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‘Like nobody you’d ever met’: Family, friends remember victims in Denver shooting spree

Denver and Lakewood shooting spree Dec 27 2021 2
Denver and Lakewood shooting spree Dec 27 2021 3
Posted at 12:25 PM, Dec 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-28 15:52:36-05

Following a shooting spree Monday evening that ended with five people dead, including the suspect and three injured in Denver and Lakewood, family and friends are starting to share their beloved memories of the victims.

The suspect has not been identified, and the motive remains under investigation.

On Tuesday morning, Alfredo Cardenas told Denver7 his daughter, Alicia Cardenas, 44, was one of the two women killed at Broadway and 1st Avenue, where the string of shootings began. He said Alicia was his only daughter.

Alicia owned Sol Tribe Tattoo & Piercing, which is nearby. According to her bio page on the company's website, she was a "proud Indigenous artist born and raised in the city who’s been working in the Denver body modification industry for nearly her entire life." She was passionate about volunteering and giving back to her community, the website reads.

Alfredo Cardenas said she owned her first tattoo shop when she was 19 and then moved into the new space, where she had worked for 15 to 20 years. It has a "tremendous reputation," he said.

She was like nobody you'd ever met, he said.

"Very gregarious, very friendly, but she was a very determined person," he said. "She knew where she was going."

She was also a mural artist, he said, and there are multiple art murals around town with her name on them.

"She was a real leader in her community. A lot of people look to her for advice and information about tattooing and a lot about the hygiene of tattooing, and she pioneered that," Alfredo Cardenas said. "But she had friends all over the world. She has gone all over the world, well, over the oceans anyway, giving workshops on tattoo hygiene and that sort of stuff. She will be very sorely missed."

Alfredo Cardenas said his son came by his home in the middle of the night and told him he had heard about a shooting on social media.

"There's a real tight community amongst the tattoo people, and he was in connection with them," Alfredo Cardenas said.

She served on the Association of Professional Piercers board for the board of directors until her death.

Alfredo Cardenas said he is struggling to absorb the fact that his daughter had been killed.

"It's a shock to everybody," he said. "It was obviously senseless."

She leaves behind a 12-year-old daughter, her father said.

The other two people shot at this location were identified as a Sol Tribe artist in the ICU (Denver7 is not identifying him) and his wife Alyssa Gunn-Maldonado, who died of her injuries.

A verified GoFundMe was created to help with funeral costs, medical bills, and support for the couple's son.

The other victims in Monday's shootings have not been identified as of now.

Background

Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen and John Romero, public information officer with the Lakewood Police Department, updated the shooting on Monday evening. They said the suspect's motivation for the shooting isn't clear yet. They also stressed that there is no threat to the public.

The shootings began shortly after 5 p.m. Monday when the suspect shot three people near 1st Avenue and Broadway in Denver. Two of the injured people — who have since been identified as Alicia Cardenas and Alyssa Gunn-Maldonado — were killed, and Gunn-Maldonado's husband was injured, police said.

Afterward, Denver police were dispatched to a second shooting at 12th Avenue and Williams Street around Cheesman Park, where one man was pronounced deceased.

Denver police responded to the third shooting at W. 6th Avenue and Cherokee Street. Nobody was injured in this incident, police said.

Police identified the vehicle associated with all three shootings around 8th Avenue and Zuni Street. Officers pursued the driver, and the police and suspect exchanged gunfire. No officers were injured in this shooting.

Around this time, the suspect driver disabled a police car and fled into Lakewood, police said.

Just before 6 p.m., Lakewood police received a call about a shooting at a business along the 1500 block of Kipling. Officers responded, and a person was pronounced deceased at the scene, police said.

Police gathered a description for the suspect and the vehicle, and Lakewood police spotted it in the Belmar shopping area a short time later.

Lakewood police tried to contact the driver, but the suspect shot at police, who returned fire, police said.

The suspect then fled on foot into the shopping area, menaced a business with a firearm, and retreated into the Hyatt Place. The suspect shot a hotel clerk before fleeing again, according to police.

After leaving the hotel, the suspect was confronted by a Lakewood officer. The suspect shot the officer, transported to a hospital for surgery.

Meanwhile, officers and the suspect continued to exchange gunfire. At some point, the suspect was killed, but police said they're not sure how the person died.

Stephanie Butzer and Pattrik Perez at KMGH first reported this story.