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 five people killed Monday night after a person 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.
Cardenas; Danny Schofield, 38; and Sarah Steck, 28, were among the five people killed by the shooter. Police did not release the identities of the other two fatal victims. The shooter, Lyndon James McLeod, 47, was also killed in a gunfight with police. Two others, including a police officer whose identity has not yet been released, were injured in the shootings, Denver and Lakewood police said at a joint press conference Tuesday.
The “very violent series of events” across multiple locations began in Denver on Monday evening and ended in nearby Lakewood, Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen at a press conference late Monday.
The victims at and near the tattoo shops were previously known to the shooter, police said Tuesday. McLeod also had previous interactions with the Hyatt hotel where he shot and killed Steck, who was a clerk there.
Surveillance video provided by a nearby business owner to USA TODAY and taken Monday night shows a dark-colored van pulling up outside Lucky 13 in Lakewood, one of five known shooting locations. A man who appeared to be carrying a firearm steps out of the van, leaving the door open and the engine apparently running and walks calmly into the tattoo shop. He walks out 10 seconds later, climbs into the van and drives away.
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. Alfredo 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, including Lucky 13 in Lakewood. Jake Bray, 37, who works at 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 that he was “deeply disturbed” by the violence.
“Tragedies like this, especially in the midst of the holidays, are deeply unsettling,” Polis said. “My administration is working with local law enforcement to understand what happened last evening and provide the needed support throughout the investigation.”
Here’s what we know:
Six people died, including the shooter, authorities said. Two people were injured, including a police officer.
Alicia 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 beloved pioneer in the world of tattooing. “She accepted everybody, especially those on the fringes,” her dad told USA TODAY.
Denver resident Patrick Anderson, 50, described Cardenas as a wise friend who hosted a Dia de Los Muertos ceremony every year. “She is one of the wisest and most caring individuals I have ever met,” Anderson told USA TODAY.
Schofield, another victim, was a tattoo artist and Colorado native, according to the Lucky 13 Tattoo and Piercing website. He had been tattooing for about 15 years, according to the site. He was also known as Dano Blair.
On Tuesday afternoon, Annie Bagford and her husband sipped Monster energy drinks outside the Lucky 13 tattoo parlor In Lakewood, tears rolling down their cheeks. Bagford said Schofield loved Monster, so they came to his shop to share one last drink, as a candle flickered in the afternoon sun.
Schofield leaves behind three young children, said Bagford, showing off her tattoos he’d crafted over the years. Bagford met Schofield through his sister in high school.
“I’m just so angry,” Bagford said.
“Danny never did wrong to anybody. He didn’t deserve to be shot. It makes no sense. It’s just just so unfair to his kids, to his family.”
Steck, who worked at the Hyatt, died from her injuries Tuesday in the hospital, police said.
“A terrible, heartbreaking and senseless act of gun violence stole the lives of several members of our community last night and injured others,” Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said in a statement. “I’m praying for those lives lost, the victims and their families.”
The “killing spree” began just after 5 p.m. in Denver, Pazen said. At a first location, the attacker fatally shot two women and injured a man, he said. At a second shooting location, the assailant 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 shooter and exchanged gunfire with them at a fourth location. Pazen said the shooter disabled the police vehicle and fled to the nearby suburb of Lakewood.
Lakewood police received a call of shots fired at a business just before 6 p.m., and the victim was pronounced dead, said police spokesman John Romero.
Lakewood agents identified the shooter’s car, but McLeod started shooting at the agents and left on foot, Romero said.
The attacker then threatened another business with a firearm before entering a Hyatt hotel and shooting the clerk, Steck, who was taken to a hospital, he said. She died Tuesday.
The attacker left, shooting a Lakewood police agent in the process. The Lakewood agent, awoman who was not identified, continued to fire at the suspect after being shot. She shot and killed McLeod, Romero said.
Authorities have not announced McLeod’s motive, but said he had some connection to all of his victims.
Pazen also said McLeod was previously on police’s radar, with two investigations into incidents from mid-2020 and early 2021. Pazen said neither investigation resulted in criminal charges, and would not give further details about those incidents.
“This is not an unknown party to us,” Pazen said.
A tattoo industry connection to McLeod’s shooting rampage seems likely, with the owner of a tattoo studio operating from the site of a one-time McLeod business saying he purchased the place from Alicia Cardenas.
World Tattoo Studio owner Ian Lütz said he had never heard of McLeod before he was identified by police as the shooter. According to Colorado state business records, McLeod was the owner of Flat Black Ink, a Denver business that opened in 2005, was declared delinquent in 2017 and was listed as having a name change in 2018.
World Tattoo now operates at the same Denver address that was listed for Flat Black Ink.
“Yeah, I have no prior knowledge of really the history of the shop before my owning it. I know that Alicia owned it and it was sort of a secondary Sol Tribe,” Lütz told USA TODAY. “That’s about all I know about the history of it. I’ve had the shop for about four-and-a-half years now.”
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: Bill Keveney and Celina Tebor, USA TODAY.
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