Centennial gas station shooting suspect set for preliminary hearing

Samuel Birch, 31, due in court on suspicion of robbery and fatal shooting

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Samuel Birch, the man the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office identified as the suspect in a fatal shooting of a gas station clerk in a robbery the night of Nov. 26, is set for a preliminary hearing Jan. 19.

In a preliminary hearing, a court decides whether there is enough evidence to take the case to trial — it doesn't decide whether a suspect is guilty.

Birch was being held in the Arapahoe County jail on charges of first-degree murder and aggravated robbery of a business with a gun, according to the sheriff's office website.

After previously refraining from releasing the identity or photograph of the suspect, the sheriff's office identified Birch, 31, as the man who allegedly walked into the convenience store at 8263 S. Quebec St., Centennial — near East County Line Road, just north of Highlands Ranch — and “asked for cigarettes then asked for everything,” according to a sheriff's office tweet.

Investigators received numerous tips related to the identity of the suspect and were able to obtain warrants and arrest Birch on Dec. 11, according to the sheriff's office.

Birch is also believed to be connected to the robbery at another gas station in Centennial on East Arapahoe Road on Nov. 26, an incident where the suspect fired a single round into the ceiling, according to the sheriff's office.

At the first shooting, on Quebec Street, surveillance video shows that the suspect and the clerk spoke for a short time, according to the sheriff's office. The suspect then pointed a handgun at the clerk, who put cigarettes and money from the cash register in a shopping bag, according to the sheriff's office. When the clerk handed the suspect the bag, the suspect shot him. The suspect then left the store. Authorities received a call about the shooting at 6:47 p.m.

The clerk died after sustaining a gunshot wound to the left abdomen. He was identified as Mauricio Omar Perez, 24, according to the Arapahoe County Coroner's Office.

No other employees or customers were in the store at the time of the shooting on Quebec Street, said Deputy John Bartmann, a spokesman for the sheriff's office. But citizens later came in, found the clerk and called 911.

Deputies searched the area with the assistance of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office and the Lone Tree Police Department, according to the news release.

The second gas station in Centennial that was robbed on that same day sits on East Arapahoe Road near South Havana Street, according to a sheriff's office news release on Nov. 30.

At about 4:30 p.m., a male entered the Conoco gas station at 10210 E. Arapahoe Road in central Centennial and pointed a handgun at the clerk, according to the sheriff's office. The clerk gave the suspect the cash drawer, and then the suspect fired a single round into the ceiling, the release said. The clerk was not injured and the suspect left southbound on foot from the area.

Birch's preliminary hearing is set for 1:30 p.m. Jan. 19 in Arapahoe County District Court.

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