Ten people were killed Monday afternoon when a shooter opened fire on King Soopers grocery store shoppers in Boulder, Colorado. According to police, at approximately 2:30 p.m., 21-year-old Ahmed Al Aliwi Alissia entered the store with a Ruger AR-556 pistol and began shooting at those inside.
As bullets flew through the store, employees and customers ran to take cover. A lucky few discovered an employee stock area and a loading dock at the back of the store which they used to safely escape the crime scene. Nine, however, were fatally shot within the grocery mart.
Those killed in the mass shooting ranged from ages 20 to 65. Authorities identified the victims as Denny Stong, 20; Neven Stanisic, 23; Rikki Olds, 25; Tralona Bartkowiak, 49; Suzanne Fountain, 59; Teri Leiker, 52; Kevin Mahoney, 61; Lynn Murray, 62; and Jody Waters, 65. Those killed on Monday were at the scene for a range of reasons: some were running a weekly errand to the grocery store; others were waiting in line for a COVID-19 vaccination; one was undergoing a normal day at work; and another was filling orders for Instacart, an online grocery pick-up and delivery service.
The tenth victim was 51-year-old Eric Talley, a Boulder Police Officer who was the first to arrive at the site. Talley was killed by the gunman when he made “the ultimate sacrifice in his effort to save lives” by rushing to King Soopers amid the shooting.
After the Boulder Police Department arrived at the scene, they were able to halt Alissia’s attacks by shooting him in the leg. The gunman was taken into custody immediately after a trip to the Emergency Room to examine his wound. According to his arrest warrant, Alssia was charged with ten counts of first-degree murder and one charge of attempted murder.
According to CNN, once the shooter was under federal supervision, the Boulder Police Department visited his home in Denver where they identified other weapons.
A clear motive for the mass shooting is currently unknown, but it is suspected that Alissia was suffering from a mental illness. According to his brother, 34-year-old Ali Aliwi Alissia, the younger Alissia was “very alone” from a young age as his high school classmates chose to stay away from him “because of his temper [and] how he acted.” Alissia also became increasingly “paranoid” around 2014.
“He always suspected someone was behind him, someone was chasing him,” the elder brother said in an interview with CNN.
Although he consistently battled with personal mental health issues, his family struggled to believe that he would resort to violence. Alissia’s older brother stated that he had never heard his brother communicate a violent threat and that he “never would have thought he would do such a thing.”
Alissia’s past police records, however, showcase a different reputation. Although his family saw him as a nonviolent individual, Alissia’s 2018 third-degree assault charge illustrates his capability to act in an aggressive manner. The then-18-year-old was sentenced to one year probation and 48 hours of community service for attacking a fellow student at Arvada West High School.
Just ten days before the incident, Colorado’s ban on assault weapons, which was enacted in 2018 to prevent mass shootings, was lifted. According to the Washington Post, the gun that Alissia used would have been included in the ban. Colorado officials acknowledge this problem and are working to find new solutions to allow gun rights while also ensuring the safety of their citizens. On Tuesday, President Joe Biden called on Congress to enact a federal assault weapons ban. The U.S. Senate is also discussing two other possible solutions: one would require a background check for all gun sales and the other would remove a provision that allows gun stores to sell to people before their background check is complete, as many have done when the results take too long to come back.
Since the shooting, Colorado citizens have placed flowers in the fence around the grocery store to honor those who lost their lives on Monday. Community members also scheduled vigils (both virtually and in-person) for Wednesday night to bring the people of Boulder together and allow the healing process to begin. As the sadness grows within the victims’ families, loved ones, and fellow citizens, Coloradans do what they can to ensure that those who lost their lives will forever be remembered.