‘Gunshot after gunshot’: Police, witnesses detail mass shooting that killed 5 at tattoo shops and a condo building in Denver, Lakewood

They said the suspect had previously been investigated by local law enforcement.
8 min. read
Members of Lakewood Sheriff’s Department at Hyatt House, 7310 West Alaska Drive, Lakewood, on December 28, 2021, after a gunman was killed after fatally shooting five people and wounding several others including a police officer during a shooting spree in Denver and Lakewood.
Jeremy Sparig

The man who carried out a series of fatal shootings in commercial and residential areas across the Denver metro area Monday night appears to have targeted people he knew, police said Tuesday.

They said the suspect had previously been investigated by local law enforcement.

"Based on what we know, it appears that the offender was targeting specific people in this case. The victims were known to the offender," said Denver police chief Paul Pazen.

Lyndon James Mcleod, 47, killed five people and injured several others, including a police officer, before he was shot and killed by police.

Mcleod drove through downtown Denver and west into Lakewood, stopping several times to attack people and twice escaping police in a rampage that ended in a shootout on the streets of the suburban Belmar shopping district.

"This individual was on the radar of law enforcement," Pazen said.

Pazen offered few details of Mcleod's history, but said his department had investigated the suspected gunman twice over the past year. Neither effort resulted in any legal action.

"All of this information is part of the ongoing investigation to help us get to a motive," Pazen said. "We need to keep the victims and their families in our thoughts and in our hearts ... They are suffering."

The shootings upended the lives of countless metro-area residents. Witnesses described seeing a middle-aged gunman and a major law-enforcement response at several locations Mcleod targeted, including at least two tattoo shops, a condo building and a hotel.

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 was the first victim to be publicly identified.

Cardenas was the owner of Sol Tribe Custom Tattoo and Body Piercing. Her family and friends described her as a beloved collaborator to many in Denver's arts community. 

On Tuesday morning, her father, Alfredo Cardenas, lit a votive candle in her honor outside her tattoo shop at 1st Avenue and Broadway.

"She was a very determined person who knew where she was going, and a fine artist," Cardenas said. "We're still absorbing it."

One of Cardenas' coworkers, who hasn't been publicly identified, also was killed at Sol Tribe, and a third person was wounded at the shop and is now in the hospital, police said.

Another victim, Michael Swinyard, died after being shot at a residential building near Cheesman Park, police said.

Police confirmed that Danny Scofield, a 38-year-old tattoo artist and a father, was killed at the Lucky 13 tattoo shop in Lakewood.

"I'm so angry," whispered Annie Bagford, a friend, as she peered in the window of the Lakewood shop. "Danny did not deserve to be killed. He was a good dad. He was a good uncle. He was a good person."

Police confirmed that Sarah Steck, a 28-year-old hotel clerk, died after being shot by Mcleod at the Hyatt House hotel in Belmar.

Pazen said that all of the victims except for Steck appear to have been intentionally targeted by the suspect.

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 five people and wounding several others including a police officer during a shooting spree in Denver and Lakewood.
Jeremy Sparig

The gunman appeared to first target Sol Tribe, at about 5:25 p.m.

He then drove about a half-mile north, to the 200 block of West 6th Avenue, where he forced his way into a small residential building and chased its occupants through an adjoining business while firing his gun. No one was injured, but a van was destroyed by fire in the building's rear parking lot; police say it appears that Mcleod was responsible.

The suspect then appears to have driven about 2.5 miles northeast through the city before shooting and killing Swinyard inside of his residence," near the north side of Cheesman Park at about 5:45 p.m., according to Denver police.  Three bullet holes could be seen later in the glass lobby door of a condo building, One Cheesman Place.

At about 5:50 p.m., police officers in an unmarked vehicle spotted Mcleod's black van. After they chased him to the intersection of 8th Avenue and Zuni Street, Mcleod turned around and opened fire, disabling their vehicle and escaping, police said.

The suspect then took a nearby ramp onto Interstate 25 and, within about ten minutes, drove to the Lucky 13 tattoo parlor on Kipling Street in a strip mall in Lakewood.

Venika Ladaprasnkul was sweeping the floor of the neighboring Thai Diamond Cafe when she heard several loud gunshots, she said. The waitress looked out the restaurant's front window, she said, and saw a man carrying a "huge black gun" walking out of the Lucky 13 tattoo shop toward a black van with tinted windows.

"I said, 'He has a gun, he has a gun!'" Ladaprasnkul recalled. The shooter had only been in the shop for about 10 seconds, according to video from a neighboring liquor store.

Ladaprasnkul told her customers to shelter in place. After the gunman drove off, a group of them walked toward the tattoo shop, and she saw a man lying inside the shop.

The gunman had "walked, opened the door, and shot," she said. "How come you can do this -- just walk and shoot someone?"

One shot had gone through the wall of the back of the Thai restaurant. There had also been several customers inside the tattoo shop, she added.

Law enforcement officers on Broadway near 1st Avenue in Denver on December 28, 2021, near Sol Tribe Custom Tattoo and Body Piercing, owned by tattoo artist and muralist Alicia Cardenas.
Jeremy Sparig

From there, the gunman drove south. Lakewood police agents spotted him near the Wells Fargo bank at the north end of the Belmar shopping center, where he again opened fire on police and escaped. At about 6:10 p.m., he parked and entered the Hyatt House hotel, which was full with guests for the evening. He shot a clerk, Steck, who later died, police said.

The suspect attempted to flee but encountered a Lakewood officer, who ordered him to drop his weapon. The suspect shot the officer in the abdomen. The officer "courageously ... was able to somehow compose herself," and returned fire, fatally shooting the suspect and ending his rampage, said John Romero, public information officer for the Lakewood Police Department.

The officer went to the hospital for surgery and was doing well on Tuesday evening, though more surgeries were expected, police said.

"Again, 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 neutralized the threat."

Anne Wilson and her husband, Kyle Rodarte, were shopping in a nearby Xfinity store at the time. They saw flashing emergency lights, then heard a single apparent gunshot -- followed by a much more intense volley.

"You heard just, you know, gunshot after gunshot," she said, estimating that she heard 20 shots fired. A large window of the Xfinity store was broken, she said, but none of the rounds seemed to penetrate the building. Employees of the store also were injured.

Thomas Wallace had checked into the hotel with his mother and German shepherd, Chief, several hours before. He said he drove nine hours on Monday as part of a move from Florida to Lakewood

Around 6:30 p.m., 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," Wallace said. "Then the police cleared the area and started bringing everyone down to the lobby and questioning people."

Wilson also said that she later saw the body of the apparent shooter lying in the middle of the intersection of South Vance Street and West Alaska Drive, surrounded by what seemed to be shell casings and evidence markers.

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. "(Shootings) are 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 gunshots outside 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.

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