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Crime and Courts

Boulder shooting suspect used assault weapon he legally purchased from Arvada gun store

Boulder police say they don’t know the gunman’s motive, but investigators have already put in 3,000 hours into seeking answers

A Boulder Police Department patrol car is barely discernible on March 24, 2021, under the flowers and other tributes people have left for Officer Eric Talley, who was shot inside the Table Mesa King Soopers on March 22, 2021. (Steve Peterson, Special to The Colorado Sun)
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The gunman who killed 10 people at a Boulder King Soopers this week used an assault weapon he legally purchased at an Arvada gun store,  but investigators still don’t know his motive, police said Friday.

“We, too, want to know why,” Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold said, speaking from the steps of Boulder police headquarters, where flowers, balloons and other memorials for Officer Eric Talley, who was one of 10 people killed in Monday’s shooting, covered a police vehicle. A sign near the patrol car said, “Always in our hearts.”

“Why that King Soopers?” Herold said. “Why Boulder? Why Monday? Unfortunately at this time, we don’t have those answers.”

The accused gunman used an AR-556, which is similar to the popular AR-15 rifle. The gun was legally purchased at a gun store in Arvada, where the suspect lives, Herold said. The suspect, who is in custody without bond, was also carrying a 9mm handgun, but law officers do not believe he used the handgun during the attack, the chief said. 

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Herold and other law officers walked through the crime scene Thursday, an investigative protocol that she called “very challenging.” The “vastness of the scene,” she said, made it one of the most complex she has ever worked. “You’re talking about a huge supermarket, obviously, a huge parking lot,” she said.

Herold said officers from 26 different law enforcement agencies have spent the past five days working “around the clock,” about 3,000 hours, to piece together a timeline of the attack. 

A Boulder police officer who exchanged gunfire with the shooter has been placed on administrative leave, as is customary. The 11-year veteran of the department was not injured, Herold said. 

“We have seen such an outpouring of sorrow, grief,” she said. “It’s just been extremely heartening for me to see how this community supports this police department and the other victims involved in this unbelievable incident. I just want the community to know that I am very grateful.”

Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty said officers from the Boulder Police Department and the University of Colorado responded “very, very quickly to the report of shots fired” at the grocery store, but were unable at first to locate the suspect. Many officers put their lives at risk, he said. 

“They charged into the store,” he said. “Their actions saved others from being killed. They charged into the store and immediately faced a very significant amount of gunfire from the shooter.

“It was a grocery store in the middle of the day. That’s how many people were there. But for the actions of law enforcement and the quick thinking by a lot of the people in the supermarket, this would have been much, much worse in terms of the number of victims.”

Dougherty has filed 11 charges against the shooting suspect so far, with more expected. Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 21, faces nine counts of first-degree murder after deliberation, one count of first-degree murder of a peace officer after deliberation and one count of attempted first-degree murder of a peace officer.

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Those killed in the shooting were: Denny Stong, 20; Neven Stanisic, 23; Rikki Olds, 25; Tralona Bartkowiak, 49; Suzanne Fountain, 59; Teri Leiker, 51; Kevin Mahoney, 61; Lynn Murray, 62; Jody Waters, 65; and Talley, a Boulder police officer who was 51.

“On Monday, Boulder suffered a devastating, horrific and traumatic attack to our community,” Dougherty said. “We are committed to making sure justice is done for each of the victims and their loved ones.” 

People who fled the King Soopers the day of the shooting, leaving their vehicles behind, were allowed to pick them up Thursday, police said. Officers were on site to help coordinate. 

Meanwhile, the funeral for Officer Talley was planned for Tuesday, and the community can watch via livestream, broadcast on various local stations. Boulder police officials said earlier this week that they used Talley’s handcuffs on the suspected shooter as they transferred him from a local hospital to the jail. 

“It was our distinct honor,” the department tweeted.

The city of Boulder also appointed media liaisons to field requests for interviews with victims’ families, who have been bombarded by local and national reporters since the shooting. Each family has its own coordinator, set up through the city. 

The police chief said it was the first time in her 30-year career that she had seen so many victims’ advocates come together to help families of the victims. 

An Arvada gun shop not far from the suspect’s home, the Eagles Nest Armory, confirmed that it sold him a gun and that he passed a state-mandated background check.

Boulder had a ban on assault weapons, but 10 days before the shooting, it was struck down by a judge who said it violated a Colorado law that prohibits local officials from enacting their own firearm regulations.

It appears the Boulder law, had it been in place, would not have stopped the shooting. The alleged gunman lived in Arvada, where there is no assault-weapons ban.


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