Boulder, Colo., continues to grieve two days after a mass shooting at a grocery store left 10 people dead, with a Wednesday afternoon procession to honor the police officer who charged into the line of fire to be followed by a candlelight vigil at the county courthouse.
The authorities have yet to release details about a possible motive for the deadly attack. The suspect, Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, charged with 10 counts of murder, is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Thursday morning, according to court records.
As the personal stories of those whose lives were cut short have emerged — a dedicated gardener, a helpful store employee, a man soon to become a grandfather — the enormity of the loss has been made clear. The Rev. Radovan Petrovic, the family priest of one of the victims of Monday’s shooting, 23-year-old Neven Stanisic, described the family’s suffering as “beyond comprehension.”
“And now, the biggest question for the family, besides all the sorrow they are enduring, is how this could have happened here,” he said.
Though that question has not been answered, the authorities on Tuesday released a detailed affidavit as they charged Mr. Alissa with 10 counts of first-degree murder, which in Colorado carries a penalty of life imprisonment without parole.
Law-enforcement officials said Mr. Alissa had been armed with a handgun and military-style semiautomatic rifle and was wearing an armored vest when he carried out the attacks at the King Soopers store in Boulder’s Table Mesa neighborhood.
Investigators said the gunman began the rampage in the parking lot, then pushed inside. Officer Eric Talley, 51, an 11-year veteran of the Boulder Police Department, was the first officer to reach the scene. Officers who swept into the store soon after found his lifeless body and dragged it back outside.
The attack in Boulder, combined with the killing of eight people at Atlanta-area spas last week — six of whom were women of Asian descent — has brought gun control back to the center of political discourse in America. President Biden on Tuesday called for Congress to take immediate action by passing a ban on assault weapons and closing background check loopholes.
In Boulder, memorials were planned for Wednesday as people continued to grieve, including a candlelight vigil scheduled at the Boulder County Courthouse.
“Flags had barely been raised back to full mast after the tragic shooting in Atlanta that claimed eight lives,” said Colorado’s governor, Jared Polis, during a news conference, “and now a tragedy here, close to home, at a grocery store that could be any of our neighborhood grocery stores.”
Months after the horrific shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in 2018 that killed 17 people, the Boulder City Council decided to try to prevent future mass shootings within its own city limits.
That same year, it unanimously passed an ordinance that made it illegal to purchase the kind of semiautomatic rifle that the suspect accused of killing 10 people at the King Soopers grocery store in Boulder bought six days before the shooting.
It is still not clear whether the Ruger AR-556 semiautomatic weapon — essentially a shortened version of an AR-15 style rifle marketed as a pistol — bought by the suspect, Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, is the same one used in the shooting. But in an affidavit, law enforcement officials said Mr. Alissa was armed with a military-style semiautomatic rifle and a pistol.
It is also not clear yet where the suspect purchased the gun, but under the ordinance, he would not have been able to legally purchase it in Boulder.
However, when Mr. Alissa bought the pistol, on March 16, the ordinance banning such weapons was no longer in effect. Just nine days before the shooting, a Boulder County district judge, Andrew Hartman, had ruled that the ban violated state law and could no longer be enforced. The judge cited a 2003 Colorado law that prohibits cities and counties from banning firearms that are legal under state and federal law.
In Denver, an assault weapons ban was allowed to stand by the Colorado Supreme Court in 2006. But the circumstances were somewhat different. Among other things, Denver’s ban, unlike Boulder’s, had already been on the books for years when the 2003 state law was passed.
Boulder’s city attorney, Tom Carr, drafted the 2018 ordinance at the request of the City Council.
“I hope and pray we never have a mass shooting in Boulder,” he told The Daily Camera at the time, “and what this ordinance is about is reducing, on the margins, the ease with which somebody could do that.
“If you look at most of the mass shootings, the guns were purchased legally. I see this as an ordinance that throws in one more barrier to someone who’s contemplating such a horrible act.”
When a customer at the King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, Colo., had a complaint, the staff knew just who to turn to: Rikki Olds, the 25-year-old front-end manager. They called her “Wendy” because she often wore her hair in braids, like the red-haired namesake of the fast food chain.
“If you were having that bad day, Rikki was there to make it better,” her co-worker, Carlee Lough, said Wednesday at an emotional news briefing held by Ms. Olds’s family. She was among the 10 people killed in Monday’s mass shooting at the store.
“Rikki was kind of the light of our family,” said her uncle, Robert Olds. She would often show up with a new hair color or another tattoo, and never cared about judgments from others, he said, describing her as “vibrant” and “bubbly.”
“There’s a hole in our family that won’t be filled,” Mr. Olds said, taking deep breaths as he paused between phrases. “She had dreams, she had ambitions,” he said, noting that she had been moving up the ladder at King Soopers.
Sometimes, Ms. Olds would laugh so hard that she would snort, her uncle recalled, smiling. He looked up toward the ceiling and joked that she might throw something at him for revealing that memory. “I will really miss her,” he said.
Ms. Olds’s younger brother is taking the loss particularly hard, her uncle said, and asked the public to keep him in their thoughts and prayers.
YouTube said it will not remove a bystander video of the mass shooting on Monday at the King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, Colo., that includes footage of bodies on the ground.
Viewers must click through two warnings to watch the video, which state that “this video may be inappropriate for some users” and “the following content has been identified by the YouTube community as inappropriate or offensive to some audiences.”
In the past, YouTube and other video-hosting networks like Twitter and Facebook have removed videos with graphic violence, including in 2019 when a gunman in Christchurch, New Zealand, streamed his own massacre. But YouTube said in a statement Wednesday that the Boulder video had been reviewed and would be allowed to remain.
“Violent content intended to shock or disgust viewers and hate speech are not allowed on YouTube, and as a result we have removed a number of videos for violating our policies,” a company spokesperson, Elena Hernandez, said in a statement. “We do allow certain violent or graphic content with sufficient news or documentary context, and so we’ve applied an age restriction to this particular content. We will continue to monitor this rapidly changing situation.”
YouTube said it considers a variety of factors when deciding whether to remove a video, including whether it provides context for the violence, whether the violence is the focus of the video, and if the accompanying text indicates intent to shock or disgust viewers.
The three-hour video from King Soopers, taken by a bystander named Dean Schiller who said he had a friend inside the store, begins with Mr. Schiller filming and zooming in on a body in the parking lot. Gunshots can be heard as he walks into the store and focuses on a body near the entrance. Over the course of an hourlong standoff, he films from behind cars, railings and trees, refusing repeated police commands to clear the area and capturing the police response from outside of the building.
Mr. Schiller repeatedly identifies himself to the police as a journalist, and lashes out at officers who, after about 90 minutes, move him behind yellow police tape, which journalists typically stand behind. Before that, his close vantage point allowed viewers to directly see the events unfold, including footage of a handcuffed man, believed to be the gunman, being led away by officers with a bloody leg.
Some viewers criticized the video for showing graphic images of bodies and speculating on motives. It had been viewed more than 700,000 times on YouTube as of Wednesday morning. More than 30,000 people were simultaneously watching live at one point, according to The Gazette newspaper of Colorado Springs.
Mr. Schiller, who is unaffiliated with any news organization, calls himself a citizen journalist and is well-known to the Boulder police. The Gazette said he sued the city in 2019 after he was arrested for filming in and near the county jail.
WASHINGTON — Faced with the second mass shooting in a week, President Biden and Democrats on Capitol Hill called on Tuesday for fast action to enact stricter gun laws, a plea that was immediately met with a blockade of opposition by Republicans.
In brief, somber remarks from the White House, Mr. Biden called on the Senate to pass a ban on assault weapons and to close background check loopholes, saying that doing so would be “common sense steps that will save lives in the future.”
His demand for action was the latest in what has become a doleful ritual in Washington: making a renewed call for gun safety legislation after a deadly shooting, this one at a Colorado grocery store where 10 people, including a police officer, were killed on Monday.
“This is not and should not be a partisan issue — it is an American issue,” Mr. Biden said. “We have to act.”
But while polling regularly shows broad support for tighter gun laws and specific policies like a ban on assault weapons, Republicans in Congress remained all but immovable on the issue, repeating longstanding arguments on Tuesday that gun violence should be addressed through steps like more policing rather than limiting gun rights.
“There’s not a big appetite among our members to do things that would appear to be addressing it, but actually don’t do anything to fix the problem,” said Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 2 Senate Republican.
President Barack Obama was unable to win passage of tighter gun legislation even after the shootings in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, which left 20 children and six adults dead. Since then, there has been little progress at the federal level, even as the epidemic of gun violence has raged on.
On Tuesday, Mr. Biden noted that he had to draft a proclamation to keep the White House flags at half-staff because they had already been lowered to honor eight people killed by a gunman in the Atlanta area less than a week earlier.
“Another American city has been scarred by gun violence and the resulting trauma,” the president said.
The man accused of walking into a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, Colo., on Monday and killing 10 people was armed with a military-style semiautomatic rifle and a pistol, law enforcement officials said.
Statements from the police and the charging documents did not make it clear which of the weapons was used in the attack, but it appeared at least one is a semiautomatic derivative of the assault rifles that have long been used by the American military.
According to a police affidavit, the suspect charged with 10 counts of murder, Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, bought a Ruger AR-556 semiautomatic weapon, essentially a shortened version of an AR-15 style rifle marketed as a pistol, six days before the killings took place. It is also unclear if that weapon was used in the shooting on Monday.
Both the AR-15 style rifle and the Ruger version fire the same small-caliber, high-velocity ammunition, which was first developed for battlefield use.
Under Colorado law, a handgun is defined as a “pistol, revolver or other firearm of any description, loaded or unloaded, from which any shot, bullet or other missile can be discharged, the length of the barrel of which, not including any revolving, detachable or magazine breech, does not exceed 12 inches.”
Based on their size, “AR pistols” are much easier to conceal than a typical AR-15 carbine or rifle. According to the manufacturer’s website, the Ruger AR-556 pistol comes with either a 9.5-inch or 10.5 inch-long barrel, while a typical AR-15 has at least a 16-inch barrel.
The incident came just days after a mass shooting at a grocery store in Boulder, Colo., that left 10 people dead, and about a week after shootings at spas in the Atlanta area that killed eight people — six of them women of Asian descent.
The police said the man entered a Publix grocery store at Atlantic Station, a popular shopping and residential area northwest of downtown Atlanta. Officers went to the store, where a manager told them that the man had entered with a rifle and had gone into a bathroom.
The man was being interviewed and subjected to a mental health evaluation, the police said. He was charged with reckless conduct and was expected to be held at the Fulton County Jail.
Georgia allows people to carry a handgun if they have the proper license, according to the Giffords Law Center. The law also allows people to carry long guns without a license, provided that, if the long gun is loaded, it is carried openly.
Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, the man accused of killing 10 people in a grocery store attack in Colorado, had a history of angry outbursts, according to police records and people who knew him, including one that resulted in a misdemeanor assault conviction when he was still in high school.
According to a police affidavit, just a week ago, he bought a Ruger AR-556 pistol — essentially a shortened version of an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.
On Monday, law enforcement officials say, Mr. Alissa, 21, who lived in Arvada, Colo., went to a King Soopers store in nearby Boulder and killed 10 people.
When he was a senior at Arvada West High School, he beat up another student during a class, leading to the assault conviction; a fellow student said he flew into a rage “out of nowhere.”
A police report from the November 2017 incident said he “got up in classroom, walked over to victim & ‘cold cocked’ him in the head,” knocking him to the floor, and then “punched him in head several more times.” The report said Mr. Alissa stated that the other student had “made fun of him and called him racial names weeks earlier.”
Others also recalled examples of Mr. Alissa’s temper, sometimes in response to slights.
Mr. Alissa, a wrestler, had friends in high school, but also had an anger problem, said a classmate, Brooke Campbell, who was the wrestling team manager. “When he’d lose wrestling matches, when it’s something not that important, he’d get too angry,” she said.
“It’s scary, you know, looking back, that you knew someone that was capable of those things, or is now,” Ms. Campbell said of the shooting.
The police affidavit, released on Tuesday, said Mr. Alissa bought the Ruger firearm on March 16, and that his brother’s girlfriend saw him playing with what she thought looked like a machine gun just two days before the shooting. The authorities have said he had a rifle and a pistol with him during the assault, but it is not clear if one of those weapons was the Ruger bought last week.
He was charged on Tuesday with 10 counts of first-degree murder, which in Colorado carries a penalty of death or life in prison without parole. Officials have not suggested a motive for the crime.
Michael Dougherty, the Boulder County district attorney, said the suspect had “lived most of his life in the United States.” Both the suspect’s criminal record and a Facebook page that appeared to belong to him say he was born in Syria in 1999.
The police affidavit described Mr. Alissa as standing 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighing 200 pounds. That is far more than the 140 pounds listed from his arrest in November 2017, when he was a high school senior; a few months later he was found guilty of third-degree assault, and sentenced to probation and community service.
Mr. Alissa apparently had a serious interest in martial arts. The Facebook page listed wrestling and kickboxing as being among his interests, and many of the posts were about martial arts. One Facebook post, in 2019, said simply, “#NeedAGirlfriend.”
The page said he had studied computer engineering at Metropolitan State University of Denver, but a university spokesman, Timothy Carroll, said the suspect “is not nor has ever been an MSU Denver student.” The Facebook page was taken down within an hour of Mr. Alissa’s name being released by the authorities.
The suspect’s identity was known to the F.B.I. because he was linked to another individual under investigation by the bureau, according to law enforcement officials.
They were young and old, single and married, King Soopers customers and King Soopers employees. The youngest was 20; the oldest 65.
Some had spent years working at the grocery. Others had been in the store only a few minutes. All left behind relatives and friends who were struggling to comprehend what had happened and who were more eager to talk about how their relative or friend had lived than how they had died.
The authorities identified the victims as Denny Stong, 20; Neven Stanisic, 23; Rikki Olds, 25; Tralona Bartkowiak, 49; Eric Talley, 51; Teri Leiker, 51; Suzanne Fountain, 59; Kevin Mahoney, 61; Lynn Murray, 62; and Jody Waters, 65.
Like the people shopping at a Walmart store in El Paso in 2019, like those working in three Atlanta area spas last week, 10 victims in Boulder, Colo., were killed by the gunfire of a heavily armed man.
“I don’t want her name to be another name next to an age on a list,” said Alexis Knutson, 22, a friend of Teri Leiker, 51, a King Soopers employee who she said had worked there for about 30 years and who died in the attack.
Ms. Knutson met Ms. Leiker through a program called Best Buddies that connects students at University of Colorado Boulder with members of the community who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. Ms. Knutson remembered going together to university sporting events, and how Ms. Leiker loved to cheer on the teams.
“She had the biggest, brightest smile,” Ms. Knutson said. “She always just had these dimples that, especially when she got excited about something — her smile was just huge.”
Despite their age difference, Ms. Knutson said, they bonded, and would talk often. “I always had a rule: She couldn’t call before 9 a.m. because I like my sleep,” she said. “She would always call me at 6 a.m.”
Denny Stong, 20, worked at the store for several years. Only a few years ago, he had been a student at Fairview High School in Boulder.
One day in a hall at Fairview, he complimented a classmate, Molly Proch, on her superhero T-shirt, and the two became fast friends.
“I’ve been spending most of my morning crying, really confused on how something like this could happen again,” said Ms. Proch, 20. “He was an essential worker, working at a grocery store. It makes my blood boil.”
Monday’s shooting in Boulder, Colo., that left 10 people dead, including a police officer and at least three grocery store employees, brought back memories for Frank DeAngelis, a former principal of Columbine High School.
In April 1999, a pair of student gunmen killed 13 people and wounded 21 others at Mr. DeAngelis’s school in Littleton, outside Denver. The event plunged the nation into sorrow and set the stage for more mass shootings to come over the next two decades.
“It’s not that I’m an expert, but I think that when I talk to people and I say, ‘I know what you’re feeling,’ they understand what I’m saying,” Mr. DeAngelis said. “Wherever you are right now, we were there 21 years ago or 22 years ago.”
Since the Columbine attack, Mr. DeAngelis has consulted and assisted communities across the country after shootings, including one in suburban Cleveland and at Virginia Tech. He was also sought out by the Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission, a group that was leading efforts to build a memorial to the 20 children and six adults who died in a December 2012 attack at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.
After Monday’s shooting, Mr. DeAngelis said he didn’t want a feeling of hopelessness to prevail.
“We can’t give up, and I never want us to get to a point in our lives where people are just saying, ‘OK, how many this time?’ where we become desensitized,” he told CBS. “We’ve got to say, ‘We can’t do this.’”
Hundreds of miles apart but at exactly the same time on Monday afternoon, a gunman opened fire in a supermarket in Boulder, Colo., and Iowa State Senate Republicans voted to gut the state’s law requiring permits to carry concealed weapons. The bill’s sponsor expressed relief that Iowans would be able to exercise their gun rights “without a permission slip.’’
Last month in Maryland, however, Democrats overrode Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of a bill expanding background checks, and in Virginia, Democrats passed bills banning guns on the State Capitol grounds and tightening the state’s background checks system.
The diverging efforts reflect the national checkerboard of state-by-state gun laws that align with the partisan tilt of each state, while Congress has not addressed gun violence with meaningful legislation since 1994, when a 10-year ban on assault weapons was included in the crime bill championed by now-President Biden.
Since the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut killed 20 first-grade students and six adults, 13 states, all controlled by Democrats, have enacted or expanded background checks for new gun purchases. Meanwhile, 14 states, all controlled by Republicans, have passed laws allowing their citizens to carry guns with no permit process at all, as the Iowa legislation would do.
The political divide on gun policy across the states is another example of the way national issues — including abortion rights and, in the post-Trump era, voting rights — are defining local politics.
Still, gun politics has shifted drastically in the decade since the Sandy Hook shooting. Since then, two major gun control organizations, backed by former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York and former Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, a victim herself of gun violence, have built nationwide grass-roots organizations. In the 2018 and 2020 elections, the groups outspent the embattled National Rifle Association in federal campaigns for the first time.
- ^ a dedicated gardener, a helpful store employee, a man soon to become a grandfather (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ to the Daily Beast (www.thedailybeast.com)
- ^ passing a ban on assault weapons (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ ordinance (library.municode.com)
- ^ The Denver Post (www.denverpost.com)
- ^ in 2006 (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ The Daily Camera (www.dailycamera.com)
- ^ among the 10 people killed (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ streamed his own massacre (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ criticized the video (www.vice.com)
- ^ according to The Gazette newspaper (gazette.com)
- ^ were killed on Monday (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ left 20 children and six adults dead (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ eight people killed by a gunman in the Atlanta area (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ Colorado law (www.atf.gov)
- ^ manufacturer’s website (ruger.com)
- ^ Denver Post reported. (www.denverpost.com)
- ^ the police said (www.atlantapd.org)
- ^ The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported (www.ajc.com)
- ^ The law (law.justia.com)
- ^ to the Daily Beast (www.thedailybeast.com)
- ^ The authorities identified the victims (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ in El Paso (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ Atlanta area spas last week (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ were killed by the gunfire (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ that left 10 (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ police officer and at least three grocery store employees (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ killed 13 people and wounded 21 others (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ Mr. DeAngelis (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ He told CBS Denver (denver.cbslocal.com)
- ^ one in suburban Cleveland (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ Virginia Tech (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ sought out by the Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ voted to gut the state’s law (www.desmoinesregister.com)
- ^ overrode Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of a bill expanding background checks (www.marylandmatters.org)
- ^ tightening the state’s background checks system (www.wavy.com)
- ^ a victim herself of gun violence (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ the groups outspent the embattled National Rifle Association (www.wsj.com)