Masked gunmen intending to steal a “large amount” of marijuana shot and killed a Fort Lewis College student early Tuesday in a home-invasion style shooting in the SkyRidge subdivision northeast of Fort Lewis College, police said.
Four Arizona men have been arrested in connection with the death of Samuel Xarius Gordon, 20, of Cortez, said Lt. Ray Shupe with the Durango Police Department. He said Gordon may have been reaching for a flare gun when one of the robbers shot him.
Kodi “Maz” E. Kuauhtli, 19, of Phoenix; Alvin Noel Flores, 22, of Phoenix; Daniel Nelson Wright, 20, of Phoenix; and Kuauhtleko Garcia, 21, of Scottsdale, Arizona, were arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated robbery. They were being held without bail Tuesday night in La Plata County Jail.
According to police, Gordon was known by Kuauhtli, who believed Gordon had a large amount of marijuana at his home at 253 Jenkins Ranch Road. Kuauhtli allegedly devised a plan with his three accomplices to enter Gordon’s home through an unlocked sliding rear patio door and rob Gordon of his marijuana, police said.
Three men armed with handguns entered the home about 3:30 a.m. wearing bandanas over their faces. Five people inside the home, including Gordon, were taken hostage at gunpoint. One of the victims was bound with zip ties and two were ordered to lay facedown at gunpoint, according to police.
Gordon was confronted in a room by one of the gunmen, Shupe said. The gunman’s attention was then diverted to someone else, he said, and when the gunman returned to Gordon, he may have had a flare gun.
Gordon was shot once in the stomach.
After the shot was fired, the three suspects fled and ran through a field behind Gordon’s home.
Gordon was taken by ambulance to Mercy Regional Medical Center, where he died. None of the other victims was injured.
Police stopped a vehicle leaving the scene with the four suspects inside.
They have not said whether any weapons were recovered, but investigators were searching for evidence in a large field behind the house.
Police were piecing together interviews to determine who entered the house and who pulled the trigger. One of the suspects stayed outside to drive a get-away vehicle.
“Everybody has been charged with the same thing, because they were all planning the same event,” Shupe said. “From the law perspective, it really doesn’t matter who pulls the trigger because they’re all complicitors in the same event.”
Police will continue to investigate, including collecting forensic evidence, to determine who pulled the trigger, he said. Police expected to execute a search warrant at the home Tuesday night.
Police said there was a party next door, and it appears the suspects and Gordon were at the same party earlier in the night.
One of the suspects is a former student at Fort Lewis College and an acquaintance of Gordon’s, Shupe said. Fort Lewis College spokesman Mitch Davis confirmed suspect Kuauhtli was a freshman in 2015 but no longer attends.
The Durango Police Department is not looking for any additional suspects.
Gordon was a junior majoring in biology, Davis said.
Cortez resident Sumner Peterson said he met Gordon while attending Southwest Colorado Community College in Mancos. He described him as an outgoing person who loved hiking. There was nothing about him to suggest he might get caught up in a violent situation, Peterson said.
“Just being a causal friend, yeah, it surprises me, just because of the person I knew he was,” Peterson said. “I could never see him being in some situation that it sounds like it is. That does not sound like the Sam I know or the Sam around here that everybody knows. I do not think that he should be remembered in a poor light, because he really genuinely was a great person.
“He was very kind-hearted, very outgoing and just nice,” Peterson added. “He was so approachable. He was very helpful and very intelligent.”
Kuauhtli, the former student, was staying this week with a Durango friend, who asked not to be identified for fear of his safety.
During a phone interview Tuesday, the man expressed shock that his friend was involved in a homicide investigation.
“He’s like one of my absolute best friends, so the fact that this is happening is pretty crazy,” the man said. “I never saw it. He’s a pretty peaceful dude.”
He said he knows Kuauhtli from attending Fort Lewis College. He didn’t know any of the other three suspects or the victim. He described Kuauhtli as a “gentle soul” who played guitar and made coffee for a living. He is outdoorsy, easily approachable and cares about people, he said.
Kuauhtli attended Fort Lewis College on the Native American tuition waiver and left for medical reasons, the friend said. Kuauhtli and his dad had started a coffee business, Xotla Espresso, in Arizona, his father, Axan Kuauhtli, confirmed Tuesday. Axan Kuauhtli was unaware of his son’s arrest when contacted Tuesday by The Durango Herald and declined to comment further.
Anyone with any information related to the case is asked to call a tip line at 382-5029.
“We’re just looking for anyone with information who may have heard or seen anything last night related to the homicide,” Shupe said.
“Our deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of Samuel Gordon,” the Durango Police Department said in its release. “Please keep them in your thoughts as they struggle with this very tragic event.”
firstname.lastname@example.org. Herald Staff Writer Mary Shinn contributed to this report.