DENVER – A Colorado police officer and a tattoo shop employee were in the hospital Thursday after a gunman injured them and fatally shot five others in a Denver-area killing spree that he foreshadowed in a dark series of self-published books.
Ashley Ferris, a three-year veteran of the Lakewood Police Department, underwent surgery at a local hospital and was in stable condition, surrounded by family, police said. Ferris confronted the gunman Monday evening in a busy Lakewood shopping district, where he shot her in the abdomen. Ferris, on the ground, fired back, killing the man.
“All of us at the Lakewood Police Department are incredibly proud of Agent Ferris and the bravery shown by her and her fellow law enforcement officers during this active shooter situation,” Lakewood Police Chief Dan McCasky said in a statement Wednesday evening. “The entire Lakewood family will be here to support Agent Ferris and her family as she embarks on this recovery process.”
DENVER SHOOTING:Company published series of books that mirrored deadly rampage, named 2 victims
Jimmy Maldonado, a piercer at one of the tattoo shops targeted in the attack, was shot in the neck and shoulder area and remains in the hospital, he told the Denver Gazette on Wednesday.
His wife, former yoga instructor Alyssa Gunn Maldonado, 35, was killed in the shooting, along with four other people: tattoo artists Alicia Cardenas, 44, and Danny Schofield, 38; hotel clerk Sarah Steck, 28; and Michael Swinyard, 67.
Two of the shooter’s victims were named in a series of books published by a company he once owned. Authorities on Tuesday identified the gunman as Lyndon James McLeod, 47.
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.
A business by the same name published a series of three books from 2018 to 2020, according to an Amazon listing for the series and a Patreon link to an audiobook version, which were taken down Wednesday.
In the books, a main character named “Lyndon James MacLeod” brutally murders people inside a tattoo parlor along the same street as one of the shootings Monday, as well as a man named Michael Swinyard in a condo building near Denver’s Cheesman Park, where another of the shootings happened, according to a USA TODAY review of the books.
The character alsomurders a woman named Alicia Cardenas. He targets two more people with the same first names of two employees of Cardenas’ tattoo parlor, as well as a man with the same full name as another Denver-area tattoo artist who wasn’t killed in the attacks. The book also includes characters identified only as “Sarah” and “Danny.”
One of the tattoo parlors targeted in the shooting, World Tattoo Studio, now operates at the same Denver address listed for Flat Black Ink. World Tattoo owner Ian Lütz told USA TODAY that one of the victims, Cardenas, previously owned the shop.
Denver Police are “aware” of the book series, which has become “a component of our ongoing homicide investigation,” the department told USA TODAY in a statement Wednesday.
McLeod was known to law enforcement and officers investigated him from mid-2020 to early 2021, Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen told reporters Tuesday. Neither investigation resulted in criminal charges, Pazen said. He would not give further details about the incidents.
McLeod had “personal” or “business” relationships with nearly all of the victims and “was targeting specific people,” Matt Clark, Denver police commander of the Major Crimes Division, said.
The incidents erupted Monday evening in Denver, Clark said, when the gunman fatally shot Gunn Maldonado and Cardenas and wounded Maldonado inside Sol Tribe Tattoo & Piercing. Maldonado hid under a car in a parking lot after he was shot, he told the Denver Gazette.
Minutes later, at an address at or near another tattoo parlor, World Tattoo Studio, McLeod shot at people inside a hybrid residence-business, but no one was injured, Clark said. He then set a van on fire in the alley behind the business, Clark said.
Police received a call about the shooting, then another call minutes later, Clark said, after McLeod fatally shot Swinyard in his residence at One Cheesman Park.
McLeod was dressed as “a police officer in tactical gear with a police logo and badge and carrying a rifle” when he entered the lobby of the condo building, according to an email sent from property management to residents and obtained by USA TODAY.
Building manager Joshua Schroeder, who signed the email, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Asked about the email, a spokesperson for Denver police said the department was “unable to provide further details” about the investigation.
Officers located McLeod minutes after he shot Swinyard and exchanged gunfire, but McLeod disabled the officers’ car and took off onto the highway, Clark said.
McLeod drove to Lakewood and fatally shot Schofield inside Lucky 13 Tattoo & Piercing, Lakewood Police spokesman John Romero said.
Romero said Lakewood police agents later found McLeod’s vehicle near or at a Wells Fargo bank in a busy shopping district, and officers exchanged gunfire before McLeod fled. The gunman then entered a nearby restaurant, where he threatened people with a gun but did not fire any shots or injure anyone, Romero said.
McLeod went around the corner to the nearby Hyatt House hotel, walked inside, had a “brief conversation” with the front desk worker, Steck, and shot her several times, Romero said.
Less than two minutes later, McLeod was walking through a shopping center when he encountered Ferris.
Steck, who worked at the Hyatt, was taken to the hospital Monday and died from her injuries Tuesday, police said. Police said McLeod had “previous interactions with the hotel” but not Steck, specifically.
Travis Leiker, president of Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods, told USA TODAY he was in a meeting at his organization’s office and community center next to One Cheesman Park when he heard the gunshots Monday.
“I heard a pop, pop, pop,” Leiker said. First responders arrived within minutes and later taped off the area, Leiker said.
“The mood in Denver is of shock and concern,” he said. “There is a fear of not feeling safe in our neighborhoods.”
Leiker said he was recently informed of the existence of McLeod’s books from a reporter. Leiker said it was strange to read the gunman’s detailed description of the alleyway near the condo building and his organization’s community center.
He said it was “abundantly clear” there was a “breakdown of communication” between law enforcement and residents and that residents should have been informed of the “looming or potential threat.”
“Why or how were specific people and properties named in a manifesto, including those near our own community center, and none of us knew anything about it?” Leiker said. Leiker said he had reached out to police and city officials for more information.
Members of the Colorado tattooing and body piercing community said they were shocked by the shootings and grieving the losses of beloved friends and colleagues. Several described Cardenas, one of the victims, as a groundbreaker who paved the way for women and people of color in the industry.
Cardenas was a tattooer, mural artist and cultural anthropologist who owned Sol Tribe Tattoo & Piercing, according to the shop’s website. The website describes Cardenas as a “true Denver Native” and a “proud Indigenous artist.” She is survived by her 12-year-old daughter.
Maldonado is an Aztec dancer and Denver activist who works as a piercer at Sol Tribe, according to the shop’s website. His late wife, Gunn Maldonado, taught yoga at Sol Shine in Denver, according to a post on its Facebook page. She also said on her Instagram that she was a doula in Denver.
Schofield, another fatal victim, was a tattoo artist and Colorado native, according to the Lucky 13 website. He had been tattooing for about 15 years, according to the site. He was also known as Dano Blair. Schofield leaves behind three young children.
The Lakewood Police Department said it was setting up a resource center Thursday for anyone “affected by the senseless tragedy.” Trauma resources and mental health therapists would be available across from the Hyatt House, where Steck was killed, police said.
Denver and Lakewood police were also encouraging people to donate to a Colorado Healing Fund for the victims of the shootings. The fund was founded in 2018 in an effort to contribute to victims of mass casualty crimes in Colorado.
Monday’s rampage 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.
Contributing: Bill Keveney, USA TODAY
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