On Monday, March 22, ten people were shot and killed at the King Soopers supermarket in Boulder, Colorado. The gunman, 21-year-old Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, was armed with both a military-style semi-automatic rifle and a pistol, according to the New York Times. Among the ten victims was a member of the Boulder Police Department, Officer Eric Talley (51), who had responded to 911 calls about the shooting. The nine other victims were Denny Stong (20), Neven Stanisic (23), Rikki Olds (25), Tralona Bartkowiak (49), Suzanne Fountain (59), Teri Leiker (51), Kevin Mahoney (61), Lynn Murray (62) and Jody Waters (65). Olds, Leiker and Stong worked at the supermarket. Following the deadly massacre in Atlanta, Georgia on March 16, this is the second mass shooting to occur in the same week. “Flags had barely been raised back to full mast after the tragic shooting in Atlanta that claimed eight lives, and now a tragedy here, close to home, at a grocery store that could be any of our neighborhood grocery stores,” said Colorado’s governor, Jared Polis.
One grocery store employee, Emily Giffin, narrowly escaped Alissa’s shots. Giffin was smoking outside when she heard guns firing and saw people fleeing the scene. “I don’t know how he didn’t see us,” she told the Associated Press. “I just really am having a hard time understanding why me and my friends deserve to die. It doesn’t seem personal, so I don’t quite get why we pulled that lottery ticket.”
Over 500 people attended a candlelight vigil in Downtown Boulder to mourn the victims. According to the Associated Press, violins played and “Ave Maria” was sung following a moment of silence. “It was so beautiful to see all of these people who live right here with me actually acknowledge individual people’s names,” said Emily Giffin. “They don’t just know us as their employees. We’re a part of their community.”
Alissa was charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder, which carries a penalty of life imprisonment without parole in Colorado. According to the New York Times, Alissa’s identity was already known to the FBI because he was linked to another individual under its investigation. As a senior at Arvada West High School, Alissa was known to have a “fierce temper” and was convicted in 2018 of a misdemeanor assault against another student. Despite these records on his name, Alissa passed a background check and purchased the weapon he used in the shooting at Eagles Nest Armory in Arvada, Colorado. “We are absolutely shocked by what happened and our hearts are broken for the victims and families that are left behind,” said the gun shop owner John Mark Eagleton.
Alissa appeared in court on Thursday, March 25 in a wheelchair, due to an injury to his leg. Accompanying him was his attorney, Kathryn Herold, who requested a three-month delay from the court, stating, “Our position is that we cannot do anything until we are able to fully assess Mr. Alissa’s mental illness.” District Attorney Michael Dougherty did not object to this delay but asked that the next hearing be delayed by a month and a half, noting that his office would file additional charges against Alissa “in the next couple of weeks.” District Judge Thomas Mulvahill agreed to the shorter time frame, during which Alissa will be held without bond.
President Biden responded quickly to the attack, saying that he was “devastated” by the shooting and urging Congress to enact legislation banning assault-style weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. “Another American city has been scarred by gun violence and the resulting trauma,” he said. “This is not and should not be a partisan issue — it is an American issue. We have to act… I don’t need to wait another minute, let alone an hour, to take common-sense steps that will save lives in the future.”