One person is in custody after a fatal shooting amid dueling demonstrations in downtown Denver, police said Saturday, in the latest deadly violence to unfold at the scene of tense protests.
Protesters were just starting to disperse from a park Saturday afternoon, police said, when officers working the events reported shots fired and then said that they had someone in custody. The violence – under investigation as a homicide – followed a “verbal altercation,” according to Joe Montoya, division chief of investigations for the Denver Police Department.
Right-wing demonstrators had gathered at the city’s Civic Center for a “Patriot Rally,” according to the Denver Post, as did left-wing activists affiliating themselves with Black Lives Matter and antifa. Police said Saturday that they are still trying to determine whether the alleged gunman and victim were affiliated with either group of protesters.
“There was a large [police] presence because we had two groups with opposing views, and we know that can always get very tense,” Montoya said at a news conference, adding that authorities tried their best to keep groups separate. “And there’s always potential for violence.”
The person who was shot was taken to a hospital and later pronounced dead, police said. Neither the alleged gunman nor the victim was identified by authorities.
The Denver Post reported that a man sprayed mace at another man, who then opened fire with a weapon. Police said they could not confirm that Saturday, but said a mace canister was found at the scene. Two firearms were also recovered from the scene, according to Montoya.
The shooting took place between the Denver Art Museum and a public library, authorities said.
Police initially took another person into custody who was nearby, but later determined that they were not involved in the killing, Montoya said.
Few details were available Saturday, and authorities said they are interviewing witnesses. Montoya said he hopes to release more information about the individuals involved as soon as possible, suggesting that rumors could further inflame the situation and lead to more violence.
“We’re hopeful that that information will help kind of calm the waters a little bit,” he said. “We don’t want any erroneous information going out, any speculation, because that’s really what hurts us.”
Heated clashes between demonstrators this summer and fall have escalated at times into sometimes deadly violence.
In Portland, Ore., a self-described anti-fascist – later killed by law enforcement officers – was accused of fatally shooting a supporter of President Trump amid dueling racial justice and pro-Trump protests. In Kenosha, Wis., authorities charged a 17-year-old with homicide after two people were killed and another badly wounded by gunfire, as demonstrations broke out over the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
Some protests have drawn heavily armed groups, raising fears of a confrontation.
Those caught up in the violence have sometimes had little affiliation to the political causes drawing protesters.