One man was shot and killed near the Denver Art Museum on Saturday following opposing rallies held by a right-wing group and left-wing counter-protesters.
The Denver Police Department confirmed that one suspect is in custody following the shooting, which is being investigated as a homicide.
“Further investigation has determined the suspect is a private security guard with no affiliation with Antifa,” DPD said on Twitter Saturday night. “Additional information will be released as it becomes available.”
A second person was initially taken into custody but determined not to have been involved in the shooting.
The shooting occurred shortly after the conclusion of a “Patriot Muster” in Denver’s Civic Center Park, organized by John Tiegen, a Colorado Springs conservative and top surrogate for President Donald Trump’s Colorado reelection campaign.
“Come join fellow patriots and let’s be heard and seen!” Tiegen wrote while advertising the event on Twitter earlier this month. “It’s time we let these communist socialists know we have had enough! Fight back, push back. Time to take OUR country back!”
Tiegen is the founder of a group calling itself the United American Defense Force, which says it provides its members with “training, equipment, communications, leadership, personnel and resources necessary to protect our communities” from “enemies” like the Black Lives Matter movement and Antifa. Tiegen has denied that UADF is a militia but has said that he was motivated to found the group earlier this year because of his disappointment with far-right movements like the Three Percenters.
“I’m waiting for these 3% groups, these Oath Keepers, these militias that have been around decades to actually stand up and do something,” Tiegen told a crowd of supporters in Laramie, Wyoming last month, according to WyoFile. “You would think they would.”
Saturday’s event was protested by supporters of a variety of left-wing groups and causes. Organizations including the Denver Communists advertised a “BLM-Antifa Soup Drive” in Civic Center Park, encouraging people to donate food and other goods to be distributed to people experiencing homelessness nearby.
“Our preferred strategy is to simply outnumber and outshine these fascists anytime they show their faces,” organizers wrote prior to Saturday’s event. “We want to send these worms back into their holes, demoralized and isolated, with only their racist, rapist president to console them.”
Police cordoned off a large section of the Civic Center amphitheater where the Patriot Muster event, which began around 2 p.m., was held. Lines of police in riot gear encircled the amphitheater and blocked off 14th Street.
For more than an hour, opposing demonstrators shouted at each other across a wide buffer zone established by police. At several points throughout the afternoon, members of the left-wing group knocked down a temporary fence between the two groups, leading officers to move in and fire pepper balls.
Shortly before 3:30 p.m., attendees of the right-wing rally began exiting the amphitheater to the south, towards the courtyard between the Denver Art Museum and the Denver Public Library.
Many of the left-wing protesters attempted to move around the amphitheater towards the museum area, but were blocked by lines of police. A shot was fired, causing commotion in the crowd, and shortly afterwards an ambulance and other emergency vehicles arrived on the scene.
A video of the shooting posted online by Brian Loma, a well-known local livestreamer, showed a single shot fired in the courtyard, several minutes after the bulk of the departing Patriot Muster crowd had dispersed.
In a press conference Saturday evening, DPD Division Chief Joe Montoya cautioned against speculation about the affiliations of the victim and the suspect in the shooting. A verbal altercation preceded the shooting, he said.
Denver TV station 9News wrote in a story on the shooting that two people affiliated with the outlet had been arrested.
“A 9NEWS employee and a 9NEWS contractor have been taken into custody,” the station reported. “9NEWS has not been in contact with either and does not know where either currently is.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include additional information from the Denver Police Department regarding the possible affiliations of the suspect.