Denver shooting spree death toll rises to five as authorities say suspect knew his victims

Denver was reeling on Tuesday after a gunman killed five people in a violent killing spree across the metro area before a three-year veteran police officer, already wounded, killed him in a shoutout.

Lyndon James McLeod, 47, began his shooting spree in Denver around 5pm Monday, police said on Tuesday in a news conference. He was known to police and had been investigated twice before but no charges were filed.

Travelling in a van, McLeod first opened fire in the South Broadway neighbourhood of Denver. He shot two women and wounded a man before heading to the Cheesman Park neighbourhood, where he shot and killed a man, according to police.

He headed to another intersection near the Denver Health hospital campus and fired shots, then exchanged fire with Denver police officers who tried to stop him but got away.

Next he headed to Lakewood, which has its own police department, and killed a man there, police said.

Officers also engaged him in Lakewood but he kept firing and escaped again, fleeing on foot and heading to the Hyatt House Hotel, where he spoke briefly to the 28-year-old woman working at the front desk before fatally shooting her.

McLeod then encountered another Lakewood police officer, who has not been identified, and shot her before she returned fire, killing him and stopping the spree. The Lakewood public information officer said Tuesday that she had undergone surgery and the department was withholding her identity as family travelled to Colorado to be with her.

Police officials said most were known to the suspect, and that he targeted them based on previous personal and business dealings. He did not however know the hotel employee but had issues with Hyatt House previously, police said.

Two people were killed at the Sol Tribe tattoo shop in Denver, Colorado, on Monday (Getty Images)
Two people were killed at the Sol Tribe tattoo shop in Denver, Colorado, on Monday (Getty Images)

Victims who have been identified so far are Sarah Steck, 28, who worked at Hyatt House; Alicia Cardenas, the 44-year-old owner of Denver’s Sol Tribe Tattoo & Piercing ; Alyssa Gunn-Maldonado, who was also at Sol; and tattoo artist Danny Scofield, 38, who worked at Lucky 13 Tattoo in Lakewood.

A fifth victim was reported dead on Tuesday but has not been named.

Business records show McLeod owned at least one Denver tattoo parlour, called Flat Black Ink Corp, which he founded in 2005 and registered as delinquent in 2017, reports suggested. The tattoo business was also listed online as the publisher of three books describing a spree of murders that were not dissimilar to what happened on Monday, The Denver Post reported.

People walking past police cars parked outside a tattoo shop in Denver, Colorado, following a shooting spree (Getty Images)
People walking past police cars parked outside a tattoo shop in Denver, Colorado, following a shooting spree (Getty Images)

Police have meanwhile admitted that McLeod was on their radar had been not been charged for any crimes. The owner of a tattoo business now registered at the address of Flat Black Ink Corp hung up when The Associated Press enquired about McLeod on Tuesday, and investigations into McLeod’s motives continue.

Tributes have been left outside many of the tattoo parlous caught up in the shooting, and a GoFundMe set up by a friend for a victim, Ms Maldonado, had by Tuesday evening already raised more than $62,000; her husband was also shot and is “fighting for his life in the ICU”, according to the site.

A 30-year friend of Ms Cardenas, Amy Gordon, confirmed her death Tuesday and told the Denver Gazette that she was “stunned”.

Tributes have been left outside a tattoo parlour following the shootings (AP)
Tributes have been left outside a tattoo parlour following the shootings (AP)

“Alicia was an amazing individual. Her loss is a piece of Denver that’s being erased,” Ms Gordon said, adding: “I just pray people will stop being as short sighted in their anger and disgust on society.

“This is the holiday season. To have this type of spree take place is not normal for our community,” Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen said. “We cannot lose sight of the victims in this, the people who are still fighting for their lives, including a Lakewood agent.”