According to an arrest affidavit, the 21-year-old suspected of killing 10 people in a mass shooting at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado, bought the gun just six days prior to the attack.
Law enforcement officials and former associates said that the suspect is someone prone to sudden anger, including a suspension from high school after a sudden attack on a classmate that left them bloodied.
The suspect was expected to make his first court appearance Thursday.
Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 21, is suspected of opening fire in a crowded supermarket, killing 10 people and sending shoppers, employees, and people lining up for COVID-19 vaccines fleeing in terror.
Authorities said Tuesday that the suspect has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder, and announced the names of the victims:
- Officer Eric Talley, 51
- Denny Strong, 20
- Jody Waters, 65
- Kevin Mahoney, 61
- Lynn Murray, 62
- Neven Stanisic, 23
- Rikki Olds, 25
- Suzanne Fountain, 59
- Terry Leiker, 51
- Tralona Bartkowiak, 49
"Our hearts go out to all the victims killed during this senseless act of violence," Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold said. "I want to say to the community, I'm so sorry this incident happened. And we're going to do everything in our power to make sure the suspect has a thorough trial and we do a thorough investigation."
The suspect bought an assault weapon on March 16, six days before the attack, according to an arrest affidavit. It is unknown where the suspect bought the weapon, and investigators have not yet established a motive.
A law enforcement official briefed on the shooting said the suspect’s family told investigators they believed Alissa was suffering some type of mental illness, including delusions. Relatives described times when Alissa told them people were following or chasing him, which they said may have contributed to the violence, the official said. The official was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
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, according to an arrest affidavit.
No one answered the door Tuesday at the Arvada home believed to be owned by the suspect’s father. The two-story house with a three-car garage sits in a relatively new middle- and upper-class neighborhood.
When he was a high school senior in 2018, Alissa was found guilty of assaulting a fellow student in class after knocking him to the floor, then climbing on top of him and punching him in the head several times, according to a police affidavit.
Alissa “got up in classroom, walked over to the victim & ‘cold cocked’ him in the head,” the affidavit read. Alissa complained that the student had made fun of him and called him “racial names” weeks earlier, according to the affidavit. An Arvada police report on the incident said the victim was bloodied and vomiting after the assault. Alissa was suspended from school and sentenced to probation and community service.
One of his former high school wrestling teammates, Angel Hernandez, said Alissa got enraged after losing a match in practice once, letting out a stream of invectives and yelling he would kill everyone. Hernandez said the coach kicked Alissa off the team for the outburst.
“He was one of those guys with a short fuse,” Hernandez said. “Once he gets mad, it’s like something takes over and it’s not him. There is no stopping him at that point.”
Hernandez said Alissa also would act strangely sometimes, turning around suddenly or glancing over his shoulder. “He would say, ‘Did you see that? Did you see that?’” Hernandez recalled. “We wouldn’t see anything. We always thought he was messing with us.”
Arvada police investigated but dropped a separate criminal mischief complaint involving the suspect in 2018, said Detective David Snelling. The man also was cited for speeding in February. “Our community is obviously concerned and upset that the suspect lived here,” Snelling said.
Well after dark Tuesday night, about 100 people mourned at a makeshift memorial near the grocery that was adorned with wreaths, candles, banners reading “#Boulderstrong” and 10 crosses with blue hearts and the victims’ names. Therapy dogs were on hand to provide comfort.
Four young girls huddled in the cold, one of them crying as she reminisced about how they had protested the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Others recalled the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School and the 2012 Aurora movie theater massacre.
Homer Talley, 74, described his son Eric as a devoted father who “knew the Lord.” He had seven children, ages 7 to 20.
Three victims, Leiker, Olds, and Stong, worked at the supermarket, former co-worker Jordan Sailas said.
Kim Cordova, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, which represents more than 30 store employees, said workers did their best to get customers to safety.
“They grabbed everybody they could and they brought them to the backroom or to other areas of the store to hide or got them out through the back dock,” Cordova said. “And these poor grocery workers have just been through hell in general working through COVID this entire last year of the pandemic.”
Speaking from the White House on Tuesday prior to his trip to Ohio, President Joe Biden mourned the losses of the victims and their families.
"Less than a week after the horrific murders of eight people and the assault on the AAPI community in Georgia, while the flag was still flying half staff for the tragedy, another American city has been scarred by gun violence and the resulting trauma," Biden said. "And I even hate to say it, because we're saying it so often: My heart goes out. Our hearts go out for the survivors who had to flee for their lives, and who hid, terrified, unsure if they would ever see their families again, their friends again."
Biden thanked the heroic police officers and first responders, making special mention of the slain Officer Eric Talley, commending his bravery and sending condolences to his family.
"When he pinned on that badge yesterday morning he didn't know what the day would bring," Biden said, adding: "He thought he'd be coming home to his family and his 7 children. But when the moment to act came, Officer Talley did not hesitate in his duty, making the ultimate sacrifice in his effort to save lives. That's the definition of an American hero."
I don’t need to wait another minute – or another hour – to take common sense steps that will save lives in the future," Biden said, calling for the Senate to "immediately pass" the background check bills the House passed earlier this month, citing that they have bipartisan support and "should not be a partisan issue."
"This is an American issue," Biden said. "It will save lives, American lives. And we have to act."
"We should also ban assault weapons in the process," Biden said.
Biden earlier ordered the White House flags to fly at half-staff to honor the victims of the shooting.
Police identified the suspect as Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 21, and announced that they have been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder. The suspect is in stable condition after being shot in an exchange of gunfire with police.
Authorities have not yet released a motive, and believe that he was the only shooter.
A law enforcement official briefed on the shooting told The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity that the gunman used an AR-15 rifle, a lightweight semi-automatic rifle. Officials were trying to trace the gun.
"We should be able to feel safe in our grocery stores. We should be able to feel safe in our schools, in our movie theaters and in our communities," Colorado Rep. Joe Neguse said Tuesday. "We need to see a change because we have lost far too many lives."
"This cannot be our new normal," Neguse added.
"My heart aches today, and I think all of ours does," Gov. Jared Polis said of the victims of Monday's "senseless" shootings, also noting the pain carried by survivors, those "who have scars that can't be seen but are every bit as painful."
Authorities previously identified one of the people killed as Boulder police officer Eric Talley, the first officer to respond to the scene, according to Chief Herold.
Talley, 51, had served with the Boulder Police Department since 2010.
"He served in numerous roles supporting the Boulder Police Department and the community of Boulder," Herold said at a press conference Monday night, describing his actions at the scene as "heroic."
"He was by all accounts one of the outstanding officers of the Boulder Police Department, and his life was cut too short," Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty said.
Dozens of police and emergency vehicles, their lights flashing, escorted an ambulance carrying the slain officer from the shooting scene after nightfall. Some residents stood along the route, their arms raised in salute.
"These were people going about their day, doing their shopping and their lives were cut abruptly short and tragically short by the shooter who is now in custody," Dougherty said of the victims at Monday's press conference. "I hope that people of this country send the families of the loved ones their thoughts and prayers. But from my perspective, there's more for us to do than give them thoughts and prayers. We're going to go all out to ensure the right result is reached."
Officials said police are still investigating and did not have details on a motive for the shooting at the King Soopers store in Boulder, which is about 25 miles northwest of Denver and home to the University of Colorado.
The attack in Boulder, about 25 miles 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 and the 2012 Aurora movie theater shooting.
Monday’s 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 coronavirus pandemic in 2020, which had the smallest number of such attacks in eight years, according to the database, which tracks mass killings defined as four or more dead, not including the shooter.
Lawmakers statewide and across the country shared their pain and grief for the tragedy on social media and in statements.
Former President Barack Obama mourned the losses of the latest deadly shooting in America and called for leaders and lawmakers to action on gun violence.
"In a normal life, we should be able to buy groceries without fear," Obama wrote. "We should be able to go to school, or go out with our friends, or worship together without mentally planning our escape if someone shows up with a gun. We should be able to live our lives without wondering if the next trip outside our home could be our last.
"We should. But in America, we can't," he continued, before calling for action: "We can make it harder for those with hate in their hearts to buy weapons of war. We can overcome opposition by cowardly politicians and the pressure of a gun lobby that opposes any limit on the ability of anyone to assemble an arsenal. We can, and we must."
"A once-in-a-century pandemic cannot be the only thing that slows mass shootings in this country," the 44th president said, adding: "It’s time for leaders everywhere to listen to the American people when they say enough is enough."
Rep. Neguse (D-CO), who represents Boulder, said that he is "heartbroken" and urged that "this cannot be our new normal."
"Twenty-one years ago, as a young student in Douglas County, I joined many Coloradans in weeping for the victims of the terrible massacre at Columbine High ten minutes from my high school," he said in a statement. "Two years ago, I felt the fear that so many Coloradans experienced learning of the shooting at the STEM School in Highlands Ranch, where my niece — a kindergartner — was locked down, as we all wept at the tragic loss of life. And tonight, I weep for the families of my constituents, who have tragically lost their lives in yet another mass shooting."
"Enough is enough," Neguse continued. "Americans should feel safe in their grocery stores. They should feel safe in their schools, their movie theaters and in their communities."
Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) echoed Neguse's sentiments in a statement: "We all share Boulder’s pain – pain that hits home. Columbine, Arapahoe, Platte Canyon, STEM School Highlands Ranch, Planned Parenthood, Aurora – and now Boulder. More needs to be done to prevent dangerous weapons from falling into the wrong hands. Enough is enough."
In a statement posted to Twitter, Gov. Polis said his "heart is breaking as we watch this unspeakable event unfold in our Boulder community."
"We are making every public safety resource available to assist the Boulder County Sheriff's Department as they work to secure the store," Polis continued, noting that it is still "very much an active situation."
Colorado's Attorney Generao Phil Weiser said he was "saddened and angered" by the shooting in a statement, adding that his office is "standing ready and is committed to helping in any way that is useful."
"I’m deeply saddened and angered with the news of another tragic shooting in Colorado. I’m thinking of all our fellow Coloradans in Boulder who were affected by the unspeakable violence that occurred at King Soopers on Table Mesa," Weiser said, adding: "As we learn more about the incident, I’m thankful for the brave law enforcement officials and first responders who are assisting victims, securing the scene, and putting themselves in harm’s way."
Sen. Michael Bennett (D-CO), Colorado's senior senator, said in a statement that it is "long past time for Congress to take meaningful action to keep deadly weapons out of the wrong hands."
Bennett expressed gratitude "for the swift response from law enforcement and first responders" and his deepest sympathies to the families of the victims, adding: "Enough is enough."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) expressed her sympathies to the victims and gratitude to the first responders, while also calling for action.
"For the second time in a week, our nation is being confronted by the epidemic of gun violence. Too many families in too many places are being forced to endure this unfathomable pain and anguish," Pelosi said in a statement. Action is needed now to prevent this scourge from continuing to ravage our communities. That is why, this month, the House passed H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act and H.R. 1446, the Enhanced Background Checks Act, two commonsense gun violence prevention measures."
"While we await further information on the details of this heinous crime, we continue to stand with victims, families and young people across the country saying, 'Enough is enough,'" Pelosi concluded.
The FBI said it’s helping in the investigation at the request of Boulder police.
In a statement, the King Soopers chain offered “thoughts, prayers and support to our associates, customers, and the first responders who so bravely responded to this tragic situation. We will continue to cooperate with local law enforcement and our store will remain closed during the police investigation.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.