Authorities said Tuesday that the gunman accused of opening fire inside a crowded Colorado supermarket was a 21-year-old man who had bought an assault weapon less than a week before the attack, which killed ten people, including a police officer.
According to an arrest affidavit, Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa purchased the weapon on March 16, just six days before the attack at a King Soopers store in Boulder. The location of the gun’s purchase was not immediately known.
After being treated at a hospital, Alissa, who is from the Denver suburb of Arvada, was booked into the county jail on murder charges on Tuesday. He was scheduled to appear in court for the first time on Thursday.
According to Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty, investigators have not determined a motive, but they suspect Alissa was the sole gunman.
The suspect’s family told investigators that Alissa was suffering from some kind of mental illness, including delusions, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the shooting. Alissa told relatives that people were stalking or pursuing him at times, which they believe led to the violence, according to the official. The official spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity since he was not allowed to speak publicly.
The shooting was the country’s deadliest mass shooting since a gunman killed 22 people at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, in a rampage that police say was aimed at Mexicans in 2019.
President Joe Biden, speaking in Washington, called on Congress to tighten the nation’s gun laws.
“In the state of Colorado, ten lives have been lost, and more families have been devastated by gun violence,” Biden said at the White House.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has promised to introduce two House-passed bills to the Senate floor that would mandate extended background checks for gun purchasers. The bills have Biden’s support, but they face a more difficult path to passage in the Senate, which is tightly divided and has a small Democratic majority.
The shooting occurred ten days after a judge overturned the city of Boulder’s assault rifle ban, which had been enacted in 2018. After the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 people dead, the ordinance and another banning large-capacity magazines were passed.
A complaint was soon brought, supported by the National Rifle Association, opposing the bans. The ordinance was overturned by a judge because of a Colorado law that prevents cities from enacting their own gun laws.
According to the affidavit, supermarket workers informed police that Alissa shot a man several times outside the Boulder grocery store before heading inside. Another individual was discovered shot in a vehicle next to the suspect’s brother’s car.
Shoppers and staff were terrified and ran for cover as the gunshots erupted. SWAT officers wearing ballistic shields approached the store slowly, while others escorted terrified people away from the shattered windows of the structure. Customers and employees took refuge in a back loading dock. Others sought shelter in nearby stores.
According to the affidavit, several 911 calls paint an image of a wild, frightening scene.
According to one caller, the suspect shot out the window of his car. Others said they were running inside the store when the gunman was shooting at customers. The gunman was identified as having a black AR-15-style gun and wearing blue jeans and probably body armor, according to witnesses.
Alissa had been hit by a bullet that went through his leg by the time he was taken into custody, according to the affidavit. He had stripped down to his underwear and was just wearing shorts. He had left the rifle, a tactical vest, a semiautomatic pistol, and his bloodied clothes inside the store, according to the affidavit.
Following the shooting, investigators went to Alissa’s house and found his sister-in-law, who told them he had been playing around with a weapon that looked like a “machine gun” about two days before, according to the paper.
The suspect’s father is believed to own a home in Arvada, but no one answered the door. The three-car garage, two-story house is located in a modern middle- and upper-class neighborhood.
According to a police affidavit, Alissa was found guilty of attacking a fellow student in class after knocking him to the floor, jumping on top of him, and hitting him in the head multiple times when he was a high school senior in 2018.
The affidavit stated that Alissa “got up in the classroom, walked over to the victim, and ‘cold cocked’ him in the head.” According to the affidavit, Alissa alleged that the student had made fun of him and called him “ethnic names” weeks before. Probation and community service were placed on him.
Angel Hernandez, one of Alissa’s former wrestling teammates, said Alissa became angry after losing a practice match, shouting profanities and threatening to kill anyone. For her outburst, Alissa was thrown off the squad, according to Hernandez.
Hernandez described him as “one of those guys with a short fuse.” “When he gets angry, it’s as if someone else takes over and it’s not him. At that point, there’s no stopping him.”
Alissa would also behave oddly at times, according to Hernandez, turning around abruptly or glancing over his shoulder. “’Did you see that?’ he’d ask. ‘Did you see that?’ Hernandez remembered something. “We wouldn’t be able to see anything. We still assumed he was teasing us.”
Officers investigated but dismissed a separate criminal mischief case involving the suspect in 2018 and arrested him for speeding in February, according to Arvada police Detective David Snelling. He said, “Our community is obviously concerned and upset that the suspect stayed here.”
Matt Benz, who lives several houses away from the home that was raided overnight, said, “We’d totally prefer not to have the attention we’re having here.” He said that hundreds of FBI agents wearing night-vision goggles swarmed the area and used a bullhorn to order everyone out of the house while questioning the residents.
Eric Talley, 51, was the officer who was killed. He had been with the police since 2010. After responding to a call about shots fired and someone holding a gun, he was the first to arrive, she said.
Homer Talley, 74, spoke of his son as a loving father who “knew the Lord.” He had seven children, ranging in age from seven to twenty.
From his ranch in central Texas, his father told The Associated Press, “We know where he is.” “He cherished his family above all else. He was unconcerned about death. He didn’t want to bring them through it.”
The other people who died were between the ages of 20 and 65. 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 Jodi Waters, 65, were named as the victims.
Around 100 people milled around a makeshift memorial near the supermarket late Tuesday night, which was decorated with wreaths, candles, banners reading “#Boulderstrong,” and ten crosses with blue hearts and the names of the victims. Four young girls huddled in the cold, one of them sobbing as she recalled how they had protested the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018.
Jordan Sailas, a former coworker, said Leiker, Olds, and Stong worked at the supermarket.
On the call, Olds’ grandmother sobbed as she identified the young woman she had a hand in raising. Jeanette Olds, 71, of Lafayette, Colorado, described her as “just a very sweet and caring, bubbly girl who lit up the room when she came in.”
The assault in Boulder, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) northwest of Denver and home to the University of Colorado, shocked a state that had previously experienced mass shootings such as the 1999 Columbine High School massacre and the 2012 Aurora movie theater shooting.
According to a database collected by the Associated Press, USA Today, and Northeastern University, Monday’s attack was the seventh mass killing in the United States this year, following the March 16 shooting that killed eight people at three Atlanta-area massage parlors.
According to the database, which monitors mass killings identified as four or more dead, not including the gunman, there was a lull in mass killings during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, which had the fewest number of such attacks in eight years.