DENVER (AP) – A man accused of killing five people in a riot in Denver is believed to have written fictional books self-published online, naming some of his real victims and describing similar attacks.
The writings are part of the investigation into what prompted Lyndon James McLeod to carry out the shootings, which took place in less than an hour Monday in several locations around the subway area, Denver Police spokesman Doug Schepman said Wednesday.
McLeod, 47, knew most of the people he shot through business or personal circumstances, police said. Four of the shooters were attacked in tattoo shops. In addition to those killed, two other people were injured, including a police officer who shot and killed McLeod after being hit.
In the first novel, written under a pen name by Roman McClay, a character named Lyndon pursues a poker party hosted by a character named “Michael Swinyard” and gains access to a building near Cheesman Park by pretending to be a police officer. He then fatally shoots everyone to the party and robs them before fleeing with his dog in a van.
In Monday’s attack, Michael Swinyard, 67, was fatally shot in a home near Denver’s Cheesman Park, police said.
In his second novel, which also features a character named Lyndon, McClay mentions Alicia Cardenas as a victim. The book also mentions the tattoo shop she owned, Sol Tribe.
Alicia Cardenas, a 44-year-old tattoo artist, was among his first victims in Monday’s vandalism. She was killed in her tattoo shop along with another woman, Alyssa Gunn, 35. A man who was also injured there is expected to survive, police said. He was identified by friends and clients as Gunnar’s husband, James Maldonado, a piercer there.
This store is less than a mile (1.6 kilometers) from a tattoo shop that McLeod was listed as a tenant for between 2014 and 2016. Cardenas later took it over before moving the store to its current location, city records show.
McLeod was not licensed to work as a tattoo artist or even run a tattoo business in Denver, according to city records, a spokesman for Denver’s licensing agency, Eric Escudero, said Wednesday.
Cardenas, whose daughter is 12 years old, described herself as a “proud native artist” who also painted murals.
Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen said during a news conference Tuesday that McLeod was on the radar of law enforcement and had been investigated in both 2020 and 2021. He declined to say what McLeod was being investigated for, but said no charges were filed against him.
Matt Clark, head of the Denver Police Department’s Major Crimes Division, said McLeod knew most of the people he attacked, but not the last person he shot – a clerk at a hotel in Lakewood’s Belmar shopping area. But McLeod had had some connections with the hotel, Clark said.
Hotel clerk, 28-year-old Sarah Steck, died of her injuries Tuesday.
Steck graduated this year from Metropolitan State University with a bachelor’s degree in art in communications design. She was known among her staff at the hotel for her infectious laughter and love of kittens, art and music, The Denver Post reported.
Shortly after the shooting at Cardenas’ store, McLeod forced his way into a residence that is also home to a business. The city’s records show that it is licensed as a tattoo parlor. He chased residents through the building and fired shots, but no one was injured, Clark said. Then he shot and killed Swinyard near Cheesman Park, Clark said.
Denver police later chased the vehicle believed to have been involved in the shootings and an officer exchanged shots with McLeod, Clark said. McLeod was able to escape and fled into Lakewood, after shots disabled the officer’s crosses, he said.
Just before 6 p.m., the Lakewood Police Department received a report of shots fired at the Lucky 13 tattoo shop. Danny Scofield, 38, was killed there, Lakewood police spokesman John Romero said.
Scofield was the father of three, according to a website that raised money for his family.
When officers spotted the car suspected of being involved in the shooting in the Belmar shopping area – where shops along sidewalks in a modern version of a downtown area – McLeod opened fire, and officers fired back, Romero said. He ran away and allegedly threatened some people at a restaurant with a gun before going to the Hyatt House hotel, where he spoke briefly with Steck before shooting her, he said.
About a minute later, Lakewood police officer Ashley Ferris saw McLeod and ordered him to drop his weapon. She was shot in the stomach, but shot back and killed the gunman.
Ferris underwent surgery Monday night and is expected to recover completely.
“I can not stress enough the heroic actions of our Lakewood police officer,” Romero said during a news conference Tuesday. “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.”
Associated Press writer Mead Gruver contributed to this report.