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Police are still piecing together the motive in a Denver shooting spree that killed 5


Why did a man open fire in Denver this week at multiple businesses, killing five people? Most of the victims, it appears, had business connections to the gunman, who apparently foreshadowed the killings in self-published novels.

From Colorado Public Radio, Andrew Kenney reports.

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ANDREW KENNEY, BYLINE: The attack began Monday night at a tattoo shop in Denver, where police say Lyndon McLeod killed two tattoo artists. Over the next hour, he attacked a former business associate, killed a man at a high-rise condo, fatally shot another tattooist at a nearby suburban shop and killed a hotel clerk. Five victims were left dead, and James Clarke thinks he easily could've been a sixth. He describes the shooter as a very alpha-type male.

JAMES CLARKE: I guarantee you if I was in any of those locations at the same time, he would've gone for me as well.

KENNEY: Like Clarke, most of the targets were connected through the gunman's former tattoo business. McLeod invested in the Denver shop eight years ago that eventually failed, and associates say he blamed those working with him. The shop's co-founder, Jeremy Costilow, says his family narrowly escaped an attack on Monday night. He describes a harrowing scene where McLeod posed as a deliveryman, then smashed through his apartment door with a sledgehammer and started shooting.

JEREMY COSTILOW: I mean, it was terrible. I don't - I mean, it could sound like the force of, like, a vehicle hitting a wall multiple times. It was loud and terrible.

KENNEY: Costilow couldn't see the gunman as he hid with his girlfriend, his infant daughter and a guest but says he immediately suspected McLeod.

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COSTILOW: That was one of the first things on my mind - it was him.

KENNEY: The first people killed on Monday were Alicia Cardenas, a tattoo artist who had leased the spot where the gunman's business had failed, and her co-worker Alyssa Gunn-Maldonado. Gunn-Maldonado's husband was wounded.

Danny Scoville (ph), a former worker at the failed business, was shot and killed at a tattoo shop in a neighboring suburb. Annie Bagford went there this week to mourn. Pressed up against the shop's glass door, she said she could see a bloodstain at Scoville's (ph) workstation.

ANNIE BAGFORD: Danny did not deserve to be killed (crying). He was a good dad. He was a good uncle. He was a good person.

KENNEY: The other victims were Michael Swinyard, who shared connections to a marijuana-growing operation with the gunman, and Sarah Steck, a hotel clerk who may not have known him. The rampage ended when a police officer killed the shooter in a gunfight that also left her wounded.

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Lyndon McLeod spent much of the last five years living on a remote property in southern Colorado, where he wrote a sprawling novel that featured a mass murdering, quote, "alpha male" character with his name. In that book, he described the deaths of several of those killed this week. Last year and earlier this year, police investigated McLeod, but they haven't yet provided details of those investigations. There's no sign that any agency tried to take away his weapons under Colorado's red flag law. That's left tattooist James Clarke wondering what everyone could've done differently.

CLARKE: With all these red flags and all these warnings and basically a script of what he was going to do, how did no one prevent this, you know?

KENNEY: In a statement, the gunman's family said they were estranged from him and offered their prayers for the victims.

For NPR News, I'm Andrew Kenney.

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