DENVER — The man suspected of shooting and killing a uniformed RTD contract security officer in Lower Downtown late Tuesday night has been described as a “radical Muslim,” law enforcement sources told FOX31 Denver.
The suspect was identified as 37-year-old Joshua Cummings.
Two sources told FOX31 Denver that investigators found jihadist materials in Cummings’ backpack and those materials are now being investigated.
Scott Von Lanken, 56, was shot and killed, the Denver Office of the Medical Examiner confirmed.
The shooting happened about 11 p.m. at 16th and Wynkoop streets on Union Station Plaza, one block from Union Station, police said.
“This is an incredibly sad day for us, and on behalf of the entire RTD family I extend my prayers and express my sincere condolences to the officer’s family, friends and loved ones,” RTD general manager and CEO Dave Genova said in a statement.
Police said at a news conference Wednesday morning that two women were asking the armed security officer about light rail routes when a man approached from behind, pointed a gun at the officer’s neck and fired.
Cummings was found hiding in the 1600 block of 14th Street about 20 minutes later and was arrested without incident, police said. A gun was also recovered.
The shooting is being investigated as a homicide and police are looking into whether it had to do with the victim wearing a uniform.
“It’s really disheartening when anyone loses their life, but especially when we have someone out there providing safety to the community at large,” police chief Robert White said.
Police said Cummings lives in the area and police have not had contact with him. He had an out-of-state misdemeanor arrest more than five years ago. White said the motivation for the shooting is not known.
Lanken was employed by Allied Universal, which provides security services under contract for RTD.
“Our entire team is deeply saddened by this loss,” RTD assistant general manager of safety and security Mike Meader said. “RTD and Allied Universal have been in contact with the officer’s family and will continue to offer our support during this sad time.”
Wynkoop was closed between 15th and 17th streets on Wednesday morning as police investigated the shooting. It reopened about 5:50 a.m.
RTD has 250 uniformed Allied Barton security officers who patrol 24 hours a day, and about 265 contracted extra-duty police officers from Lakewood, Aurora and Denver. There are also eight internal transit police officers.
A memorial fund to help support Scott Van Lanken’s wife and two children has been established through the Rocky Mountain Law Enforcement Credit Union. It’s under Scott Van Lanken’s name. You can get the credit union’s contact information on its website or by calling 303-458-6660.
Multiple law enforcement sources told CBS4 Investigator Brian Maass that Cummings had Muslim documents with him when he was arrested, and seemed to speak in an Arabic language following his capture.
A man suspected of shooting and killing an armed RTD transit security officer late Tuesday night was a former serviceman who was kicked out of a mosque in Texas, 9Wants to Know has learned.
The man, identified by Denver police as 37-year-old Joshua Cummings, had Islamic writings in his possession when he was arrested, according to sources with knowledge of the investigation.
Cummings was being held without bail on suspicion of first-degree murder. He is scheduled to appear in court Thursday afternoon.
Sources tell 9Wants to Know Cummings had notes relating to Islam and a copy of The Quran. And as he was being arrested, he was praying on his knees.
Denver Police Chief Robert White said local authorities had no prior contact with Cummings and that his only criminal history was a misdemeanor charge in another state.
“We’re not 100 percent sure what motivated this particular individual to shoot the victim,” White said.
Cummings was once charged with domestic violence in 2010 while living in Austin, Texas, but that case was dismissed.
9Wants to Know has learned he has a young wife who’s in Denver too. Sources say investigators are talking with her.
Law enforcement sources also said Cummings was arrested with jihadist materials inside a backpack. Cummings, who is from Texas, was arrested in Austin, Texas, in 2010 for assault.
Late Wednesday, police officers were outside the Holiday Motel at 4475 S. Broadway in Englewood. The manager said Cummings lived in a room with his wife and baby over the past few weeks.
The manager also said FBI agents and police officers were at the motel, investigating Cummings weeks ago.
A neighboring business owner backed up that story, saying a police officer told him Cummings was being investigated for unusual Facebook posts.
FBI agents refused to comment on Wednesday. Cummings’ father had no comment.
A leader at the mosque emailed the Department of Homeland Security to say a man identifying himself only as a Muslim convert named Joshua, from Pampa, Texas, made worrisome statements during a Dec. 24 lunch and at an earlier event, according to a redacted copy of the email released Thursday by Qusair Mohamedbhai, an attorney for the mosque.
“He seems pretty advanced in his path of radicalization,” the mosque leader wrote.
At an open house earlier in December, Joshua publicly rebuked a speaker “as being soft” on Shariah law, the letter said.
The FBI declined to comment and the Department of Homeland Security didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The manager of a motel in the Denver suburb of Englewood where Cummings had stayed recently and also part of last year said Cummings told him he was Muslim during long talks at the front desk or the small lobby at the Holiday Motel, recalling that Cummings did not want to give any negative connotations to the faith.
…sources told KMGH that Cummings was on a federal terror watch list.
A social media account that appeared to be associated with the suspect includes posts about fighting as well as many about Christianity, his Islamic faith and police brutality.
Von Lanken was mourned by both the city’s transportation authority and the contractor he worked for on Wednesday, had also previously worked as an evangelical preacher.
His wife Shellie told KUSA that the father-of-two had taken a break from his ministry of 26 years in order to work more and better support his family.
Like the deadly jihad attack on the Ft. Lauderdale airport, it looks like old media is intentionally ignoring this case.