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Mosque, local authorities warned feds about Denver shooting suspect

DENVER – A Denver-area mosque notified the federal government in December about the man suspected of fatally shooting a transit guard on Tuesday, reports CBS Denver.

According to a copy of the email that the mosque sent to the Department of Homeland Security in December, Joshua Cummings was a convert to Islam and “seems pretty advanced in his path of radicalization.”

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Security officer Scott Van Lanken was shot and killed at Denver’s Union Station on Jan. 31, 2017 CBS Denver

The person who wrote the email explained that Cummings attended events for reverts (as converts to Islam are known), but did not register or bring identification because he “did not trust the government.”

The person who wrote the email, which CBS Denver obtained, stated that Cummings “agreed to meet with some Imams to clarify his thoughts. I am hoping to arrange a meeting with one of the stronger/more knowledgable Imams with him to see if he can be mellowed a bit. But I doubt it would help. He is not listening to reason.”

The emailer, who is not identified, included photographs of Cummings in his email to DHS and described him as a “bearded Caucasian.” The email said Cummings believed it was okay to “fight” to establish the rule of Islam.

Multiple sources reportedly told the station that following that communication, FBI agents contacted Cummings and spoke to him. 

“DHS did receive the e-mail in question from a community member in Denver,” DHS acting press secretary Gillian Christensen told Crimesider in an e-mail. “It was immediately referred to the appropriate law enforcement agencies for review.”

Qusair Mohamedbhai, an attorney representing the Mosque, said the Muslims who reported Cummings “would like to thank authorities for their professional and prompt investigation into this matter. The individuals who reported Mr. Cummings, a new arrival to Colorado, were determined to protect and defend our communities. It appeared that law enforcement took this alert very seriously.”

Cummings has ties to a variety of cities in Texas, most recently Austin.

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A copy of the email, obtained by CBS Denver, that members of a mosque Joshua Cummings attended reportedly sent to the Department of Homeland Security  CBS Denver

CBS Denver also reports that local law enforcement in Denver alerted federal authorities more than once that Cummings, who was on a federal terrorism watch list, was in Colorado and staying at a South Broadway motel. However, it’s unclear precisely what federal authorities did with that information.

Cummings, 37, was arrested shortly after Tuesday night’s shooting near Union Station, a hub for buses and trains, and the city’s pedestrian mall. Security camera footage helped police quickly find and arrest the suspected gunman.

Cummings is expected to be in court on Friday.

The armed officer, Scott Von Lanken of Loveland, was wearing a dark blue uniform similar to those worn by police. In case he was targeted because he was believed to be a police officer, police Chief Robert White said officers have been warned to remain vigilant.

According to police, Von Lanken was trying to help two women who were afraid they had missed the last light rail train when one of them said she saw a man with a swollen face and “weird looking eyes” walk up to the officer and say something to the effect of “Do what you are told” before she heard a gunshot. He ran away but police say they found Cummings hiding on the patio of a nearby loft apartment building with a 9mm handgun.

Cummings was charged with a misdemeanor over five years ago out of state, police Commander Barb Archer said. It’s not clear if he has a lawyer yet.

Gary Kim, the manager of the Holiday Motel in the Denver suburb of Englewood, said Cummings had been staying there for about three weeks.

Cummings previously stayed for about a month at the $365-a-week motel before leaving in late November and then returned in early January.

“He was one of my favorite tenants. I enjoyed seeing him,” Kim said.

The motel manager said he didn’t know what Cummings did for a living, but he would often volunteer to help people pay their rent.

Kim added that Cummings “kinda looked like a hippy” and had a full beard. He stayed at the hotel with a woman and a child, and Kim said he never noticed anything out of the ordinary.

Von Lanken was a contracted security officer for the Denver area’s Regional Transportation District employed by Allied Universal.

Shellie Von Lanken told KUSA-TV in Denver that her husband of 35 years worked at least 65 hours a week to support her and their 32-year-old twin daughters, one of whom is disabled.

“It was unbelievable that any human being could even work what he was working,” she said. “He just worked his heart out. He would tell me, ‘If I could keep working, I would get another job just so I could provide for my family.’”

She added that if her husband were still alive, he would tell her and their daughters to forgive the shooter.