Police Get Warrant to Search SUV in Broncos Player's Slaying

Investigators have obtained a warrant to search a vehicle seized after Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams was killed in a drive-by shooting, and police were interviewing people who were at a nightclub Williams visited New Year's Eve.

Investigators have talked to "numerous people that could possibly be witnesses and people that definitely are witnesses, and we will continue to do so because we continue to receive information," Detective Virginia Quinones said Friday.

Thursday, a 1998 Chevrolet Tahoe that police believe might have been used in the New Year's Day shooting was found in a remote neighborhood of snow-covered empty lots and industrial construction sites east of Denver.

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"It will definitely be searched and inventoried very thoroughly, but I do not know if that has yet been done," Quinones said.

Williams was killed and two other passengers wounded when at least 14 shots were fired into the stretch Hummer limousine that had just left a New Year's Eve party in downtown Denver. Williams was struck once in the neck.

There will be a public viewing Friday night in Williams' hometown of Fort Worth, Texas. The Denver Broncos planned to charter a flight to Fort Worth for the funeral Saturday at Great Commission Baptist Church.

The NFL announced Friday it would return a $15,000 fine levied against Williams for arguing with an official in a Nov. 19 game against San Diego. League spokesman Greg Aiello said the money would be turned over to the Broncos to return to Williams' family.

Police won't disclose whether they know the motive for the slaying but have said there was an altercation at the nightclub.

The Tahoe found Thursday had been spray-painted black on the sides, front and back, but the top remained white — the original color of the vehicle authorities were seeking. The SUV's license plates also matched the one sought by investigators. The rear plate had been spray-painted, but the front plate was unaltered.

A person close to the investigation told The Associated Press the SUV is registered to Brian K. Hicks of Denver, who is jailed on unrelated drug and attempted murder charges. The person declined to be identified, because state law prohibits officials from identifying whom a vehicle is registered to.

Quinones would not comment whether Hicks had agreed to be interviewed or whether gang involvement was suspected in Williams' death.

Hicks' lawyer, Walter Gerash, was undergoing a hip replacement this week and wasn't available for comment, said Andrew Reid, another member of his law firm.

"At this point, we know of no involvement or connection with Mr. Hicks in the murder of the Denver Broncos' player," Reid said.

Hicks, 28, has been jailed since Nov. 9 on a charge of possessing drugs with intent to distribute. He also is accused of shooting at a woman who was later killed a week before she was to testify against him.

Hicks was in custody the day of the shooting, but police want to know who was using the vehicle in the early morning hours of New Year's Day.

Hicks, who didn't respond to a jail interview request by The AP, has been called a gang member by prosecutors. Police, however, won't say whether they believe the Williams slaying had any gang involvement.

"Who killed this individual is what matters, it doesn't matter if it's gang related or some guy in a business suit," police spokesman Sonny Jackson said.

Denver Crime Stoppers is offering its standard cash reward of up to $2,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case. Jackson said tips are continuing to come into the department.

"I think the community is outraged by what took place here," Jackson said. "I think that's why the people are coming forth and giving us information. I don't think they want to tolerate this kind of thing."

Still, he said, more help is needed "because somebody knows who was in this vehicle and who was driving it."

But the Rev. Leon Kelly, who helps Denver area teenagers escape gangs and drugs, suggested the specter of gang involvement might silence anybody with key information.

"You don't want the bad guys to win, but if you do the right thing, what do you get?" Kelly said. "Two thousand dollars? That's not even enough to take care of your funeral."

Paul Martin, pastor at Macedonia Baptist Church, who is helping organize an anti-violence rally and candlelight vigil Friday at the site of the slaying, said fear of retribution would hinder the investigation.

"It's a very strong code of silence," Martin said. "That's what we're concerned about in Mr. Williams' death. There's someone out there who knows who did it and we have to break that code of silence. It's immoral not to come forward."