RTD transit police officer shot dead near Union Station; Suspect was known to the FBI

DENVER -- An RTD transit police officer is dead after police say a suspect gunned him down near 16th and Wynkoop Tuesday night.

Denver Police responded to the scene near Union Station around 11:30 p.m. for reports of a shooting.

Denver7 has learned the victim of the shooting was a transit security officer with Allied Universal. RTD contracts with Allied Universal to provide security services. 

The Denver Office of the Medical Examiner identified the security officer killed as Scott Von Lanken, 56, of Loveland.

Through investigation, police say they learned two witnesses were talking to Von Lanken before the shooting when a suspect approached from behind, pointed a gun at the victim's neck and fired. 

Police utilized video from nearby businesses to pinpoint where the suspect ran to after the shooting, then located the man not long after. 

After taking the man into custody, police identified him as Joshua Cummings, a 37-year-old who has an out-of-state criminal history. Police in Denver have no history with the man. 

Multiple local, state and federal sources told Denver7 Investigates that Joshua Cummings’ erratic behavior had caught the attention of federal investigators. Sources said Cummings came to the attention of the FBI after being involved in some sort of altercation in a Texas mosque. When Denver police ran his background, sources said, they learned he had been flagged in the crime database for what happened in Texas.

Police say they recovered a gun from the scene, and said they couldn't release more details due to the ongoing investigation.

— Von Lanken's family speaks out —

Von Lanken’s sister-in-law, Sandy Ritter, spoke to Denver7 Wednesday afternoon. She said Von Lanken had worked as a pastor for some time in Fountain Hills, Ariz., and that he had been friends with her late husband.

“Scott was the most giving, kind-hearted man that I’ve probably ever known – next to maybe my husband,” she said. “I don’t think there’s a person in this world ever who would be mad at Scott.”

She said his family will miss him and that anyone who knew him was a better person for it.

Ritter said Von Lanken had been a police officer “a number of years ago,” but he joined the ministry, went to Bible college and became a pastor.

He was in between churches and working the security job to feed his family.

“To put food on the table, he did the security. It was just to keep his family going until God put him back doing what he was really called to do,” Ritter said.

Now, she says the family is at a loss of what to do.

“When my sister called me at 3 [a.m.], she told me, ‘Sandy, I have 40 cents in my wallet and we don’t have any groceries,” Ritter said. “I don’t know if there’s help there, but that was one thing that was a concern to her.”

— Alleged gunman's history in Texas —

Cummings was born in Pampa, Texas in 1979.

The U.S. Department of Defense confirmed he enlisted in the U.S. Army in July 1997 as an infantryman.

He served in Fort Benning, Georgia, Fort Polk Louisiana, and Schweinfurt, Germany while on active duty, eventually reaching the rank of sergeant in July 2002.

In January 2003, he was assigned to the Individual Ready Reserve and was based in Amarillo, Texas.

He eventually was discharged and started attending Amarillo College. His LinkedIn profile says he also attended Southwestern University and Texas Christian University.

His profile also says he worked with land services companies and energy companies for several years between 2008 and 2015.

Records show Cummings entered into an “informal marriage” with a woman in 2012 in Travis County, Texas. He had an Austin address at the time.

In 2015, he moved back to his hometown of Pampa and opened a jiu jitsu academy.

Gray County, Texas Sheriff’s Office authorities said they had no record of dealing with Cummings during his latest time in Pampa. The Pampa Police Department directed Denver7 to the FBI’s Dallas office.

— Alleged gunman's time in Colorado —

Cummings came to the Denver area sometime last fall, though it’s unclear under what circumstances. His last known address was at an Englewood motel.

Statements from his Twitter account show he has at times disparaged police officers. Denver authorities put their officers on alert after the shooting that they may be targeted, though a police investigator said it was still unclear if Von Lanken was targeted specifically for being an officer.

— Statements from police, RTD and Von Lanken's employer —

On Wednesday morning, the RTD family released a statement and police throughout the area posted tributes.  

Members of the Denver Police Department's motorcycle unit stopped by the scene and left a sign and flowers to honor the shooting victim.

In a statement, RTD Assistant General Manager of Safety and Security Mike Meader said the agency is “deeply saddened” by the officer’s death.

“RTD and Allied Universal have been in contact with the officer’s family and will continue to offer our support during this sad time,” Meader said.

Allied Universal said the victim had worked for the company for six years, noting they intend to make a contribution to the family to show "unwavering support." 

A spokesperson released the following statement which read, "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."

A memorial fund has been set up to support Von Lanken's wife and two children through the Rocky Mountain Law Enforcement Credit Union. If you would like to contribute to the memorial fund, click here to make a donation online. You may also contact the credit union by phone at (303) 458-6660.   

PRESS CONFERENCE | Police released several updates not long after capturing a suspect in the shooting. Watch below, or click here if on the Denver7 app.

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