A man was shot and killed near the Denver Art Museum Saturday afternoon. A suspect is in custody, police said. A second person was initially arrested, but police later determined that second person was not affiliated with the shooting.
The Denver Police Department said Saturday evening that the suspect in the shooting was a private security guard.
“Further investigation has determined the suspect is a private security guard with no affiliation with Antifa. Additional information will be released as it becomes available,” the police department tweeted. Denver news outlet 9News said it had hired the private security guard.
“A private security guard contracted through Pinkerton by 9NEWS is the suspect detained by DPD. It has been the practice of 9NEWS for a number of months to hire private security to accompany staff at protests,” 9News wrote in its report.
Update: Further investigation has determined the suspect is a private security guard with no affiliation with Antifa. Additional information will be released as it becomes available.
— Denver Police Dept. (@DenverPolice) October 11, 2020
Two groups — a pro-police and an anti-police crowd — were protesting nearby at Civic Center Park, but it’s not known at this time if the shooting is related to either rally.
Members from both rallies were leaving the park after having just wrapped up peaceful demonstrations when the shooting occurred in the courtyard at the museum. Witnesses told Denver7’s Lance Hernandez that the victim was apparently shot at point-blank range.
“The rally was supposed to be about understanding what was happening with police brutality in the United States of America, and now it resulted in this, and this is not okay,” said Michael Anthony Lopez. “This is unfortunate. This was a peaceful rally. We thought it was going to end okay.”
“When something like this happens, you’re going to be shocked,” Richard Johnson said. “I’m wondering what possible explanation there is.”
Police said a verbal altercation between the two individuals occurred just before shots rang out. Police said they recovered two guns and a can of mace from the scene.
When asked if the man who was shot, sprayed tear gas at the other man first, Division Chief of Investigations, Joe Montoya, said police are examining the evidence and talking to witnesses to see if that’s what occurred.
The victim was transported to the hospital and was later pronounced deceased. His identity has not been released.
Several Denver police officers in riot gear were already on scene at the time of the shooting. Police were attempting to give the two groups that were demonstrating space to prevent the separate crowds from interfering with each other.
A Denver7 news crew was interviewing pro-police rally attendee, Laurel Imer, who is a candidate for House District 24, when a single shot rang out.
Imer said she wanted to attend the rally to show her support for free speech rights.
She said she was among several people injured during the last pro-police rally, on July 19.
“I was attacked and pushed down the stairs of the amphitheater. I got a massive hematoma on my right leg, which I’m still recovering from three months later,” she said.
Imer’s son, Weston, told Denver7 he saw the cloud of mace, shortly after hearing a gunshot.
He said he initially thought it was a cloud of blood.
Police said they are investigating the shooting as a homicide.
Montoya said they will release more information as soon as they can.
“Our primary focus is to de-escalate. We can’t have any further violence in conjunction with what happened today. We just do not want that to happen,” he said.
When asked if the law allows someone to use a gun if they’re attacked with Mace, or pepper spray, Montoya said, “I think it’s all in the articulation.”
He said that’s for the District Attorney to evaluate…what you deem that threat to be, how you articulate that, and then it’s up to the DA to determine if it fits the criteria for charging or not.”
No charges have been filed against the suspect.