Law enforcement officials have charged a 21-year-old man with first-degree murder after he allegedly opened fire at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado, on Monday, killing 10 people, including one police officer.
Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa of Arvada, Colorado, was taken into custody Monday after officers responded to multiple calls of shots fired near a King Soopers grocery store and a call about a person possibly “with a patrol rifle.”
Police said they confronted Alissa inside the supermarket. The suspect was injured during an exchange of gunfire and transported to a hospital, officials said during a news conference Tuesday. He has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and is expected to be transported to Boulder County Jail later Tuesday.
All 10 victims have been identified and their families have been notified of their deaths, police said Tuesday. The victims’ ages range from 20 years old to 65 years old. Those killed were Denny Stong, 20; Neven Stanisic, 23; Rikki Olds, 25; Tralona Bartkowiak, 49; Suzanne Fountain, 59; Terri Leiker, 51; Kevin Mahoney, 61; Lynn Murray, 62; and Jody Waters, 65. The slain officer was identified Monday as Eric Talley, 51.
According to a copy of the affidavit for his arrest, Alissa appeared to have been carrying a green tactical vest, a semiautomatic handgun and an assault weapon, possibly an AR-15, before he was taken into custody. Investigators later determined that he had purchased a Ruger AR-556 on March 16. It wasn’t clear whether this firearm was used in the attack.
Before entering the store, 911 callers reported seeing the gunman shoot at a vehicle in the parking lot. A body was later found in a vehicle that was parked next to one registered to one of Alissa’s brothers, police said. Store employees said the gunman also shot an elderly man in the parking lot multiple times.
Alissa was shot through his upper left thigh during the attack.
The suspect did not smell of alcohol or appear to be impaired due to drug use, authorities said. He didn’t say anything as he was being arrested, except to ask if he could speak to his mother.
Officials had said Alissa was not previously known to law enforcement, though according to the arrest affidavit, his criminal history includes a charge for third-degree assault out of Arvada in 2018. His identity was also known to the FBI because he was linked to another person being investigated by the bureau, The New York Times reported, citing law enforcement officials.
A woman who identified herself as Alissa’s sister-in-law told police Monday night that she had seen Alissa playing with a gun that she thought looked like a “machine gun” two days earlier. She and another person, whose name is redacted in the report, expressed their displeasure in him doing that inside the house and one of them took the gun away. At the time of the interview, the woman said she thought the gun might be back in Alissa’s room, according to the affidavit.
Alissa’s 34-year-old brother, Ali Aliwi Alissa, told The Daily Beast that he believed his brother was mentally ill. He described him as “very antisocial” and paranoid, and said he claimed in high school that he was being chased by someone.
Alissa’s former high school classmates also described him to The Denver Post as violent, short-tempered and paranoid.
“He was kind of scary to be around,” Dayton Marvel, one of Alissa’s wrestling teammates, told the paper. Marvel alleged that Alissa once threatened to kill everybody after losing a match.
Police are continuing to investigate a possible motive for the attack.
“This is real horror and terror for all of us ― the simple act of shopping in a grocery store,” Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) said during the news conference Tuesday. “This has been a painful year and we sit here once again surrounded by seemingly incomprehensible, senseless loss.”
During a news conference Monday, Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold praised Talley’s actions as “heroic.” The father of seven was the first officer on the scene and was shot in his head, according to the affidavit.
“This is a tragedy and a nightmare for Boulder County,” Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty said during a news conference Monday, adding that an investigation is underway. “We will stand united in support of the victims and their families to ensure that justice is done.”
The Boulder Police Department tweeted at 2:49 p.m. MDT on Monday, saying the public should avoid the supermarket due to an active shooter in the building. Law enforcement responded within minutes of a 911 call.
Multiple federal agencies, including the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, are assisting the state in its investigations. Local officials said they would do everything they could for the victims, to “fight for them and their families.”
Dougherty encouraged people nationwide to send their thoughts and prayers to families of victims, but added: “From my perspective, there’s more for us to do than to just give them our thoughts and prayers.”
“This is not the first mass shooting we’ve had in the state of Colorado,” he said. “One thing that’s happened in response to each and every one, including today’s horrific acts, is the response that we have from” law enforcement, victim advocates, investigators and prosecutors.
A man who identified himself as a videographer and journalist said in a YouTube livestream that he was near the King Soopers when he heard several gunshots. The videographer, who was later identified as Dean Schiller in an interview with the local Fox station, said he saw multiple “bodies on the ground,” including one outside the store’s front door and one in the parking lot.
“Hey, guys, I have a couple friends in there, so let’s pray that they’re doing all right,” said the man, whose YouTube account ZFG Videography describes his work as documenting Boulder-area police activity.
A witness told KDVR-TV that he was on his way to pick up coffee at the supermarket when he came upon the shooting scene.
“I was in shock initially, when we realized what was happening,” he told the station. “Once I called my mom and said I was OK and let her know what was happening, it all kind of sunk in, and I started panicking.”
The livestream showed local police telling the shooter through a speaker that law enforcement had surrounded the building and for the shooter to come outside immediately.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office told Denver station KUSA-TV that its SWAT team also arrived to assist with the situation. The ATF tweeted at 4:21 p.m. MDT that it was responding to the scene. The area quickly became filled with law enforcement, firetrucks and ambulances.
Police reportedly attempted to ram through the building using vans that were apparent in the livestream, according to the videographer. After more officers showed up, police then began to enter the building.
Law enforcement then walked out with a handcuffed man wearing only underwear and with blood on his leg, as shown in the graphic video below by Reuters. Officials on Tuesday would not say whether the man in this video was Alissa. They noted, however, that Alissa did sustain an injury to his leg before he was taken into custody.
Video of the incident showed police escorting at least half a dozen people out of the supermarket.
“We are forever grateful to the grocery workers, customers and the first responders who acted swiftly to prevent even greater loss of life – protecting our members and all those in danger inside the store,” said Kim Cordova, president of UFCW Local 7, which represents 32 grocery workers at the King Soopers store.
“This senseless act of evil also highlights and shines a light on the best of human nature,” she said. “There are news reports that after gunshots rang out, grocery workers helped customers in the store find safety, directing shoppers to an exit at the back of the store and assisted one another to escape the danger inside.”
James Bentz was in the supermarket’s meat section when he heard what he thought was a gun misfire, then several pops of gunfire, he told The Denver Post.
“I was then at the front of the stampede,” he told the outlet, adding that he witnessed younger people in the store taking care of the older people and helping them escape through the back loading dock.
“It seemed like all of us had imagined we’d be in a situation like this at some point in our lives,” he said.
A man told Denver’s CBS station that he got a call from his daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren, who had gone into the store’s pharmacy for a COVID-19 vaccine when someone “shot the woman in front of them.” He said that his family hid in a coat closet for over an hour, texting him throughout, until police helped them safely evacuate.
“I called Boulder home for many years and sent my son to high school there,” Shannon Watts, founder of the anti-gun violence group Moms Demand Action, said in a statement. “My heart is with all those in the community devastated by this senseless shooting.”
“We can’t and won’t accept gun violence in our supermarkets to spas to our homes, as just another fact of life,” she added. “It’s past time for our leaders to act and protect us from gun violence.”
Nina Golgowski and Sebastian Murdock contributed reporting.