Rikki Olds didn’t pay attention to what other people thought of her.
The 25-year-old was constantly dyeing her blonde hair, deciding on a whim what the latest color would be. Her coworkers at the Table Mesa King Soopers in Boulder nicknamed her “Wendy” because she often wore her blue/purple/pink locks in braids. When she wanted to stay blonde, Rikki would dye the underside, just so she could still have some color.
“Rikki showed up at the house and you never knew what color her hair would be. You never knew what new tattoos she would have,” said Bob Olds, her uncle. “Rikki lived life on Rikki’s terms. Not on anybody else’s terms.”
See all of The Sun’s coverage of the Boulder King Soopers shooting.
Coworkers at King Soopers could hear her laughter travel across the store. Rikki was bubbly and sweet, but not fake-bubbly. She was calm with irate customers and infectiously energetic. If you were pushing a shopping cart, she’d block your way, flail her arms and dance, just to make you laugh.
“Her favorite thing was being out-there and weird. She was goofy, and knew she didn’t have to be a stereotypical, pretty-eyed, blonde-haired girl,” said Brittany Tubbs, 27, who met Rikki when she started working for a King Soopers in Louisville. They became fast friends and roommates, and got matching tattoos of an alien head and the words, “stay weird.”
“She was a take-no-shit, I’m going to have fun, and fuck you if you judge me for it” person, Tubbs said.
Then came Monday afternoon, when an armed, 21-year-old man walked through the doors of the busy supermarket in south Boulder and began shooting. Rikki, a manager at the front of the store, and nine other people were killed, including two other King Soopers employees.
“Rikki was the light of our family,” said Bob Olds, her uncle, at a news conference Wednesday, on behalf of the family. “And her life was cut short.”
Rikki Olds graduated from Centaurus High School in Lafayette in 2013. She attended classes at Front Range Community College and had plans to pursue a career in nursing. When that didn’t work out, she changed paths and began working for King Soopers in 2016, where she quickly moved up the ranks and became a front-end manager.
It was at the King Soopers in Louisville where she met two of her future roommates.
Tubbs moved to Colorado from Iowa, and when she first got a job at the supermarket, Rikki was one of the first people to introduce herself. They quickly bonded over a similar sense of humor, and also recent personal losses: Tubbs had lost her mother, and Rikki her grandfather, who was a father figure and her “favorite person,” Tubbs said.
“I had worked in food service mostly, so going into a grocery store was different. And I had to learn to interact in that environment, by way of Rikki,” she said.
It was a similar story for Jerimicah Mills, 26, who was a recent Colorado transplant when he arrived at the King Soopers deli counter. Rikki was his supervisor.
“I didn’t know very many people, and Rikki was my first real friend,” Mills said.
The three quickly became close friends. Rikki moved in with Mills and Tubbs, at first just crashing on their couch, which Rikki didn’t mind. She was working all the time, and it was nice to live with friends in the same situation. Later, Rikki and Tubbs got their own place together.
Rikki liked to golf and play softball, but she was also a workaholic, especially during the pandemic. All three of them became managers, and as a result often had to step up to fill shifts from employees who got sick, couldn’t come in to work or were afraid of their exposure to coronavirus at work.
She was a goofy roommate. Rikki hated pants, perpetually lounging in her underwear and a T-shirt at home. She taught Tubbs, not much of a girly-girl, about the finer points of hair and skin care. Ketchup was her primary condiment; she ate it with everything. And she snorted when she laughed hard — which was often — and burped like a man.
“They were sound-barrier-breaking belches,” Mills said.
Above all, Rikki would always be there when you were having a bad day, even if hers was lousy, too. And she’d be the first to pump you up about your latest win, Mills said.
“She was a friend and another sibling and someone we could depend on in any aspect for our lives,” he said.
Rikki’s mother wasn’t there for her, so it was her grandparents and extended family who became important fixtures in her life. It also meant Rikki tried to take care of others, including her younger brother.
“She was like a daughter to my mom,” said Bob Olds, her uncle. “She has a little brother who is taking this really tough.”
Tubbs, a front-end supervisor at the King Soopers in the Gunbarrel Shopping Center in Boulder, clocked into her closing shift at 2 p.m. Monday. A half hour later the store manager told her about an active shooter at #33, the Table Mesa location.
She immediately called and texted Rikki multiple times. She didn’t answer, which wasn’t like her. At 4:30 pm, another friend called to tell her Rikki had been shot, but they didn’t know her condition.
Tubbs collapsed. The store’s management sent her home, so she drove to her grandparents’ house to watch the news before deciding to head over to Rikki’s grandmother’s house, where Tubbs told the family that Olds had been shot. Bob, Rikki’s uncle, called around frantically, trying to get more information. Rikki’s boyfriend searched for her at the CU Events Center, which police has established as a family reunification site, and left a picture with police.
“We had to wait and agonize over her fate for several hours,” Bob Olds told CNN. “After calls to the police department and every local hospital and the coroner’s office, we finally received a call back from the coroner’s office.”
Both Tubbs and Mills stayed with the Olds family until midnight, and when they hadn’t heard from the police, headed home. It wasn’t until 3 a.m. that they received a call from Rikki’s aunt confirming her death.
The two friends say they plan to go back to work after some time off. Especially after a year of pulling extra shifts on the front lines of the pandemic, their coworkers at King Soopers have become family.
And they’ve both felt an outpouring of support since Rikki’s death.
“We have all these people that are showing huge support for us … that knew how close we were with Rikki,” Mills said.
Rikki had a playful attitude toward life, her friends said. But her experiences made her an “absolute warrior.”
“She knew what she wanted, she knew she was going to get what she wanted, but she also knew she had to work for it. And she knew she had to put in any amount of time or effort to get where she wanted to be,” Tubbs said. “And she knew exactly what she was meant to do … take care of people.”
“Honestly, if she were here right now, with all of us crying, she’d be like, ‘let’s go have a party. I don’t want you guys to be sad.’”