5 dead, including suspect: Updates

December 28, 2021
Alfredo Cardenas speaks to reporters outside his daughter's tattoo shop in Denver on Dec. 28, 2021. A suspect shot and killed four people and injured three in a shooting spree Monday night that ended in a gunfight with police, where the suspect was killed, authorities say.
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DENVER — Alfredo Cardenas went to his daughter’s tattoo shop Tuesday morning and lit a candle to remember her life. Alicia Cardenas, 44, was among the four people killed Monday night after a suspect opened fire in several locations in the Denver area. 

“It’s a shock,” Cardenas told USA TODAY outside the Sol Tribe tattoo shop on Broadway. 

Authorities have not released the names of the four victims or the suspect, who was also killed after a gunfight with police. Three others, including a police officer, were injured in the shootings. 

The “very violent series of events” across multiple locations began in Denver on Monday evening and ended in nearby Lakewood, said Paul Pazen, Denver police chief, at a press conference late Monday. Police said they had not identified a motive late Monday.

By Tuesday morning, there were few signs of the previous evening’s violence: a bullet hole in the window casing of an Xfinity store and boarded up windows at a nearby restaurant in Lakewood. A few businesses posted signs saying they were temporarily closed, and a stream of people crunched on an occasional piece of broken glass as they entered a yoga studio for a morning class.

At the tattoo shop in Denver, people began gathering Tuesday to mourn and leave flowers at a memorial. Cardenas said his 12-year-old granddaughter was with her father and doesn’t yet understand what happened. “She’s going need a lot of love and compassion,” he said.

At least two of the other shootings took place at or near tattoo shops, according to the addresses provided by police. Jake Bray, 37, who works at a tattoo shop, Think Tank Tattoo, near Sol Tribe, said the community worries the shooter deliberately targeted tattoo shops.

“It’s scary to think,” said Bray, whose shop was closed Monday. “Everyone kind of knows everyone. It’s tragic. It’s hard. We consider our community a family.”

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement he was “deeply disturbed” by the violence.

“Tragedies like this, especially in the midst of the holidays, are deeply unsettling. My administration is working with local law enforcement to understand what happened last evening and provide the needed support throughout the investigation,” Polis said.

Here’s what we know:

How many people were hurt in the shooting spree?

Five people died, including the suspect, authorities said. Thee people were injured, including a police officer. Police said it was unclear if a Lakewood agent fatally shot the suspect.”

Cardenas, one of the victims, was a tattooer, mural artist and cultural anthropologist, according to the Sol Tribe website. The website describes the shop owner as a “true Denver Native” and a “proud Indigenous artist.”

Dozens of people posted online tributes for Cardenas, describing her as a force of nature and a pioneer in the world of tattooing. “She accepted everybody, especially those on the fringes,” her dad told USA TODAY.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said he had been briefed on the incident and that an investigation was underway. Denver police told USA TODAY that no press conferences were planned for Tuesday.

“A terrible, heartbreaking and senseless act of gun violence stole the lives of several members of our community last night and injured others,” Hancock said in a statement. “I’m praying for those lives lost, the victims and their families.”

What happened in Denver?

The “killing spree” began just after 5 p.m. in Denver, Pazen said. At a first location, the suspect fatally shot two women and injured a man, he said. At a second shooting location, the suspect fatally shot a man.

There was gunfire at a third location, but no one was injured, Pazen said.

Pazen said officers identified a car associated with the suspect and exchanged gunfire with them at a fourth location. Pazen said the suspect disabled the police vehicle and fled to the nearby suburb of Lakewood, Colorado.

What happened in Lakewood?

Lakewood police received a call of shots fired at a business just before 6 p.m., and the victim was pronounced dead, said John Romero, spokesman for Lakewood Police.

Lakewood agents identified the suspect’s car, but the suspect started shooting at the agents and left on foot, Romero said.

The suspect then threatened another business with a firearm before entering a Hyatt hotel and shooting the clerk, who was taken to a hospital, he said. 

The suspect left, shooting a Lakewood police agent in the process. The suspect died in Lakewood, Romero said, but it was unclear if a Lakewood agent fatally shot the suspect.

Who was the suspect?

Authorities have not publicly identified the suspect and are searching for a motive.

“As far what started (this), that is part of the investigation. We need to really dig in and find out what the motivation behind this was,” Pazen said.

Who is the injured officer?

Authorities have not publicly identified the officer. The agent was at the hospital, undergoing surgery, Romero said late Monday.

“We just ask everybody in the community for their thoughts and prayers for that agent and their family,” Romero said.

How many mass shootings have there been in Colorado this year?

This was the 13th mass shooting in Colorado this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit that tracks gun violence nationally using a combination of police statistics and media reports.

The archive defines a mass shooting as four or more people shot, not including the shooter, at the same general time and location. In the U.S., there have been nearly 700 mass shootings in 2021, according to the archive.

Contributing: Celina Tebor, USA TODAY

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