Man gets life in prison for 2020 fatal gas-station shooting in Centennial

Samuel Birch was convicted of killing Mauricio Omar Perez, 24

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A man convicted of fatally shooting a convenience-store clerk after the clerk complied with his demands for cigarettes and money during a Centennial robbery was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

During the 2020 incident, the clerk placed the items in a bag and handed it to the man, who said “thank you” right before shooting the clerk in the abdomen.

An Arapahoe County jury decided the shooter was Samuel Birch, finding him guilty on March 10 of several charges related to the murder and another robbery committed the same day at another convenience store. The suspect’s statements to the clerk were recorded on surveillance footage.

Birch was accused of the shooting and robbery at the Circle K convenience store at Quebec Street and County Line Road, just north of Highlands Ranch, on the night of Nov. 26, 2020.

In a four-day trial in March, the jury in Arapahoe County District Court found Birch guilty of first-degree murder, first-degree felony murder, two counts of aggravated robbery and tampering with physical evidence.

The clerk, Mauricio Omar Perez, 24, died of the gunshot wound.

Birch was sentenced amid an emotional crowd on April 22 in the courtroom, where about a dozen of Perez’s loved ones gathered.

Words of Birch, ex-girlfriend played role in trial  

Because the suspect’s face was covered on the security-camera footage, much of the trial focused on whether jurors could be sure Birch was the man in the videos.

The prosecution pointed to DNA from yellow gloves found in Birch’s Ford Fiesta car that matched Birch’s DNA, arguing the gloves appear to be the same ones the suspect wore while committing robbery.

The prosecution attorneys also argued that Birch spoke as though he knew he were guilty of a serious crime on separate footage from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

Birch was arrested for a separate incident on Dec. 7, 2020, after Douglas County sheriff's deputies pursued him in a hit-and-run crash, according to court testimony. In body-worn camera footage from the Douglas County scene, Birch repeatedly asks deputies for a cigarette.

“Would you light one of those for me, though? I’m about to go to jail for a very long time,” Birch says to a deputy, adding, “I’m about to be in there for years, bro.”

When Douglas County sheriff’s personnel ask what his name is, according to the prosecution, Birch says: “You know (what) it is; you’ll find out eventually.”

Birch thought deputies were going to connect him to the Centennial robbery and shooting, argued Lisa Gramer, one of the prosecuting attorneys.

One of Birch’s gloves tested positive for gunshot residue, Gramer said during trial.

The trial, in part, centered around the statements of Birch’s ex-girlfriend, who came forth and identified Birch as the shooter in the weeks after the incident.

Birch is in his early 30s and, at the time of the shooting, was living in an apartment with his ex-girlfriend, Jennifer Olson, in west Centennial.

Olson, 28, testified at the trial that she was lying in bed when Birch told her about the robbery and that he showed her the cash.

Drug motivation for robberies alleged

Birch was also accused of robbing another gas station on the same day as the other robbery, at Arapahoe Road near Havana Street in central Centennial at about 4:30 p.m.

The suspect in that robbery entered the Conoco gas station and pointed a handgun at the clerk, according to information previously released by the Arapahoe sheriff's office. The clerk gave the suspect the cash drawer, and then the suspect fired a single round into the ceiling. (That clerk was not injured.)

The prosecution also argued that Birch’s “desperate” need for drugs fueled the robberies.

Text messages from Birch show that he was looking for some type of pills, the prosecution argued.

“And we know that in the Conoco robbery, he’s much more agitated,” Gramer said during the trial.

At 5:07 p.m. that day, Birch says he has money and wants to buy the substance via a text message, the prosecution said. Shortly after, in response, he’s told to “come over,” Gramer said during the trial.

“And then the robbery at the Circle K takes place at (around 6:30),” Gramer said. “And you can see he’s much more relaxed in this robbery.”

Birch also later sent Olson a text that said, “I spent that money from last night on drugs,” according to a text message shown in court during the trial.

A key piece of evidence was a sweatshirt covered in paint, which prosecutors argued was the same sweatshirt that surveillance footage caught the shooter wearing that read, “No pain, no Jane.”

Olson said during the trial that Birch asked her to paint over the sweatshirt and that it bore that phrase.

Previously, Birch has pleaded guilty to burglary of a building in 2013, to assault in 2013 and to criminal mischief in 2015, according to online court records.

Samuel Birch, shooting, Centennial Colorado, Arapahoe County, sentencing

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