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Rocky Mountain News (CO) – Saturday, July 17, 2004
Author/Byline: Julie Poppen And Clayton Woullard, Rocky Mountain News
Edition: Final
Section: News
Page: 4A
Denver police arrested two men Friday in connection with the slaying this week of an Ethiopian-born liquor store owner.

Orlando Thomas, 24, was arrested on charges of first-degree murder and aggravated robbery. Clarence Jenkins, 20, was booked as a possible accomplice.

Meanwhile, the widow and son of shooting victim Getahun Hagos, 55, owner of Canary Liquors in Denver’s Cole neighborhood, attempted to sort through the events of the past several days.

Hagos was shot about 12:30 p.m. Wednesday during an attempted robbery, police said. He died later that day.

Hagos’ son, Daniel Tedla, 28, said his father had come to Denver from Los Angeles about eight months ago to run the liquor store. Hagos worked at a casino in Los Angeles

“He was just a hard-working man providing for his family,” Tedla said.

Tedla, who works as a car salesman, said he received a call from his mother, Yibralem Haileysus, 41, Wednesday afternoon after work that his father had been shot, but was still alive. When he called the hospital later, he was told his father had died.

Tedla and his mother arrived Thursday in Denver and will return to Los Angeles next week, where Hagos’ service will be held.

Millete Birhanemaskel, 22, whose father Birhanemaskel Madhaniy worked at the liquor store with Hagos, said she was not surprised to hear Hagos had struggled with the robber before he was shot.

“He was just a fighter in life,” Birhanemaskel said. “He picked the wrong battle this time . . . but he was a strong-willed person.”

She said Hagos was a hard- working man who would be at the store for 16 hours some days.

“My dad used to tease him because he went to go to the liquor store at 9 a.m.,” she said.

Hagos and Haileysus came to the United States about 18 years ago after being forced to flee to Sudan from Ethiopia. Tedla, who was born in Ethiopia, said his father had always wanted to open his own business and never gave up on that dream.

“I’m just going to respect his drive,” he said. “He doesn’t give up easy. I’m sure if he was here, he’d want me to be the exact same way.”

Haileysus, who works as a dealer at a casino in Los Angeles, was planning to move to Denver with her two teenage daughters to live with Hagos in an apartment he had just purchased a few months ago.

Tedla said his mother has not taken the news well.

“She’s been going crazy,” he said. “It’s just traumatizing. She feels like it’s a dream, like it really didn’t happen.”

Tedla said he was glad police had caught the men believed responsible for killing his father, but that he still has questions.

“I was glad they caught these guys so it doesn’t happen to anyone else,” he said. “I would like to see them. I’d like to meet the families.”

The killing comes less than four months after another Ethiopian immigrant, cab driver Masfin Gezahgn, 45, was knifed to death.

Amber Torrez, 19, has been charged in his slaying. She also has been charged in the stabbing death of Colorado Free University founder John Hand.

“These are people who have fled persecution, fled civil war and are here to start over,” said Jennifer Gueddiche, director of the African Community Center in Denver, of Ethiopians in Denver.

“This is another sad incident for this community.”


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