Beloved Denver tattoo artist Alicia Cardenas among the victims of metro area mass shooting

Five people have died and several more were injured after the rampage that spanned across Denver and Lakewood.
6 min. read
Alicia Cardenas, owner of Sol Tribe Tattoo and Body Piercing, stands in her Broadway shop as her kid, Xochitl, plays on a silk behind her. April 22, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Denver tattoo artist and muralist Alicia Cardenas died after a man opened fire at the tattoo shop she owned, Sol Tribe Custom Tattoo and Body Piercing, on 1st and Broadway, her father, Alfredo Cardenas, confirmed Tuesday.

Five other people died in the shooting, which spanned across Denver and Lakewood, and two people were injured. Joey Black, the owner of the Lucky 13 Tattoo and Piercing in Lakewood, confirmed on his Facebook page that tattoo artist Danny "Dano" Scofield died after the gunman opened fire in the 1500 block of Kipling Street. Police said Sarah Steck, a hotel clerk, died Tuesday after being shot at the Hyatt House hotel in Belmar. On Wednesday, the Office of the Medical Examiner identified Michael Swinyard as the fifth victim. Swinyard was shot in his condo near Cheesman Park.

Police said the shooter, Lyndon James Mcleod, 47, knew some of the victims and had been investigated by police in recent years, although they declined to elaborate. A responding Lakewood police officer shot and killed Mcleod.

Cardenas was a force in the body art scene and a rising presence in the street art world.

In the '90s, she was a proponent of tattoo shops confronting bloodborne pathogens head on. She was an Indigenous activist who incorporated sacred geometry and social criticism in her work.

Alfredo Cardenas said she leaves behind a 12-year-old child.

On Tuesday morning, Cardenas's father, Alfredo Cardenas, placed a votive candle in the doorway of the business and spoke about his daughter’s life and work.
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
A sidewalk memorial began to grow outside Sol Tribe Custom Tattoo and Body Piercing. Cardenas's father, Alfredo Cardenas, placed a votive candle of the Virgen de Guadalupe there.
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Law enforcement officers on Broadway near 1st Avenue in Denver on December 28, 2021, near Sol Tribe Custom Tattoo and Body Piercing.
Jeremy Sparig
Members of law enforcement have a discussion in the lobby of One Cheesman Place on Williams Street in Denver, December 28, 2021. It’s one of numerous places across Denver and Lakewood where a shooter opened fire killing four people before being killed in the Belmar section of Lakewood.
Jeremy Sparig

In recent years, Cardenas collaborated with the women and nonbinary street-art festival Babe Walls and Crush Walls, where she painted a mural criticizing patriarchy in the mural scene.

Members of the tattoo and street art scenes have taken to social media to honor Cardenas. Her friend, artist and activist Jeff Campbell, told us she was a matriarch of the arts and body modification communities.

"She was someone who taught and mentored so many artists in this town and a lover of art and a supporter of people living in their creative self-expression," Campbell said. "She was a powerful healer and was a person you can rely on to hold you accountable. Definitely, you know, lovingly tell the truth when things were not in alignment. She was as authentic as it can be."

Mourners gathered at Lucky 13 on Tuesday and remembered Scofield as a loving father.

"I'm so angry," Annie Bagford whispered as she peered through the glass of Lucky 13. She could just make out what appeared to be blood on the floor near where her friend worked.

"He was literally the nicest person on this planet. Never did wrong to anybody. Nobody," Bagford said of Scofield, whom she's known since she was a high schooler in Thornton.

She rolled up her sleeve to show a cartoonish hippocampus, one of several that Scofield had tattooed on her.

"How many hours did we spend in this shop?" she asked her husband, Brandon Schechter.

"So many," he responded.

Lobby doors were locked at the Hyatt House in the Belmar shopping center in Lakewood Tuesday morning. A sign posted said "for the safety of our guests, please use a key card to enter."

After shooting Cardenas and others in Denver, Mcleod entered the Hyatt House hotel in Belmar, where he shot Steck, police said.

Mcleod attempted to flee but encountered a Lakewood officer. Gunfire was exchanged and the officer, who police have not publicly identified, was hit. She returned fire at Mcleod, killing him at the scene. The officer underwent surgery and is expected to survive, police said.

Hyatt House management did not return our request for comment.

Across the street from Hyatt House on Tuesday, cleanup crews swept up broken glass from business windows. Hotel guests carried luggage to their cars in the hotel parking lot. Belmar businesses were open.

Members of law enforcement have a discussion in the lobby of Hyatt House, 7310 West Alaska Drive, Lakewood, on December 28, 2021, after a gunman was killed after fatally shooting four people and wounding several others including a police officer.
Jeremy Sparig
Members of Lakewood Sheriff's Department at Hyatt House in Lakewood, on December 28, 2021.
Jeremy Sparig
Members of Lakewood Sheriff's Department at Hyatt House in Lakewood, on December 28, 2021.
Jeremy Sparig

Thomas Wallace walked to his car around 10 a.m. with his German shepherd, Chief. He said he drove 9 hours from Florida on Monday with his mom as part of a move to Lakewood. The two checked in a few hours before the shooting took place.

Around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wallace left to grab a few things at Walgreens, he said. When he was out, his mom called him from their room, saying she could hear gunshots outside.

She texted him a picture of police cars parked outside their hotel room window. In the photo, he could see a body on the street.

"I told her to stay low," he said. "Then the police cleared the area and started bringing everyone down to the lobby and questioning people."

Wallace waited in a nearby Whole Foods parking lot until around 11:30 p.m., he said, when he was allowed back inside his hotel room.

"I'm trying not to think about it too much," he said. "It's a real danger but you can't walk around with fear all the time."

Jayce Oglesby, another guest, said he was grabbing some food from his hotel room fridge Monday evening when he heard shots around 6:30 p.m. He and his brother were visiting the area from Houston.

"We were just thinking it's something far away," he said. "I didn't think it was that close."

He walked down to the lobby to find law enforcement officers and about 30 guests being questioned, he said. After around 45 minutes, a hotel staff member told guests to return to their rooms. They received no further information.

Oglesby's mom called to make sure he and his brother were alright, he said.

"My momma, she was really worried," he said.

Andy Kenney contributed reporting to this story.

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