A Day After Colorado Grocery Store Massacre, a Suspect in Custody but Few Answers

(Reuters) -
Conrad Wright leaves flowers and takes a moment at the site of a mass shooting at King Soopers grocery store, in Boulder, Colorado. (REUTERS/Alyson McClaran)

Police on Tuesday identified the 21-year-old suspect accused of killing 10 people – including a policeman – in a hail of bullets at a Colorado supermarket, marking the United States’ second mass shooting in a week and adding to the state’s tragic history of deadly massacres.

The suspect, Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa of Arvada, Colorado, stormed the King Soopers outlet in Boulder armed with an assault-style rifle and a handgun and wearing a tactical vest, all of which were recovered after Monday’s shooting, according to an arrest affidavit filed by police. The affidavit also said law enforcement databases show Alissa purchased an AR-15 type of assault rifle on March 16.

Alissa was released from a hospital, where he was treated for a leg wound suffered in an exchange of gunfire with responding police, and transported to county jail on Tuesday afternoon to await an initial court appearance on murder and other charges. His criminal history shows a single charge for third-degree assault in 2018, according to the affidavit.

Authorities said they were confident he acted alone, though they did not offer any details on what might have motivated him to open fire at the store, about 28 miles (45 km) northwest of Denver.

“It would be premature for us to draw any conclusions at this time,” Michael Schneider, the agent in charge of the FBI’s field office in Denver, said at a news briefing.

The 10 victims range in age from 20 to 65 and include Eric Talley, an 11-year veteran of the Boulder police force. Talley, 51, was the father of seven children and had recently been looking for a less dangerous job, according to a statement released by his father.

Police identified the nine other victims 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.

At least three victims appeared to have worked at the store.

Monday’s attack, which began around 2:40 p.m., drew hundreds of police officers to the scene and sent terrified shoppers and employees fleeing for safety amid the sound of gunfire.

Colorado has been the site of some of the most shocking episodes of gun violence in U.S. history, including the 2012 mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora and the 1999 rampage at Columbine High School near Littleton.

The latest bloodshed came only six days after a gunman went on a killing spree on March 16 in the Atlanta area, fatally shooting eight people at three day spas before he was arrested.

“My heart aches today,” Colorado Governor Jared Polis said on Tuesday. “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.”

The two mass shootings are likely to intensify pressure on President Joe Biden to fulfill his campaign pledge to enact tougher gun limits. But legislation to ban assault weapons and tighten background checks have stalled amid Republican opposition in Congress.

“I don’t need to wait another minute, let alone another hour, to take common sense steps that will save lives in the future,” Biden said at the White House on Tuesday. “This is not and should not be a partisan issue.”