DENVER (AP) — A man accused of killing five people in a rampage in Denver is believed to have written fictional book series called “Sanction,” which he 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 Lyndon James McLeod to carry out the shootings Monday in less than an hour around the city, Denver police spokesman Doug Schepman said Wednesday.
McLeod, 47, knew most of the people he shot in several locations around the metro area, through business or personal relationships, police have said. Four of the people who were shot were attacked at tattoo shops. Two others were wounded, including a police officer who shot and killed McLeod after being hit.
In the first novel, written under the 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, Swinyard, 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.
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, 35, on Monday. A man who was also wounded there is expected to survive, police said. Friends and customers identified him as Gunn’s husband, James Maldonado, a piercer there.
That shop is less than a mile (1.6 kilometers) from a tattoo shop that McLeod was listed as the leaseholder for between 2014 and 2016. Cardenas later took it over before moving the shop to its current spot, city records show.
According to city records, McLeod was not licensed to work as a tattoo artist or operate a tattoo business himself in Denver, 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.
During a news conference Tuesday, Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen said that McLeod was on the radar of law enforcement and had been investigated in 2020 and 2021. He declined to say what McLeod was investigated for but said charges were not filed against him.
Matt Clark, commander of the Denver Police Department’s Major Crimes Division, said then that McLeod 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. Sarah Steck, 28, who died of her injuries Tuesday. However, McLeod had had some dealings with the hotel, Clark said.
Steck graduated from Metropolitan State University this year with a bachelor’s degree in fine art in communication design. The Denver Post reported that she was known among her co-workers at the hotel, where she also worked while in school, for her infectious laugh and love of kittens, art and music.
Soon after the shooting at Cardenas’ shop, McLeod forced his way into a residence that is also home to a business. City records show it is licensed as a tattoo shop. Clark said he pursued the occupants through the building and fired shots, but no one was injured. Then he shot and killed Swinyard near Denver’s Cheesman Park.
Later, Denver police chased the vehicle believed to have been involved in the shootings, and an officer exchanged gunfire with McLeod, Clark said. McLeod 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, 38, was killed there, Lakewood police spokesperson John Romero said.
Scofield was a tattoo artist and a father to three children, two daughters and one son. He wasn’t supposed to be in Denver the night of the shooting. He was supposed to be in Kansas, surprising his mother for Christmas, but his plans changed just a couple of days before when he began to feel sick. So he decided to stay home so that he wouldn’t get his sister’s children sick.
Surveillance cameras show McLeod stopping his car in the middle of the parking lot, and without turning it off or even shutting the door, he went inside Luck 13 and left no less than 10 seconds later. He is then seen dodging traffic to escape the scene.
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 — McLeod 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, the clerk, before shooting her, he said.
About a minute later, a Lakewood police officer saw McLeod and ordered him to drop his weapon. Romero said she was shot in the abdomen but fired back at him.
The wounded officer, whose name has not been released, underwent surgery Monday night. She is expected to make a full recovery.