In homeless camp where homicide victim stayed, sadness, uncertainty

Police continue to investigate fatal stabbing; friends recall victim as smart, funny

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Englewood Police continue to investigate a brazen daylight knife attack along a popular bike path that left Joe Hix, 32, dead on Aug. 25.
 
Police are seeking three men seen in a still image from a security camera near the intersection of the Little Dry Creek bike path and South Platte River Drive as “persons of interest” in the case, according to an Aug. 26 bulletin from Metro Denver Crime Stoppers.
 
Hix had been living in a sprawling homeless camp just inside Denver city limits beside the South Platte River a few blocks to the north, according to residents of the camp.
 
“He was a good kid,” said Terry, who asked that her last name be withheld. “He was always helping out.”
 
Terry recalled Hix bringing her jugs of water and first aid supplies.
 
“The mood here has just been weird and sad since he died,” she said. “A lot of people miss him.”
 
Rumors and theories about Hix's death abound in the camp, according to residents who spoke to Colorado Community Media, including that the killer or killers may have been other unhoused people who are no longer in the camp.
 
“Joe was an intelligent, meticulous guy,” recalled Joey Questionati, who is staying in the camp and said he knew Hix for the past two years. “He had an incredible mind — he could tell you anything you wanted to know about computers, and he had a hilarious sense of humor.”
 
Hix had been staying in the camp for less than a month, Questionati said.
 
Hix's social media profiles show a popular young man, who worked for years as a computer technician and once had a passionate side project writing music under the name Plantaganda.
 
About five years ago, beginning at around age 27, Hix began racking up arrests for drug possession and multiple assaults, according to court records.
 
Hix had a dark side, Questionati said, and could be prone to outbursts of anger. Questionati said he believed Hix was suffering from untreated mental illness.
 
“He was trying to be a good person,” Questionati said.
 
As a reporter spoke to residents of the camp on Sept. 2, multiple officers from Denver's and Englewood's police departments, accompanied by social workers from All Health Network, began walking through the camp, speaking to residents and offering to connect them with outreach services.
 
The camp, which includes dozens of tents and RVs, has swelled in recent months, said Denver police officer Alex Campbell.
 
“I couldn't say what a long-term solution is, but we're hoping to get people some help,” Campbell said.
 
Denver Police have assisted Englewood in investigating Hix's homicide “in a limited capacity,” said Denver Police spokesman Doug Schepman.
 
Englewood officers in the camp declined to speak on the record.
 
The camp sits just barely inside Denver city limits. Another camp on the Englewood side of the line a few blocks south, adjacent to the spot where Hix was killed, was swept and dispersed by Englewood Police in June 2019.
 
Englewood Police Chief John Collins defended the 2019 sweep.
 
“The relocation efforts along the South Platte River were necessary, and the homeless individuals had to go somewhere, as we all knew,” Collins said in an email. “Was the effort effective? Yes, but as I stated we knew that these folks had to go somewhere else. Until we accomplish a sustainable housing solution we will see this continue when homeless individuals are relocated.”
 
Collins declined to address the presence of Englewood Police officers in the Denver camp, citing the ongoing investigation.
 
Some residents of the camp, like Questionati, said they suspected the presence of the officers was a precursor to another sweep.
 
Schepman, the Denver Police spokesman, said he was “not aware of any imminent, large-scale cleanups in the area in the near future.”
 
But those in the camp said it was just a matter of time.
 
“It doesn't accomplish anything,” Questionati said. “It just sends people scattering to other parts of town. It's a game of musical homeless people.”
 
Steve Olsen, who goes by the nickname Cowboy, said he expected a sweep soon, especially after Hix's death.
 
“We've been run out of everyplace else,” Olsen said. “It's hell.”

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