Four of the five people killed in a deadly shooting rampage in Denver were attacked at tattoo shops, raising questions about why they were targeted.
Five people were fatally shot in less than an hour on Monday, and two others were wounded, including a police officer who shot and killed the suspected shooter after being hit.
Police say Lyndon James McLeod, 47, knew most of the people he shot in several locations around the metro area through business or personal relationships, but they were still investigating his motive.
Gunman was on police radar
McLeod once owned a business in Denver called Flat Black Ink Corp. at an address that is now World Tattoo Studio, according to records from the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office. A man who answered the phone at World Tattoo Studio hung up after he was asked about McLeod on Tuesday evening.
The first shooting took place at another tattoo shop less than two kilometres from that address.
Matt Clark, commander of the Denver Police Department’s Major Crimes Division, said Tuesday that the gunman did not know the last person he shot — a clerk at a hotel in Lakewood’s Belmar shopping area, Sarah Steck, 28, who died of her injuries on Tuesday. However, Clark said the gunman had some dealings with the hotel.
Denver police Chief Paul Pazen said during a news conference that McLeod was on the radar of law enforcement and had been investigated in both 2020 and 2021. He declined to say what McLeod was investigated for, but said charges were not filed against him.
The shootings started at about 5:30 p.m. in central Denver along Broadway, a busy street lined with shops, bars and restaurants, where two women were killed and a man was injured but expected to survive, police said.
Soon after, Clark said, McLeod forced his way into a home that also housed a business nearby, pursued the occupants through the building and fired shots, but no one was injured. Then a man was shot and killed in a home near Denver’s Cheesman Park, Clark said.
Officer who killed gunman was shot
Later, Denver police chased the vehicle believed to have been involved in the shootings, and an officer exchanged gunfire with McLeod, Clark said, noting he was able to get away, fleeing into Lakewood, after gunfire disabled the officer’s cruiser.
Just before 6 p.m., the Lakewood Police Department received a report of shots fired at the Lucky 13 tattoo shop. Danny Schofield, 38, was killed there, Lakewood police spokesperson John Romero said.
When officers spotted the car suspected of being involved in the shooting at the Belmar shopping area — where shops line sidewalks in a modern version of a downtown — McLeod opened fire and officers shot back, Romero said.
He then ran away and allegedly threatened some people in a restaurant with a gun before going to the Hyatt House hotel, Romero said, where he spoke briefly with Steck, the clerk, before shooting her.
About a minute later, the Lakewood police officer saw McLeod and ordered him to drop his weapon. She was shot in the abdomen but fired back at him, Romero said.
The wounded officer, whose name has not been released, underwent surgery on Monday night and is expected to make a full recovery.
Tattoo shop owner among victims
Family members identified one of the other victims on Tuesday as Alicia Cardenas, 44, the owner of the Sol Tribe tattoo shop, where the first shooting occurred.
Alfredo Cardenas told KMGH-TV that his only daughter owned her first tattoo shop when she was 19 and had worked in the Broadway location in Denver for 15 to 20 years.
“Very gregarious, very friendly, but she was a very determined person,” he said. “She knew where she was going.”
Alicia Cardenas is survived by her 12-year-old child, Alfredo Cardenas said.
On Tuesday, candles, bouquets of flowers and some containers of fruit rested in the doorway of Cardenas’s shop as people, including her fiancé, Daniel Clelland, stopped by to remember a woman they said cared for so many.
“I don’t know why someone would do this,” Clelland said.