DENVER (CBS4) – A security guard contracted through RTD was killed in Denver overnight in a shooting near Union Station. One person has been taken into custody. The motive for the shooting remains a mystery.
The shooting took place just after 11 p.m. Tuesday near the intersection of 16th Street and Wynkoop Street.
Two women told police they were talking to the guard, later identified as Scott Von Lanken, and asking about light rail routes when they saw a man approach the guard from behind and point a gun to the victim’s neck.
The witnesses told police the gunman then said something like, “Do as I tell you” right before he fired the gun. Von Lanken, of Loveland, was rushed to the hospital and died a short time later.
Police said Von Lanken was an Allied Universal security guard contracted with RTD. RTD’s police chief said the 56-year-old Von Lanken leaves behind two children.
One suspect, identified as Joshua Cummings, 37, was taken into custody about 20 minutes after the shooting in the 1600 block of 14th Street. The suspect was described as hiding from the officers. The motive in the deadly shooting remains undetermined.
“We are investigating whether the loss of life had anything to do with his uniform,” said Denver Police Chief Robert White.
“We do have concerns, though, was the victim a target because of the uniform that he was wearing?” said Denver Police Cmdr. Major Crimes Division Barb Archer. “We’re still pursuing the information that will tell us if that is a part of this or not.”
Von Lanken’s uniform is dark blue just as the uniforms worn by officers in the Denver Police Department.
Police recovered a gun that may be involved in the shooting. Police said they don’t believe anyone else was involved in the shooting.
Cummings does not have a history with Denver police but does have an arrest from five years ago in another state.
“It’s a total shock. It’s something that you try to prepare for in the sense that you have different protocols in place but when it happens to a member of the RTD family, it’s just very hard to believe. It’s the first time this has happened to one of our security officers and we’re having a hard time coming to grips with it,” said RTD spokesman Scott Reed.
The downtown motorcycle unit left behind a sign and flowers near where the shooting happened.
“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,” said RTD General Manager and CEO Dave Genova, in a statement.
“Certainly as part of our investigation is to try to understand why this particular victim and why this particular individual we eventually arrested, why his actions were targeted toward that particular person,” said White.
A two-block area around the shooting was closed off for several hours while the investigation took place. The scene was cleared by 6 a.m.
Police are asking if other witnesses were in the area and may have seen something or heard the shot to call police. Investigators believe the shooting was completely unprovoked.
Allied Universal released this statement on Wednesday afternoon, “Allied Universal is devastated by the loss of our valued security professional, a dedicated six-year employee, who was shot in the line of duty last night while proudly performing his duties in downtown Denver. We offer our deepest condolences to his family, friends and loved ones. The company intends to make a contribution in honor of the family to show our unwavering support. We ask that you join with us in keeping our fallen comrade’s family in your thoughts and prayers.”
“RTD Transit Police and Allied Universal are collaborating with the Denver Police Department in their investigation,” said Genova. “We are confident the investigation will provide additional information.”
“Certainly because this officer was wearing a uniform we want to remind our officers to be vigilant as they go about doing their particular job providing safety for the communities at large,” said White.