Suspect in Denver shootings wrote books previewing attacks

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Lights and sirens are seen atop a patrol vehicle in this file photo. (Credit: Getty Images)

DENVER (AP) — A man accused of killing five people in a rampage in Denver is believed to have written fictional books self-published online that named some of his real-life victims and described similar attacks.

The writings are part of the investigation into what led the suspect to carry out the shootings, which took place in less than an hour Monday at several locations around the metro area, Denver police spokesman Doug Schepman said Wednesday.

The suspect, age 47, knew most of the people he shot through business or personal relationships, police have said. Four of the people who were shot were attacked at tattoo shops. In addition to those killed, two other people were wounded, including a police officer who shot and killed him after being hit.

In the first novel, written under a pen name of Roman McClay, a character named Lyndon stalks a poker party held by a character named “Michael Swinyard” and gains access to a building near Cheesman Park by posing as a police officer. He then fatally shoots everyone at the party and robs them before fleeing with his dog in a van.

In Monday’s attack, Michael Swinyard, age 67, was fatally shot at a home near Denver’s Cheesman Park, police said.

In his second novel, which also features a character named Lyndon, McClay names 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 rampage. She was killed at her tattoo shop, along with another woman, Alyssa Gunn, age 35. A man who was also wounded there is expected to survive, police said. He was identified by friends and customers as Gunn’s husband, James Maldonado, a piercer there.

That shop is less than a mile (1.6 kilometers) from a tattoo shop that he was listed as the lease holder for between 2014 and 2016. Cardenas later took it over before moving the shop to its current spot, city records show.

The suspect was not licensed to work as a tattoo artist or operate a tattoo business himself in Denver according to city records, a spokesperson for Denver’s licensing agency, Eric Escudero, said Wednesday.

Cardenas, whose daughter is 12 years old, described herself as a “proud Indigenous artist” who also painted murals.

Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen said during a news conference Tuesday that the suspect was on the radar of law enforcement and had been investigated in both 2020 and 2021. He declined to say what the suspect was investigated for but said charges were not filed against him.

Matt Clark, commander of the Denver Police Department’s Major Crimes Division, said the suspect knew most of the people he targeted but not the last person he shot — a clerk in a hotel in Lakewood’s Belmar shopping area. However, the suspect had had some dealings with the hotel, Clark said.

The 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 of fine art in communication design. She was known among her co-workers at the hotel for her infectious laugh and love of kittens, art and music, The Denver Post reported.

Soon after the shooting at Cardenas’ shop, he forced his way into a residence that is also home to a business. City records show it is licensed as a tattoo shop. He pursued the occupants through the building and fired shots, but no one was injured, Clark said. Then he shot and killed Swinyard near Cheesman Park, Clark said.

Later, Denver police chased the vehicle believed to have been involved in the shootings, and an officer exchanged gunfire with the suspect, Clark said. He was able to get away, fleeing into Lakewood, after gunfire disabled the officer’s cruiser, 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, age 38, was killed there, Lakewood police spokesperson John Romero said.

Scofield was a father of three, according to a site raising money for his family.

When officers spotted the car suspected of being involved in the shooting at the Belmar shopping area — where shops line sidewalks in a modern version of a downtown — the suspect opened fire and officers shot back, Romero said. He ran away and allegedly threatened some people in 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 him and ordered him to drop his weapon. She was shot in the abdomen but fired back and killed the gunman.

Ferris underwent surgery Monday night and is expected to make a full recovery.

“I can’t overemphasize enough the heroic actions of our Lakewood police agent,” 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.”

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Associated Press writer Mead Gruver contributed to this report.

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This story has been corrected to change the spelling of Danny Scofield’s last name.

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