An award-winning journalist’s dramatic account of a shooting that shook a community to its core, with important implications for the future
On the last evening of summer in 2013, five shots rang out in a part of northeast Denver known as the Holly. Long a destination for African American families fleeing the Jim Crow South, the area had become an “invisible city” within a historically white metropolis. While shootings there weren’t uncommon, the identity of the shooter that night came as a shock. Terrance Roberts was a revered anti-gang activist. His attempts to bring peace to his community had won the accolades of both his neighbors and the state’s most important power brokers. Why had he just fired a gun?
In The Holly, the award-winning Denver-based journalist Julian Rubinstein reconstructs the events that left a local gang member paralyzed and Roberts facing the possibility of life in prison. Much more than a crime story, The Holly is a multigenerational saga of race and politics that runs from the civil rights movement to Black Lives Matter. With a cast that includes billionaires, elected officials, cops, developers, and street kids, the book explores the porous boundaries between a city’s elites and its most disadvantaged citizens. It also probes the fraught relationships between police, confidential informants, activists, gang members, and ex–gang members as they struggle to put their pasts behind them. In The Holly, we see how well-intentioned efforts to curb violence and improve neighborhoods can go badly awry, and we track the interactions of law enforcement with gang members who conceive of themselves as defenders of a neighborhood. When Roberts goes on trial, the city’s fault lines are fully exposed. In a time of national reckoning over race, policing, and the uses and abuses of power, Rubinstein offers a dramatic and humane illumination of what’s at stake.