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Senseless: Officer Scott Von Lanken shot and killed in unprovoked attack

He was trying to help two women with directions when he was murdered by the suspect

DENVER (AP) — A hearing for a man accused in the point-blank shooting death of a transit guard in downtown Denver has been moved to a different court as police look for a motive for the apparent unprovoked attack.

Joshua Cummings was arrested shortly after Tuesday evening’s shooting near Union Station, a hub for buses and trains, and the city’s pedestrian mall.

He had been scheduled to appear in county court Thursday afternoon. He will instead appear in court Friday under a new policy that starts murder cases in state court, said Ken Lane, a spokesman for the Denver District Attorney’s Office.

According to police, officer Scott Von Lanken was trying to help two women who were afraid they had missed the last light rail train. One of them told police that a man with a swollen face and “weird looking eyes” walked up to the officer and said something to the effect of “Do what you are told” before she heard a gunshot. He ran away.

Denver Police Department via AP

Police said Cummings was found hiding on the patio of a nearby loft apartment building with a 9mm handgun.

Von Lanken of Loveland, was wearing a dark blue uniform similar to those worn by police when he was shot. 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.

Cummings, who has ties to a variety of cities in Texas, including Austin and Pampa, 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.

AP Photo/David Zalubowski

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

[Featured Image: Steve Stoner/Loveland Reporter-Herald via AP, File]

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