Joshua Cummings charged with first-degree murder in shooting of RTD guard as the motive remains under investigation

A 37-year-old man accused of killing a Denver transit guard appeared briefly in court Friday under heavy security.
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Joshua A. Cummings (Denver Police Department)

By Colleen Slevin, Associated Press

DENVER (AP) — A man accused of walking up behind a Denver transit guard and shooting him on a street corner was charged with first-degree murder on Friday as authorities said they continued to investigate the slaying.

Joshua Cummings, 37, was advised of the charge filed against him in the death of Scott Von Lanken during a brief court appearance. He wore a red jail jumpsuit and had his arms and legs shackled as he faced Judge Martin Egelhoff. His left eye was less swollen than when he was arrested, a problem believed to have been caused by an infection.

He answered "Yes sir" when the judge asked him if he understood his rights. He hasn't been asked to enter a plea yet.

Before he was led away Cummings, a Texas-born convert to Islam, asked his lawyer for help getting a Quran, saying jail officials had been "dragging their feet."

After the hearing, Denver District Attorney Beth McCann declined to say whether investigators had found a motive for the shooting, saying the case was still being investigated. She also would not comment on whether federal authorities appropriately responded to concerns raised by members of mosques Cummings attended in Texas and Colorado about hard-line comments.

A leader at a Denver area mosque emailed the Department of Homeland Security to say a man identifying himself only as a Muslim convert named Joshua, from Pampa, Texas, made worrisome statements during a Dec. 24 lunch and at an earlier event, according to a redacted copy of the email released Thursday by Qusair Mohamedbhai, an attorney for the mosque. At an open house earlier in December, Joshua publicly rebuked a speaker "as being soft" on Shariah law, the email said.

Neither police nor the FBI have addressed whether his alleged radicalization played a role in the killing. Police have said they were looking at whether Von Lanken, who was armed and wearing a dark blue uniform similar to those worn by police, could have been targeted because he was a member of law enforcement.

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