter.
About that same time, law enforcement received several reports of vehicle windows being broken, possibly from gunshots, along the interstate.
Though those reports subsided after the Colorado Department of Transportation swept I-25 of road debris, the incidents continued to garner national and international headlines and led TV broadcasts about a possible “I-25 sniper” for nearly a month, according to Coleman.
He said the misleading reports of an “I-25 sniper” complicated an already puzzling and unnerving series of events.
“In my coming up to 40 years of law enforcement experience, these types of random shootings, especially homicides, bring a lot of national attention,” he said. “And sometimes those cases can motivate copy-cat killers. That could have been the case here.”
Ten days after Johnny’s homicide, law enforcement linked his death to the shooting of Romero through forensic evidence, namely ballistics. Coleman would not elaborate on other clues, such as the possibility of DNA left at the scene, that investigators used to link the shootings.
Law enforcement was never able to link the shootings of Jacoby and Romero to the shattered vehicle windows, but that didn’t quell the fear permeating the area.
“It was a very eerie feeling when it all took place,’’ said Rick Klimek, who was on the Windsor police force at the time and is now the town’s police chief. “My wife wouldn’t go for bike rides. The entire region was looking over their shoulder.’’
And the shootings weren’t over.
On June 3, 2015, 65-year-old Loveland resident William Connole was gunned down while walking at night near the corner of First Street and St. Louis Avenue in Loveland. Fifteen minutes earlier, a motorcyclist was shot at — but not hit — while riding nearby. Investigators linked those two shootings but did not link them to the incidents involving Jacoby and Romero.
Connole’s killing came just days after Northern Colorado law enforcement agencies and the Federal Bureau of Investigation formed the Northern Colorado Shooting Task Force.
Then in September, shots were fired at night into the Banner Health hospital on Harmony Road, sending health care workers ducking for cover, and at a nearby school that had no occupants. Coleman said the latter two incidents have not been linked to the two prior groupings of shootings.
In March 2018, the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office arrested Loveland resident Christopher David Parker on suspicion of first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder in connection with the Connole and motorcycle shootings.
Parker’s criminal case has been delayed by an ongoing debate over whether he’s mentally competent to stand trial. He’s been declared incompetent twice and has refused to take court-ordered medications that prosecutors say would allow him to enter a plea in the case.
He remains in a Colorado facility undergoing mental health evaluation.
The FBI continues to offer a $50,000 reward for information related to the shootings of Johnny and Romero.
Not a clue
Parker’s arrest brought some relief to Connole’s family and hope for the Jacoby family.
That hope has since dimmed.
Coleman said he understands the timing of the shootings might lead people to believe Parker also shot Jacoby and Romero. However, he said evidence to date does not support Parker physically being at either of those shooting locations.
Despite the evidence, the thought lingers with Johnny’s brothers.
“I think about how Mr. Connole’s case is similar to our case and that by now somehow they could connect the dots,” said Mark, who stands by the shooting task force’s investigation. “It just seems too coincidental, but until they can find some new lead, this is where we are at.”
Who shot Johnny remains nearly as much a mystery now as it was five years ago. But Coleman said the task force continues to work the case, which he said has generated several thousands of leads since it was formed.
After Parker’s arrest, he said, the task force moved out of its rented undisclosed facility. While at one time about 60 law enforcement officers from the FBI, Weld and Larimer county sheriff’s offices, and Fort Collins, Loveland and Windsor police departments attended shooting briefings, that number now is a handful.
And tips that used to pour in now have slowed to a trickle.
Coleman said he wouldn’t even guess at the cost of the investigation over the years, only saying “it’s a lot.”
Theories about who shot Jacoby and Romero abound, though they are pure speculation. Was it someone who lives or lived locally or someone traveling through the area? Was it one person or more? Are they dead or incarcerated?
“I think it will be solved someday, whether I’m here or not, because the most common denominator in solving cases like this are people, and people talk,” Coleman said. “Somebody is out there who knows. Maybe that somebody thinks we already know the information they have. If you think you have any information, however slight, don’t assume that we know about it. Give us another phone call or send us an email.”
David Jacoby doesn’t like to think much about who may have killed his brother or why they did it. But he knows one thing.
“It changed our lives, definitely,” he said.
David and Mark are uplifted by the continued support Windsor has held for the man whose holy trinity was talking sports — namely Windsor High School, the Denver Broncos and Nebraska Huskers football — helping others and Windsor itself.
Windsor has refused to let the memory of Johnny die.
A plaque memorializing him graces a bench in Main Park and at the recreation center entrance. Johnny’s Community Run takes place in May, save for this year, when it was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns. The Windsor Severance Fire District that Johnny chased after during fire calls had a badge embedded on his grave marker.
And then there is the solemn memorial on the side of a now much busier Weld County Road 15 that depicts his life and the complex events surrounding his death.
“I try not to get down on who killed him,” said Mark Jacoby, a Greeley Fire Department firefighter. “I just miss talking to him about NASCAR and football and miss seeing him around town on his bike.
“But I have hope and faith that justice will one day be served.”
Story continues below gallery.
11:15 a.m. April 21, 2015: An inmate transport van traveling along Interstate 25 on its way to the Larimer County Jail has its right passenger window shattered near Mead. Officials said they believed a projectile of some sort “designed to break glass” was to blame.
11:15 p.m. April 22, 2015: Cori Romero, 20, is shot in the neck while driving onto Interstate 25 between Fort Collins and Windsor. The bullet shattered her driver-side window while she was alone in the vehicle. She has since recovered.
April 30, 2015: Larimer County Sheriff’s Office increases I-25 patrols.
10 a.m. May 18, 2015: John Jacoby, 47, is found shot to death on the side of Weld County Road 15 in Windsor, near Weld County Road 72. His paramedic brother, David, was the first emergency responder to arrive at the scene.
May 22, 2015: Hundreds of mourners gather to remember Jacoby, who was beloved in Windsor and described as “that person that made living in a small town what living in a small town is all about.”
May 29, 2015: Law enforcement gathers in Windsor for a news conference to announce the shootings appeared to be random. They announce links between the Jacoby homicide and the Romero shooting.
11 p.m. June 3, 2015: William Connole, 65, is shot to death while he walked near the intersection of East First Street and St. Louis Avenue in Loveland — an area roughly a 20-minute drive from the site of Jacoby’s slaying. Earlier that night, someone shot at a motorcycle rider in Loveland.
June 4, 2015: Law enforcement agencies would not tie the previous day’s shooting to the previous two confirmed shootings of Romero and Jacoby. At the same time, speculation and fears mount as reports of shattered windows streamed in from areas along Interstate 25.
Sept. 17, 2015: The Northern Colorado Shooting Task Force breaks its summerlong silence, making a pointed plea to an August tipster by saying “more information is needed” from that specific tip.
April 6, 2016: The Larimer County commissioners signal the board would grant a $33,000 request by the sheriff’s office to ensure the lease on a building at an undisclosed location that housed the task force. The task force continues to operate at an undisclosed location in the region.
April 26, 2016: The task force breaks a monthslong silence and unveils new visuals, including surveillance video of possible vehicles of interest in a third pair of linked shootings — an elementary school and a health care facility. Officials also confirm that Connole died as a result of a close-range shotgun blast.
June 7, 2016: The task force releases new video evidence of the truck used in Connole’s killing and the shooting incident involving the motorcycle rider earlier in the evening.
May 21, 2017: The Coloradoan revisits the shootings around their two-year anniversary mark. Authorities provide no new information about the shootings but confirm that the number of investigators assigned to the cases is dwindling, and the cases are inching toward cold case designations.
March 14, 2018: Loveland man Christopher David Parker is arrested on suspicion of Connole’s 2015 murder.
December 2018: Parker is declared mentally incompetent.
June 7, 2019: Parker is declared mentally incompetent for a second time.
Today: Five years later, the Jacoby and Romero shootings — in addition to two other noninjury incidents — remain unsolved. Parker’s criminal case is ongoing.
Got a tip?
Anyone with information about the Northern Colorado incidents is asked to call 970-498-5595. Information can also be emailed to email@example.com. The FBI is offering a $50,000 reward for information related to the shootings of Johnny Jacoby and Cori Romero.
Reporter Miles Blumhardt looks for stories that impact your life. Be it news, outdoors, sports — you name it, he wants to report it. Have a story idea? Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MilesBlumhardt.
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