Denver7 investigative reporter Ryan Luby traveled to Cummings’ hometown of Pampa, Texas to talk with people who knew Cummings before he ended up in a Denver jail accused of murder.
“I never would have ever thought that he would hurt anybody in any way,” said Sarah Landry.
Landry said she became friends with 37-year-old Cummings back in high school and reconnected with him within the past year and a half.
“He was just a real amiable guy, I guess that's a really good word for him at that time,” she said.
Landry said she and Cummings saw each other almost every day, talking about politics and family. But they did not spend much time discussing religion or Cummings’ conversion in recent years to Islam.
“Did you ever get the sense that he was becoming very involved with it?” Luby asked.
“Not at all. Not at all. It must have been very sudden,” Landry responded.
Other residents of Pampa said Cummings tried to preach the word of Islam to them and the children who took his martial arts classes. Residents said they didn’t mind Cummings’ Muslim faith until he began to show signs of radical behavior, including social media posts that referenced his anger at police brutality.
Neighbors in Pampa said Cummings left last fall. It’s unclear when he arrived in Colorado, but in December, a Denver-area mosque alerted federal authorities that Cummings was showing signs of becoming radicalized.
His longtime friend said she cried when she heard about the murder of RTD security guard Scott Von Lanken, and said she did not recognize the man she saw in his mugshot.
“When I look in his eyes there, the one that's clear, it doesn't look like him anymore,” Landry said. “He looks very intent in that picture to me. Angry. And I don't understand how he could be.”