Gunman in Colorado supermarket shooting charged with murder
10 victims in Colorado supermarket shooting range in age from 20 to 65
The suspect accused of opening fire inside a crowded Colorado supermarket was a 21-year-old man who purchased an assault weapon less than a week earlier, authorities said Tuesday, a day after the attack that killed 10 people, including a police officer.
Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa bought the weapon on March 16, just six days before the attack at a King Soopers store in Boulder, according to an arrest affidavit. It was not immediately known where the gun was purchased.
Alissa, who is from the Denver suburb of Arvada, was booked into the county jail Tuesday on murder charges after being treated at a hospital.
Investigators have not established a motive, but they say Alissa was the only shooter, Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty said.
Authorities identified nine of the shooting victims Tuesday after previously naming a police officer who had been killed.
The victims range in age from 20 to 65, said Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold. They were identified as Denny Stong, 20; Neven Stanisic, 23; Rikky Olds, 25; Tralona Bartkowiak, 49; Suzanne Fountain, 59; Teri Leiker, 51; Kevin Mahoney, 61; Lynn Murray, 62; and Jody Waters, 65.
The shooting on Monday at the crowded supermarket sent terrorized shoppers and workers scrambling for safety and stunned a state and a nation that has grieved several mass killings.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis promised that the victims would always be remembered and said "our hearts ache for those who lost their lives, for the families left behind."
"A simple run for milk and eggs, getting ready to shop, going in in a regular way we all live our lives, something that we can all identify with, led to a complete tragedy," Polis said.
WATCH | Governor shocked, saddened by shooting:
Praise for slain officer
Herold said police engaged in a shootout with the suspect inside the supermarket, and that is when Officer Eric Talley was killed.
Late Monday, Herold said Talley, 51, had been with the Boulder police force since 2010 and had seven children. He was the first to arrive after responding to a call about shots fired and someone carrying a rifle, she said.
Multiple reports have indicated Talley once had a career working in information technology, but Herold said Tuesday he "felt a higher calling."
"He cared about this community," she said.
Boulder Mayor Sam Weaver on Tuesday morning credited Talley and other first responders for preventing additional loss of life.
It was not immediately clear how many were customers of Boulder King Soopers and how many were employees. Leiker was identified to Reuters as a 30-year employee of the business by friend Lexi Knutson.
Several recent mass shootings
Michael Dougherty, Boulder County's district attorney, said it was too early to speculate on a motive and that the investigation involving local, state and federal agencies would take days.
The shooting came 10 days after a judge blocked a ban on assault rifles passed by the City of Boulder in 2018. That ordinance and another banning large-capacity magazines came after the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 people dead.
A lawsuit challenging the bans was filed quickly, backed by the National Rifle Association. The judge struck down the ordinance under a Colorado law that blocks cities from making their own rules about guns.
Chaotic, terrifying scene
The affidavit also says employees of the supermarket told investigators that the suspect on Monday shot an elderly man multiple times outside the store before going inside.
Multiple 911 calls paint a picture of a chaotic, terrifying scene, according to the affidavit.
One caller said the suspect had opened fire out the window of his vehicle. Others said they were hiding inside the grocery store as the suspect opened fire on customers.
There were reports of "parties down" and that a male suspect had shot at police. Witnesses called to describe the shooter as having a black AR-15 style gun and blue jeans and reported he might be wearing body armour.
By the time he was in custody, Alissa had been struck by a bullet that passed through his leg, the affidavit said.
After the shooting, detectives went to Alissa's home and found his sister-in-law, who told them that he had been playing around with a weapon she thought looked like a "machine gun," about two days earlier, the document said.
WATCH | Video from inside the supermarket (includes graphic content):
The attack in Boulder, about 40 kilometres northwest of Denver and home to the University of Colorado, stunned a state that has seen several mass shootings, including the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, the 2012 Aurora movie theatre shooting and in 2015 at a Planned Parenthood office in Colorado Springs.
Ryan Borowski told CBC's As It Happens he never saw the shooter, but quickly figured out the loud bangs he was hearing was gunfire. "I knew where the shots were coming from," he told host Carol Off. "I ran with other people."
He said some store employees showed them how to get out of the store through a back exit. Once he was safe, he said, the emotion started to come out.
"I hope that everybody who saw me running followed me. Because I made it out." He said he was afraid some of them may have gotten stuck and been forced to hide. "If I'd had to hide for 45 minutes," he said, "I would have been so much worse."
LISTEN | Carol Off's full interview with Ryan Borowski:
Sarah Moonshadow and her son, Nicolas Edwards, had just bought strawberries inside the supermarket when they heard gunfire.
Moonshadow told the Denver Post they ducked and "just ran." Outside, Edwards said police pulled up next to a body in the parking lot.
"I knew we couldn't do anything for the guy," he said. "We had to go."
Eve of gun violence hearing
In Washington, Democrat chair Dick Durbin emphasized that since he announced a Senate judicial committee hearing on gun violence — which was taking place Tuesday on Capitol Hill — mass shootings have occurred in Atlanta and Colorado, with a total of 20 separate shooting incidents in Chicago leading to four fatalities.
"It's devastating. These victims and our loved ones are worthy of our thoughts and our prayers, but there's more that's required," Durbin, from Illinois, said at the opening of the committee hearing.
"This hearing I hope will open a conversation about constitutional, common-sense ways to reduce gun violence in America."
U.S. President Joe Biden announced that flags nationwide would be lowered in memory of the victims — an order that comes just as a previous flag-lowering proclamation expired for those killed in the Atlanta-area shootings. Together the two orders mean near-continuous national mourning for almost two weeks.
WATCH | Colorado shooting renews calls for assault-weapons ban:
"I don't need to wait another minute, let alone an hour, to take common-sense steps that will save the lives in the future," Biden told reporters on Tuesday. "And I urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to act. We can ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in this country once again."
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas decried "another senseless mass murder" but said Democrat proposals would leave more lawful Americans defenceless.
"What happens in this committee after every mass shooting is Democrats propose taking guns from law-abiding citizens because that's their political agenda," Cruz said.
Monday's mid-afternoon attack was the seventh mass killing this year in the U.S., following the March 16 shooting that left eight people dead at three Atlanta-area massage businesses, according to a database compiled by The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University.
It follows a lull in mass killings during the pandemic in 2020, which had the smallest number of such attacks in more than a decade, according to the database, which tracks mass killings defined as four or more dead, not including the shooter.
While mass shootings decreased, the Gun Violence Archive tracked a 25 per cent increase in gun-related deaths overall in the U.S. in 2020 compared with the previous year.
With files from CBC News and Reuters