Rocky Ford man dies from gunshot wound in possible homicide

James Bartolo
LA Junta Tribune

The Otero County Sheriff's Office is investigating a possible homicide after the death of a young man from Rocky Ford.

After responding to reports of shots fired outside Rocky Ford city limits in the 29000 block of Otero County Road 20 on May 17, Otero County sheriff's deputies reported finding 22-year-old Joseph Barela with a gunshot wound to his head upon arrival to the scene, according to a news release from the Otero County Sheriff's Office.

Barela was taken to Arkansas Valley Regional Medical Center in La Junta for treatment before being transported to Colorado Springs’ UCHealth Memorial Hospital shortly thereafter.

Barela was pronounced dead on Tuesday, according to the Otero County Sheriff’s Office.

While the circumstances surrounding Barela’s death are under investigation, the shooting has not officially been ruled a homicide and no suspects have been named by the Otero County Sheriff's Office as of Thursday morning.

No homicides have been reported in 2021 by the Otero County Sheriff nor the Rocky Ford Police Department.

Barela was a member of the 2015 Rocky Ford High School wrestling team that won the Colorado Class 2A State Championship. He competed in the 132-pound weight class and also ran cross country.

He loved the outdoors and spending time with nieces, nephews and two pets, his mother, Angel Grano, said.

“(Barela) was loved by everyone, got along with everyone and would help anyone if they needed it,” Grano said. “He left a mark on everyone that knew him.”

A GoFundMe page, Funeral Expenses for Joe Barela, has been organized by Barela’s family to raise $10,000 in expenses. More than 20 donors have raised $2,000 for the family so far.

Grano is fighting Stage 4 cancer, and money raised from the GoFundMe page will cover all funeral expenses. Those with donations and food can also contact Annette Reyes at annettereyes1980@yahoo.com, Grano said.

Those with information regarding the ongoing investigation are asked to contact the Otero County Sheriff's Office at 719-384-5941.

La Junta Tribune Democrat reporter James Bartolo can be reached at JBartolo@gannett.com.