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Sacred Indigenous smoke and the rhythmic beat of drums engulfed the area of South Broadway near Sol Tribe Tattoo and Body Piercing this past Saturday afternoon. The crowd gathered at the shop included family, friends, and coworkers of those lost in a deadly December 27 shooting spree across multiple locations in Denver and Lakewood, as well as other Coloradans hoping to come together in solidarity.
“Say their names!” one organizer shouted as the crowd of hundreds clapped in agreement. Alicia Cardenas, Alyssa Gunn-Maldonado, Danny “Dano” Scofield, Sarah Steck, and Michael Swinyard were heard over and over as the crowd shared memories, hugs, and tears. Speakers remembered Cardenas, a member of the Indigenous community and owner of Sol Tribe, as a matriarch in the tattoo community who stood up for women and nonbinary visual artists. And they spoke about how Gunn-Maldonado, a yoga instructor and jewelry manager at Sol Tribe, had a talent for gift giving, including commissioning work from local artists as presents for those she loved most.
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“Sol Tribe is my home,” Casey Hosch, a piercer at the shop, said to the crowd. “Alicia, Alyssa, and Jimmy are my family, my closest people. Dano is my body-modification community. Sarah and Michael are my Denver community. I’m so hurt. I don’t know how to truly feel.”
On December 27, shortly after 5 p.m., a gunman opened fire at Sol Tribe near 1st Avenue and South Broadway. Alicia Cardenas and Alyssa Gunn-Maldonado were killed, and Jimmy Maldonado, Alyssa’s husband, was injured and sent to the hospital. The suspect then headed to a residential building near 12th Avenue and North Williams Street, where he murdered Michael Swinyard, a 67-year-old resident of the building. The gunman continued on to Lucky13 Tattoo in Lakewood, where he killed tattoo artist Danny Scofield. The man then went to a Hyatt House hotel in Belmar and proceeded to shoot and kill Sarah Steck, who was working as a front desk clerk. The spree culminated less than an hour after it began when the gunman and Lakewood police officers exchanged gunfire near the Hyatt House, during which the suspect shot and injured a police officer. The officer then shot and killed the suspect. The gunman harbored misogynistic and white supremacist views.
In response to the gunman’s extremist sentiments, Indigenous leaders spoke during Saturday’s event about extinguishing white supremacy and taking back land stolen by historical colonization, as well as the racism and misogyny that still exists in society today. Part of the ceremony included walking the block from Sol Tribe to Ellsworth Avenue and back.
“When we are walking this block, we are reclaiming. Your job is to pray,” local poet and speaker LadySpeech Sankofa said to the crowd. “Your job is to pray to reclaim this energy in the name of love, in the name of offering to our lost, in the name of healing.”
As the community circled the block, Lakota performers sang and smudged sacred sage. The crowd sang along and prayed. When the walk was over, performers from Grupo Huitzilopochtli, Grupo Tlahuitzcalli, and Color Aztlan danced on the shut-down lanes of South Broadway while the crowd gathered around to watch. Jimmy Maldonado, who was recently released from the hospital, joined in on the dancing, moving for about five minutes—until he was out of energy.
Vrnda Noel stood by the traffic cones on the street, which separated the closed lanes of South Broadway from the two active lanes still running. As cars pulled up to the red light at Irvington Place, Noel silently held out a photo of Danny Scofield, ensuring every car saw his face. Noel, a friend of Alicia Cardenas, wanted passersby to know why such an event was happening.
“White supremacy has to be smashed at its root,” Noel told 5280. “As it’s growing, it’s up to us as white people to stop it. It’s not up to anybody else. We have to protect our loved ones and our Black, brown, and Indigenous communities.”
As the ceremony came to a close and mourners moved away from the scene, Sol Tribe Tattoo and Piercing was left covered in flowers, notes, and candles. While Saturday’s memorial was over, it was clear that the outpouring of love and support would not cease any time soon.
“Hatred will not win, because we will not allow it.” LadySpeech Sankofa said to the crowd. “We will heal ourselves, we will heal each other, and we will heal this land.”
How to help: Donate to Colorado Healing Fund, which has a fund set up for the Denver-Lakewood tragedy. Four of the five victims have GoFundMe pages set up to help their families: Alicia Cardenas, Alyssa Gunn-Maldonado, Danny “Dano” Schofield, Sarah Steck. A GoFundMe page has also been set up for Ashley Ferris, the police officer injured in the shooting.