'Heroic' officer ended deadly Colo. shooting spree: How it all played out
A shooting spree across two cities left five people dead, including the gunman
By Jon Murray and Joe Rubino
The Denver Post
LAKEWOOD, Colo. — When a gunman opened fire inside a Broadway tattoo parlor Monday night, the shooting spree that would zigzag through Denver and Lakewood was just getting started.
Less than an hour later, the rampage ended with his death on the streets of Lakewood's upscale Belmar shopping district, as the final gunfight with a police officer — herself injured — shattered a pizza restaurant's two large windows, sending shocked diners diving for cover behind overturned tables.
"One of my pizza cooks was crawling on the ground, coming around the corner," said Tyler Gunderson, the front-of-the-house manager for The Rock Wood-Fired Pizza on West Alaska Place, east of Wadsworth Boulevard.
When it was all over, five of the victims in Monday's shooting spree had died and another two had sustained serious injuries, including the officer, in one of the most unusual, confounding multiple-victim shootings the metro area has seen.
Lyndon James McLeod, 47, was identified by police as the gunman Tuesday. He was reported by a lobby security guard at one condo building in Denver to be wearing clothing that impersonated "a police officer in tactical gear with a police logo and badge and carrying a rifle," according to an email sent Tuesday to residents of One Cheesman Place.
While still investigating Tuesday, authorities publicly withheld any ideas they had about McLeod's motives. But where he aimed his gun did not appear to be random: Among the victims were four shot inside tattoo parlors, both at the one in Denver and at another miles away in Lakewood.
"The victims were known to the offender," Denver Police Department Commander Matt Clark said, though in one case, he added, his targeting was based on an apparent grudge with a hotel in the Belmar district. There he shot a woman who happened to be working the front desk, just minutes before his own death. The clerk died Tuesday.
Denver police received the first 911 call about violence on Broadway near First Avenue at 5:25 p.m., Clark said. They arrived at Sol Tribe Custom Tattoo and Body Piercing to find two victims inside: owner Alicia Cardenas, 44, and Alyssa Gunn Maldonado, who both died.
Alyssa's husband, Jimmy Maldonado, a piercer at Sol Tribe, was injured and had escaped onto the street, Clark said. He was in critical condition Tuesday night. All three were identified to The Post by family and friends.
Within minutes, police received a report of a new crime scene — where the gunman had forced entry into a home near West Sixth Avenue and Bannock Street. A nearby van also was set on fire, he said.
"He pursued the occupants through the residence, which is also a part of a business," Clark said, but they escaped unharmed.
The gunman set off again.
His next target was the 19-story condo building overlooking Cheesman Park, just south of East 13th Avenue at North Williams Street.
The email sent to residents of One Cheesman Place by building management outlined what building managers understood to have happened. The gunman showed up wearing the police gear and carrying the rifle, the email says, and the security guard in the lobby cooperated with his demands by escorting him to a floor of the building he requested — where the gunman "forced himself into the unit and committed the shooting."
One man was killed, police said, but his identity hasn't been released. The security guard "escaped to another unit and called 911," the email said.
Back down in the lobby, the gunman fired his gun to exit through the secured door. On Tuesday morning, three bullet holes, labeled with evidence markers, left a pattern of web-like cracks running up one of the glass doors.
DPD declined to confirm the details in the management company's letter, citing the early stages of the investigation.
Travis Leiker, the president and executive director of Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods, an advocacy group for the area, said he was in the group's headquarters just across Williams Street on Monday night, leading an online meeting, when he heard those gunshots.
"I think within two or three minutes DPD and other first responders had made their way over to the property," Leiker said. He found out from news reports later that night that someone had been killed in the building. On Tuesday, he voiced frustration with DPD's slow release of information on the spree, which had rattled nearby residents.
By the time police arrived, the gunman was long gone, heading back west.
But just minutes later, at 5:49 p.m., other Denver police officers in an unmarked car spotted the Ford Econoline van he was reported to be driving on West 13th Avenue near Interstate 25, Clark said.
After an exchange of gunfire at a dead-end at West Eighth Avenue and Zuni Street, he said, the gunman escaped onto I-25 after firing shots that "disabled" the police vehicle.
His next stop: Lucky 13 Tattoo and Piercing, a shop in a shopping center at Kipling Street and West Colfax Avenue in Lakewood. At 5:58 p.m., security video from the adjacent In and Out Liquor store recorded the gunman stopping his van in the drive lane, walking into the store holding what looks like a gun. He exited just 10 seconds later, driving off.
In that time, he shot and killed tattoo artist Danny "Dano" Scofield, 38, according to Lakewood Police Department spokesman John Romero.
Venika Ladaprasankul, a waitress at the Thai Diamond Cafe next door, told The Post that she saw the van and heard three rapid gunshots as she was sweeping the floor at the front of the restaurant. She said the black van peeled out of the parking lot onto Kipling and went the wrong way in the northbound lanes, setting off a chorus of car horns from other drivers.
"I understand now when people say you can't move," she said Tuesday morning, describing herself as frozen in place in the aftermath. "We heard a bang, bang, bang — so loud."
The gunman drove about four miles southeast, to the Belmar shopping district. Lakewood police agents spotted his van at 6:04 p.m. near a Wells Fargo Bank branch at West Alameda Avenue and South Teller Street, Romero said, and attempted to stop him.
Police and the gunman exchanged fire, Romero said, and he eluded capture once again. He abandoned the van nearby and walked briefly into a Ted's Montana Grill, just south of the bank, displaying his gun but not firing it. Then he walked deeper into Belmar, a newer development of movie theaters, big-box stores and urban buildings fronting walkable streets that have large parking lots and garages behind them.
About three blocks away, near the corner of South Vance Street and West Alaska Drive, he entered the Hyatt House hotel, Romero said.
The gunman "had a very brief conversation with the front desk worker," Romero said. "He then shot the front desk worker several times."
Sarah Steck, 28, was hospitalized and died of her injuries on Tuesday, he said.
Nearby diners and shoppers sought cover as the gunshots rang out. Within two minutes, McLeod was confronted by another Lakewood police agent on the street nearby.
After she ordered him to drop the gun, Romero said, he approached her and opened fire, hitting her once, in the abdomen, as other shots shattered the pizza restaurant's windows. The police agent then shot him, killing him. Police have not yet identified the agent.
"I can't overemphasize enough the heroic actions of our Lakewood police agent," Romero said. "In the face of being shot, in the face of danger, she was able to not only save others from this terrible tragedy but also neutralize the threat."
(c)2021 The Denver Post