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Crime and Courts

Arvada gun shop says it sold firearm to suspect in Boulder King Soopers shooting after background check

Boulder's Police chief says a semi-automatic Ruger AR-556 purchased in Arvada was used in the grocery store attack that left 10 people dead.

Eagles Nest Armory gun shop seen on March 24, 2021, in Arvada. (Hugh Carey, Special to The Colorado Sun)

An Arvada gun shop says it sold the suspect in the Boulder King Sooper’s shooting a gun and that he passed a state-mandated background check.

“We are absolutely shocked by what happened and our hearts are broken for the victims and families that are left behind,” John Mark Eagleton, owners of Eagles Nest Armory, said in a statement first reported by 9News. “Ensuring every sale that occurs at our shop is lawful, has always been and will always remain the highest priority for our business.”

Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 21, lived not far from the Eagles Nest Armory. The Colorado Sun called the store on Wednesday to ask if it had ever sold Alissa a weapon and a person who answered the phone said they weren’t commenting “at this time.”

Eagleton on Friday did not say when his store sold a gun to Alissa.

Police say Alissa purchased an AR-556 firearm six days before the shooting. The gun is a smaller version of the popular AR-15 rifle.

On Friday morning Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold said a semi-automatic Ruger AR-556 was used in the Boulder shooting and that it was purchased legally in Arvada. It is not clear whether the weapon the suspect purchased at the Eagles Nest Armory is the one used in the attack. Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty, when directly asked Friday if the AR-556 used the attack was purchased at Eagles Nest, declined to say.

“We have and will continue to fully cooperate with law enforcement as their investigation continues,” Eagleton said in his written statement.

Herold said the suspect, when he was captured, also had a 9mm, semiautomatic handgun. Authorities don’t believe that gun was used in the attack.

Dougherty was also asked if the suspect used a high-capacity magazine during the attack. Colorado banned magazines that carry more than 15 bullets in 2013. Dougherty didn’t answer the question, saying authorities are still looking into the weapons the suspect used in the attack as well as other guns associated with him.

Colorado requires a background check for every gun purchase and transfer. The shooting suspect pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault several years ago after attacking a classmate at Arvada West High School in 2017. That assault, however, would not have precluded him from passing a background check.

Alissa’s family members told CNN he may have suffered from mental illness and was paranoid. His public defenders on Thursday said in court that they are assessing the extent of his unspecified mental illness.

Police outside a King Soopers grocery store where a shooting took place Monday, March 22, 2021, in Boulder. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Gun background check forms ask if a purchaser has ever been “adjudicated as a mental defective” or if they have “ever been committed to a mental institution.” It’s not clear, however, if either of those were the case for the Boulder suspect.

In 2019, Colorado lawmakers passed a “red flag” law that allows judges to order the temporary seizure of firearms from a person considered a significant risk to themselves or others at the behest of law enforcement and family members and others close to the person. Nevertheless, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and Arvada Police Department say they never sought a seizure order on the Boulder shooting suspect, nor were they asked to pursue one.

The suspect is accused of 10 counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder in the shooting on Monday. Ten people, including a police officer, were killed in the attack.

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