RTD: How We're Responding to Security-Officer Murder, Light-Rail Station Slaying

A surveillance photo from the scene of the February 7 robbery and murder that took place at the 12th and Sheridan light-rail station. Additional images below.
A surveillance photo from the scene of the February 7 robbery and murder that took place at the 12th and Sheridan light-rail station. Additional images below.
Metro Denver Crime Stoppers

It was a case of unfortunate and tragic timing.

In a January 23 post, RTD spokesman Scott Reed told us that the agency's buses, trains and properties were safer than ever despite several recent high-profile incidents, including a stabbing and an assault.

What are arguably the two most shocking crimes to take place in Denver during this still-young year followed over the next couple of weeks, and both had RTD connections.

First, on January 31, RTD security officer Scott Von Lanken was shot to death in an apparent execution near Union Station and the 16th Street Mall. Because the suspect in the case, Joshua Cummings, has expressed pro-Islam and anti-police sentiments online, the slaying is seen by some observers as a possible act of terrorism.

This image from Joshua Cummings's Instagram page shows him pointing an imitation weapon at one of his students (whose identity we've disguised) at a Texas-based jiu-jitsuka academy.
This image from Joshua Cummings's Instagram page shows him pointing an imitation weapon at one of his students (whose identity we've disguised) at a Texas-based jiu-jitsuka academy.
Joshua Cummings Instagram

Then, on February 7, 32-year-old Tim Cruz was killed in a robbery at RTD's 12th and Sheridan light-rail station. Two nineteen-year-old suspects, Nathan Valdez and Evan Valles, are being held on suspicion of first-degree murder.

Both incidents have touched the community.

Condolences for Cruz continue to collect online, and today, Tuesday, February 14, a slew of Union Station businesses — ACME Delicatessen, Cooper Lounge, Hopdoddy Burger Bar, Mercantile Dining and Provisions, Milkbox Ice Creamery, Next Door Union Station, Snooze, Protein Bar, Stoic & Genuine, Tattered Cover and Terminal Bar — are donating a portion of their profits to the Von Lanken family. Get additional details below.

We reached out again to Reed to ask how RTD is responding to these two shootings.

Tim Cruz.
Tim Cruz.
Facebook

After expressing his condolences to the friends, family and loved ones of both Von Lanken and Cruz, Reed notes that "these were two unrelated issues, two very different patterns. One allegedly was just a flat-out attack for no monetary purpose. And in the other, it was a strong-arm robbery scenario."

Reed adds that in the Cruz murder, "our video from that station was instrumental in getting the suspects apprehended. It was a horrific crime, and we worked very closely with the Denver Police Department to try and solve it."

Prevention of such incidents is the next step, Reed acknowledges.

"We are continuing to take a look at security procedures to see if there's something that can be done differently or better. In the light-rail station incident, the video and the followup has worked well. But we want to take a look at what more could possibly be done."

Nathan Valdez.
Nathan Valdez.
Denver Police Department

This approach is "our standard operating procedure," Reed continues. "Any time there's a serious incident, whether it be an accident or, in these cases, security-related issues, we take a step back and look to see if there's something that could have been done, and should have been done, better. If there is, we'll look at changes in procedures, and we're in the midst of doing that now."

Reed can't say yet if potential alterations will be shared with the rest of us.

"That depends on what might possibly come out of what we're doing," he says. "If it's something we want the public to be aware of, we'll let people know. But any time there are security-related situations, there are some things that may need to remain confidential. It just depends on what the findings of that research come up with."

Click for more details about the Union Station donations to the Von Lanken family — an effort that's been dubbed a "Day of Love."

Scott Van Lanken (with his wife, Shellie) in a 2013 Lamp Lighters International Ministries photo.
Scott Van Lanken (with his wife, Shellie) in a 2013 Lamp Lighters International Ministries photo.

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