No Motive Yet As Investigators Name Victims, Piece Together Timeline Of Boulder King Soopers Shooting

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Ron Cabrera lights a candle at the makeshift memorial around the perimeter of the Table Mesa King Soopers parking lot, Tuesday, March 23, 2021.

Updated 6:37 p.m., March 24

The shooting started in the parking lot. Boulder Police received a call around 2:40 p.m. Monday about someone with a rifle.

King Soopers employees told police that a man got out of his car and opened fire outside the supermarket along Boulder's Table Mesa Drive. One witness said he shot out the window of a car. Another said he chased a man toward Broadway. A third said he watched him shoot an elderly man in the parking lot, then stand above him firing repeatedly.

Before long, the gunman was inside the store, and employees were scrambling for shelter. More people were shot, including Boulder Police Officer Eric Talley, who was among the first on the scene. He died of a gunshot wound to the head.

Less than an hour later, a SWAT team found Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 21, in the store, according to an affidavit in support of a warrant for his arrest. He had removed much of his clothing, including a possible tactical vest he was wearing for the shooting. He was bleeding from his leg. They ordered him to back up toward the officers, then took him into custody.

He asked to talk to his mother.

Inside and around the store, police found 10 victims, all dead. They were identified by authorities Tuesday.

  • Denny Stong, 20
  • Neven Stanisic, 23
  • Rikki Olds, 25 and a King Soopers employee
  • Tralona Bartkowiak, 49
  • Teri Leiker, 51
  • Boulder Police Officer Eric Talley, 51
  • Suzanne Fountain, 59
  • Kevin Mahoney, 61 
  • Lynn Murray, 62 
  • Jody Waters, 65

“I feel numb,” Chief Maris Herold told reporters Tuesday morning. “And it's heart-breaking. It's heart-breaking to talk to victims, their families. It's tragic.”

Friends and family would remember and pay tribute to those they lost on social media throughout the day. Denny Stong, one of the King Soopers employees was "a kind soul with a funny sense of humor." When you were in the presence of Jody Waters, the oldest of the victims, "you felt the love." Speaking from the White House later in the day, President Joe Biden said Officer Talley was the “definition of an American hero.”

As the day progressed, a little was learned about the suspect held in custody for the shooting, but nothing yet of any possible motive. Michael Schneider, the FBI Special Agent in charge, said it is too early in the investigation to make any conclusions. Alissa faces 10 counts of first-degree murder and is being held without bond at the Boulder County Jail after his release from a hospital for treatment of his wound. He is scheduled to make his first appearance before a judge Thursday.

At the house where the gunman lived, there was no answer at the door. Neighbors weren't answering either, although one did confirm that authorities raided the house the night before. Police said in the affidavit that they executed a search warrant for the house at 10 p.m. Monday. Neighbors said local police were joined by the FBI.

Gov. Jared Polis later remarked on NPR’s All Things Considered that “it's hard for any of us to fathom what the motive would be of a young man from Arvada to just come into seemingly, randomly, [a] King Soopers in a town 15, 20 miles away and just start killing innocent people.”

President Joe Biden called on Congress to enact a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

“This is not and should not be a partisan issue — it is an American issue,” Biden said. “We have to act.”

The affidavit said the gunman bought a Ruger AR-556 on March 16, the same day another gunman went on a shooting rampage at Georgia massage businesses. But the affidavit did not detail where the gun was obtained or whether the one he purchased was the one used in the shootings. A sister-in-law told officials that she had seen the suspect with a firearm she described as a "machine gun" a few days earlier as well.

Tuesday was a day of tributes to the victims, who were shoppers, grocery store employees and the officer, as a makeshift memorial grew at the King Soopers.

"Anyone who has lived in South Boulder or has visited South Boulder or just this area, I think is very aware that this King Soopers is just a staple of the community," said Paige McSavaney, 18, who hid in her car in the parking lot of the store as the shooting happened. "And that might seem odd that a supermarket is so important, but it truly is."

McSavaney said she grew up down the street from the King Soopers and that her mother was inside the store just 10 minutes before the shooting happened.

Chief Herold on Tuesday morning called Officer Talley a kind man who cared about the community, that he was willing to die to protect it.

When Officer Richard Steidell arrived, he saw his colleague down and apparently dead. Then, according to the police affidavit, Steidell saw the gunman, moving left to right and firing throughout the store. There was an exchange of gunfire during which the suspect was shot. No other officers were injured.

People fled through the loading docks or ran to an upstairs employee area. Near the front of the store, in the pharmacy, technician Maggie Montoya hid in a metal-doored room where they had been administering COVID-19 vaccinations. She heard the moment when the police demanded the suspect's surrender over a loudspeaker.

The response came from just in front of the pharmacy, shocking Montoya.

“He said, ‘I surrender, I’m naked,’” she recalled.

Outside the store on Tuesday, mourners left flowers and stood by to remember the people who were killed. Savanah Spakes lives near the King Soopers and said her boyfriend works inside — though he wasn’t there on Monday.

“You have to be so grateful in the moment for something like that, but you realize it wasn't you but it is other people that are feeling these things today and it could have been so different on any other day,” she remarked.

CPR News reporter Andrew Kenney contributed to this report.

Editor's Note: CPR News includes the name of an alleged shooter only when it is critical to the story.

In the initial list of names provided by the Boulder Police Department, Denny Stong's surname was misspelled. We've updated this story to reflect the correct spelling.

A previous version of this story misspelled Jody Waters' name on a reference.