Published: September 20, 2013
Before drawing his last breath, a Colorado Springs shooting victim supplied police with a parting clue: the identity of his killer.
Investigators this week said 19-year-old Ishmal Mitchell's dying declarations led them to Brandon Cockrell, a Colorado Springs parolee known to friends as "Malik Ramiz" - the name uttered by Mitchell as he faded in and out of consciousness in the back of an ambulance after suffering a dozen gunshot wounds in the torso.
"They set me up," Mitchell told Colorado Springs police officer Bryce Macomber through gasps and labored breathing, before supplying the name, address and description of the man he said was responsible for the June 28 attack, Macomber testified in court.
Details of the apparent ambush near Helen Hunt Falls in the city's western foothills emerged at a two-day hearing this week as prosecutors laid out their case against Cockrell, a parolee who worked as a trainer at Title Boxing Club in Colorado Springs.
A felon who's been in and out of prison over the past 13 years, the 33-year-old Cockrell is no stranger to the courts. Records show he won a full acquittal on first-degree murder charges at a 2007 jury trial in Denver, averting life behind bars.
His next round with a jury - and a possible life sentence - will come Feb. 10, Judge Robin Chittum ruled Friday in finding that prosecutors had established probable cause to support first-degree murder charges. She ordered Cockrell held without bond in El Paso County jail.
The court hearing - which began Wednesday and concluded Friday - revealed new details about a brutal murder in one of the city's most popular recreational areas.
According to testimony by Colorado Springs police, Mitchell was apparently forced to strip down to his underwear on Upper Columbine Trail before at least one shooter opened fire. Two mountain bikers found Cockrell lying wounded on the side of a road, after he tumbled or was pushed 100 feet down a wooded slope, police said.
Others in the area reported seeing two cars race down the mountain afterward - including a white Cadillac like the one registered to Cockrell.
Police estimated the shooting occurred between 8:20 p.m.- 8:40 p.m.
Cockrell, wearing an ankle monitor as a condition of his 2012 release from prison on a burglary conviction, checked out of his Colorado Springs apartment that night at 7:10 p.m. and returned at 9:32 p.m., detective John Koch said, citing ankle monitor records.
The cellular provider AT&T provided phone data further showing that Cockrell made a call from the Helen Hunt Falls area at 7:59 p.m., Koch said.
Cockrell's public defenders argued the data proved only that Cockrell was in the area at the time of the shooting, not that he pulled the trigger. They also said shell casings found at the scene suggested there were two shooters that night.
Prosecutors emphasized Mitchell's dying statement and disclosed that police also found blood-stained pants and shoes in Cockrell's apartment.
Mitchell was repeatedly asked how he came to be in Cheyenne Canyon but supplied only halting details as he fought to stay conscious, police said.
A possible motive wasn't disclosed in court.
Cockrell was ordered to return to court Dec. 19 for a motions hearing.