EXTREMISMMass Shooting in Denver

Published 3 January 2022

Lyndon McLeod, who killed five people in Denver on 27 December, subscribed to a variety of right-wing beliefs, but remarks in his social media posts, novels and interviews signal his place in the broader misogynistic ecosystem — the “manosphere.” McLeod adhered to a smaller subset of the manosphere that focuses on hyper-masculinity. Typically, advocates of hypermasculinity believe themselves to be “alpha males” and are frustrated they are not given the respect, deference or position in society they believe they are due. Adherents believe a degeneration of modern society has allowed weak “beta males” and women to usurp power from the “alphas.”

On 27 December 2021, Lyndon McLeod carried out a shooting spree spanning the Denver metropolitan area, murdering five people and wounding at least three others. Ultimately, McLeod died during a shoot-out with responding police. According to a review of his online footprint conducted by the ADL’s Center on Extremism, McLeod held numerous extreme or fringe beliefs but did not belong to a particular extremist movement, nor was he an active member of an organized extremist group.

As of this writing (31 December 2021), there is no indication his beliefs inspired the attack, at least directly. The victims do not appear to have been selected at random but rather the majority of them allegedly had business or personal connections to McLeod. Law enforcement were aware of him and reportedly opened investigations into his activities in 2020 and earlier in 2021.

McLeod lived in Las Animas County in southern Colorado in a home he constructed with shipping containers, essentially living off the grid. This solitary life began after a business fallout in 2015-16 over All Heart Industry, a tattoo shop. McLeod subsequently claimed his business partners had conspired and committed fraud against him. He said he had fantasies of revenge, but instead decided to do something “creative,” channeling his feelings into a book project that eventually became his three-volume novel, Sanction, which he self-published in 2018-2020 under the name Roman McClay.

His rambling and graphic prose glamorized violence and revenge and expressed misogynistic themes and praise of traditional gender roles, with a particular fixation on “strong” men. In the novel, a key character, “Lyndon MacLeod,” spelled with just one letter different than his own name, travels to Denver in a fit of rage and murders 46 individuals whom he perceived wronged him over the years. Two of McLeod’s real-life victims, Alicia Cardenas and Michael Swinyard, actually appeared as victims in his novels. Other characters in the book are also fictionalized versions of McLeod or, in some cases, mouthpieces for his ideas.