By Colleen Slevin, The Associated Press
BOULDER — Hours before a gunman opened fire at a bustling Boulder King Soopers, Teri Leiker called her mother to tell her how excited she was to return from vacation to her job as a front-end bagger where she loved her customers and her colleagues.
She never came back home.
About 30 minutes before she was set to finish her shift on March 22, 2021, Leiker was shot and killed along with nine other people inside and outside the store. Nearly a year later, the redesigned King Soopers is set to reopen Wednesday, a move that is triggering mixed emotions for families of the victims.
For Leiker’s mother, Margie Whittington, the reopening of the store, which will bear name of the neighborhood emblazoned on the front, is a way of showing that evil does not triumph.
“When they see ‘Table Mesa’ they’ll know that this store did not get torn down and the shooter didn’t prevail,” said Whittingham, who said her daughter’s former co-workers and customers have reached out to comfort her. Leiker, who lived independently despite having cognitive disabilities, worked at the store for 32 years.
But the uncle of Rikki Olds, a front-end manager who was also killed at the store, thinks it may have been better to tear the store down, getting rid of the place where so much tragedy happened.
“What happened is still there,” Robert Olds said of the shooting.
Robert Olds hopes the newly designed store has better security than at the time of the shooting, including some of the measures he is responsible for as a school security supervisor. He would also like to see supermarkets install panic buttons that alert police to a shooting and automatically lock store doors, like schools have, and to also monitor their security cameras for signs of trouble, including outside the store. Authorities say the gunman opened fire in the parking lot before going inside.
He wasn’t impressed after touring the new store this week, saying “it was the same place it was.”
A spokesperson for King Soopers, Jessica Trowbridge, said a survey conducted by the company found that the store’s workers and customers overwhelmingly wanted the store to reopen and the company heeded changes they asked for, including a lighter, brighter appearance, created with a raised ceiling and a nearly all glass entry way with views of the nearby Flatirons, the city’s iconic rock formations.
“This is their community and they wanted to return to their community and their store,” said Trowbridge, who said that about 50% of the employees who worked at the store at the time of the shooting are returning to their jobs.
She declined to discuss whether there had been changes to security made in the store. When media were allowed inside to look at the store Tuesday, security guards were armed but Trowbridge said she could not talk about whether that would continue to be the case.
A memorial with 10 trees representing each of those killed is planned outside the store, she said.
The court case against the alleged gunman, Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 22, has been on hold since December, when a judge ruled that Alissa was mentally incompetent to stand trial and ordered him to be treated at the state mental hospital to see if he can be made well enough to go to trial.
Leiker’s mother, Whittington, credited Kroger, the company that owns King Soopers, with being sympathetic to the feelings of its long time customers in making changes to the store.
“The inside won’t look a thing like it did before,” she said.