A gunman who killed five people and injured two others in a series of shootings in Denver is believed to have targeted the victims based on previous personal and business dealings and was investigated by police twice in the last two years.
Denver police said that Lyndon James McLeod, 47, who was also killed in the deadly rampage on Monday night, knew most of the victims and was “on the radar of law enforcement”.
Matt Clark, the commander of Denver police’s major crimes division, said: “Based on what we know, it does appear that the offender was targeting specific people in this case. The victims were known to the offender.”
He is not believed to have known the last person he shot, a hotel clerk, but police said she may have been targeted owing to a dispute with the hotel.
Denver’s police chief, Paul Pazen, said McLeod had been investigated in 2020 and early 2021 but that charges had not been filed against him. These investigations “will be part of this ongoing investigation into this violent crime spree”, he said.
He said it was too soon to identify a motive for the killings.
The shootings, which started at about 5.30pm, took place across several locations in and around the Colorado capital. McLeod exchanged gunfire with police, injuring an officer, and was killed after he was shot by an officer in a busy shopping district in Lakewood, a Denver suburb.
According to records from the Colorado secretary of state’s office, McLeod previously owned a business in Denver called Flat Black Ink Corp at an address that is now World Tattoo Studio.
The first shooting was at a tattoo shop less than a mile from the address of his former business and four of the victims were shot at two tattoo shops in the Denver area.
The first shootings were in central Denver on Broadway, a busy street with bars and restaurants, where he killed two women and injured a man, who, police said, is expected to survive.
He then forced his way into a home, which is also a business, and chased its occupants through the building while shooting, but nobody was injured. A man was then shot and killed at a home near Cheesman Park, also in Denver.
Police later chased a vehicle believed to be involved in the shootings and an officer exchanged gunfire with McLeod but he got away and went to Lakewood. Shortly before 6pm, Lakewood police received a report of shots fired at the Lucy 13 tattoo shop. Police said that a man, who they identified as Danny Schofield, 38, was killed there.
After his car was spotted at the Belmar shopping area, McLeod opened fire at police and officers shot back, after which he ran away, allegedly threatened people in a restaurant, and went to the Hyatt House hotel, where he spoke briefly to a hotel clerk, who has been named as Sarah Steck, 28, and shot her. She was later pronounced dead.
Approximately a minute later, a Lakewood police officer, who has not been named, saw him and ordered him to drop his weapon and he shot her in the abdomen. The officer, who is in hospital in a stable condition, then returned fire, shooting McLeod and killing him.
A victim of the first shooting was identified by family members as Alicia Cardenas, 44, the owner of Sol Tribe tattoo shop.
Alfredo Cardenas told KMGH-TV that she owned her first tattoo shop when she was 19 years old and had worked in the area for 15 to 20 years.
“Very gregarious, very friendly, but she was a very determined person,” he said. “She knew where she was going.” He said that she is survived by a 12-year-old child.
Her fiance, Daniel Clelland, speaking outside her shop where people have placed candles and flowers, said: “I don’t know why someone would do this.”