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Crime and Courts

Shooting amid Denver protests leaves man dead; 9News security guard detained as suspect

Videos taken at the scene just outside of the Denver Art Museum showed a confrontation in a crowd of people followed by a single gunshot being fired

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A shooting Saturday afternoon in Denver amid chaotic political protests left a man dead and police have taken a security guard working for a television station into custody as a suspect.

Denver police said the shooting happened about 3:30 p.m. near the intersection of West 14th Avenue and Broadway, just outside of the Denver Art Museum. It is being investigated as a homicide.

Investigators initially said two people had been arrested in connection with the shooting, but then revised their statement. They say the suspect they have in custody is a private security guard. The department said the suspect has no connection to “antifa” groups.

Denver television station 9News reported Saturday night that the guard is a Pinkerton contractor who had been hired to provide security for the station’s reporters at protests.

“A private security guard who was hired by 9News is the suspect detained by DPD,” the station reported in an online story. “It has been the practice of 9News for a number of months to hire private security to accompany staff at protests.”

The station — also known by its call sign, KUSA-TV — said one of its producers also was taken into custody following the shooting. Station manager Mark Cornetta said the producer has been released.

Videos taken at the scene showed a confrontation in a crowd of people near the Denver Art Museum followed by a single gunshot being fired. Police quickly rushed in, apparently detaining one person and tending to someone who was laying motionless on the ground.

Denver police Division Chief Joe Montoya told reporters at a news conference that a verbal altercation preceded the shooting. 

“There were two guns recovered at the scene,” Montoya said, adding that mace was also found by investigators. 

Montoya initially said it was unclear if the victim and suspect were affiliated with any groups.

But then, in a tweet Saturday night, Denver police said that “further investigation has determined the suspect is a private security guard with no affiliation with antifa.”

“Antifa” is a left-wing political protest movement.

The person killed in the confrontation has been identified only as a man.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock offered condolences to the family of the victim and defended the city’s police department in a thread of tweets Saturday night.

“Our thoughts are with the family of the victim of the shooting that took place today,” Hancock wrote. “I am not going to comment on the details as it is still under investigation, and its connection or not to either demonstration hasn’t been determined.”

He wrote that Denver police “endeavor to do their best to keep people safe, even in tense situations with protests and counter protests. I am grateful for their difficult work today. These are volatile times.”

“While we encourage peaceful protest, we will never tolerate demonstrations escalating to clashes and violence. Political differences should be resolved at the ballot box and not in the streets, and we will keep it that way through this election season and beyond.”

Denverite reports the shooting happened amid competing demonstrations in Denver’s Civic Center park. The news outlet says one group, led by conservative activist John Tiegen, was holding a “Patriot Muster” while the other was holding a “A Black Lives Matter Anti-Fascist Soup Drive.”

Tiegen, who lives in southern Colorado, is also well known for surviving the 2012 attack on an American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, where he was working on a security team.

Authorities say the demonstrations were wrapping up when the shooting happened.

Police did not release further details on the shooting. They said more information will be released once it becomes available.

“We don’t want any erroneous information going out, any speculation, because that’s really what hurts us,” Montoya said. “That’s what gets everybody angry and motivated to commit more violence. And that’s what we’re trying to prevent.”

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