DENVER — One person was fatally shot in Denver on Saturday against the backdrop of opposing rallies between far-right and far-left activists, though the police did not immediately connect the shooting to the dueling demonstrations.
The shooting happened at 3:37 p.m. local time near the courtyard of the Denver Art Museum as the protests were winding down, officials said.
A video shows a single shot being fired and several police officers rushing to the scene, shouting, “Drop the gun!” A man can be seen lying down on the sidewalk as officers surround him.
The victim was taken to a hospital, where he later died, Joe Montoya, chief of the Police Department’s investigations division, said at a news conference on Saturday evening.
“There was a verbal altercation that transpired at the area of the shooting,” he said, declining to connect the gunman and the victim with the protests until the police finished their investigation.
Two guns were recovered at the scene, he said.
Both the victim and the gunman were white men, Chief Montoya said. They were not publicly identified by the authorities.
The gunman was immediately taken into custody at the scene, he said, adding that another person had initially been taken into custody but had later been found to have had no connection to the shooting.
The Denver Post reported that a member of its staff had witnessed the shooting. It said that a man had sprayed mace at another man and that the man who had been sprayed fired a handgun.
Chief Montoya would not confirm that report but said that a canister of mace had been recovered at the scene.
The Denver police, and personnel from the sheriff’s offices of Arapahoe and Douglas Counties, were present at the protests before the shooting.
Asked why there had been such a heavy police presence, the chief said it was because “we had two groups with opposing views.”
Chelsea Jacobs, a member of the Denver Communists, said that Saturday’s event, which the group called a Black Lives Matter-antifa soup drive, had been organized in response to a “Patriot Muster” that the group saw being advertised about a week ago.
The “soup rally” was meant to be ironic in response to comments that far-left protesters throw soup cans, she said.
Ms. Jacobs said that she had been at the north end of the park, where the police had moved the group she was with, and that the shooting had happened at the south end of the park.
Demonstrators from the right-wing group filmed the Denver Communists over a temporary fence that separated the two sides, but the groups did not physically clash, she said.
A tweet promoting the Patriot Muster called for all “patriots” to “Stand up. Show up.”
“It’s time to Roll,” an activist, John Tiegen, wrote on Twitter. “BLM, Antifa, and related Marxist associations are assaulting everything we love and cherish about this country.”
This was not the first time opposing groups clashed over the last few months, as racial unrest and a looming election have ignited protests across the country.
In Denver, businesses near where Saturday’s protests were held were warned about the potential for violence after clashes earlier this summer. Protesters with the Party for Socialism and Liberation disrupted a pro-police rally in July, and the two groups engaged in fist fights, CBS 4 reported.
On Aug. 29, a man affiliated with a right-wing group was shot and killed in Portland, Ore. The city has had protests against police brutality since early this summer.
Some Black Lives Matter protesters in Portland have taken a more confrontational approach, going into residential and largely white neighborhoods with bullhorns and shouting for people in their homes to come out to demonstrate their support.
There have also been instances of people driving into demonstrators. In July, Summer Taylor, 24, was struck and killed while participating in a march in Seattle.