Joshua Cummings Arrested in Execution-Style Killing of RTD Security Officer

Chief Robert White at today's press conference.
Chief Robert White at today's press conference. Courtesy of the Denver Police Department
Editor's note: For more information about Joshua Cummings, read our February 2 post, "Joshua Cummings: Was Alleged Killer of RTD Officer Committing Terrorism?"

 The Denver Police Department has arrested Joshua Cummings, 37, for the execution-style murder of an RTD contract security officer identified by the Denver coroner's office as 56-year-old Scott Von Lanken. Investigators say they're looking into the possibility that the officer was targeted because of his uniform, which is described as looking similar to those worn by members of the DPD.

At a press conference today, Denver Police Chief Robert White mentioned the possible targeting and expressed condolences to the family of the RTD officer before handing off to Commander Barb Archer of the DPD's major-crimes unit.

Archer said that DPD officers were dispatched to the area of 16th and Wynkoop at around 11 p.m. last night, January 31, on a report of a shooting. Upon their arrival, they found a man, Von Lanken, with a gunshot wound to the head. He was transported to Denver Health Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Further investigation revealed that two women were speaking to the RTD officer, asking for information about light-rail routes, Archer said. During the conversation, she continued, the women saw a man approach the victim from behind, point a gun to his neck and "heard him say something to the effect of, 'Do as I tell you to,' and then the shot went off." At that point, the victim fell and the suspect fled on foot.

click to enlarge Commander Barb Archer of the DPD's major-crimes unit joined Chief Robert White at the press conference. - COURTESY OF THE DENVER POLICE DEPARTMENT
Commander Barb Archer of the DPD's major-crimes unit joined Chief Robert White at the press conference.
Courtesy of the Denver Police Department
DPD officers soon got information about the direction in which the suspect ran, said Archer, who noted that they also were able to view video from a nearby business. Armed with these details, they began their search and located a man who matched the suspect's description — Cummings — on the 1600 block of 14th Street within twenty minutes. He was taken into custody without incident, and a gun was found that police believe may have been involved in the shooting.

Police don't think there are any other suspects at large. "We do have concerns that, was the officer a target because of the uniform he was wearing?" Archer said. The investigation should reveal "whether that's a part of this or not," she added.

White conceded, "We're not 100 percent sure what motivated this individual." But he called it "a precautionary matter, given the fact that the officer was wearing a uniform. We certainly wanted to remind all of our officers and other officers to be vigilant as they go about doing their job of providing safety for the community."

Archer said Cummings had a family and a residence. He wasn't known to the Denver Police Department, but he does have a misdemeanor offense on his record from another state dating back more than five years.

Here's the probable-cause statement for Joshua Cummings, which quotes one of the women as saying the suspect had a "swollen face and different/weird-looking eyes." That's followed by our initial report.

Joshua Cummings Probable Cause Statement

Original post, 10:46 a.m.: Representatives of RTD have confirmed that a transit security officer working for the agency was shot and killed late last night near the intersection of 16th and Wynkoop streets, just down the block from Union Station and steps away from the 16th Street Mall, where a series of violent incidents last year resulted in a sweeping new security plan for the area.

More recently, we published a January 23 post headlined "RTD: Buses, Trains Are Safer Than Ever Despite Recent Stabbing, Assault."

According to the Denver Police Department, the shooting happened around 11 p.m. on Tuesday, January 31. RTD reveals that the incident took place on Wynkoop Plaza, which stretches in front and to the sides of Union Station. The officer died en route to an area hospital. Meanwhile, an unidentified suspect was taken into custody.

click to enlarge From the scene of the crime. - FOX31
From the scene of the crime.
The victim isn't being named at this point. But RTD says that he was an employee of Allied Universal, which provides security services under contract with the district.

The Denver Police Department is holding a press conference about the shooting at 11 a.m.; updates will follow. In the meantime, RTD Assistant General Manager of Safety and Security Mike Meader released the following statement: "Our entire team is deeply saddened by this loss. RTD and Allied Universal have been in contact with the officer’s family and will continue to offer our support during this sad time."

Adds RTD General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Dave Genova: "RTD Transit Police and Allied Universal are collaborating with the Denver Police Department in their investigation. We are confident the investigation will provide additional information."

click to enlarge The cross-streets of 16th Street and Wynkoop. - GOOGLE MAPS
The cross-streets of 16th Street and Wynkoop.
Google Maps

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts