By Colleen Slevin, The Associated Press
With flowers, a moment of silence and a public remembrance for those who died and those still grieving, Colorado residents marked the one-year anniversary Tuesday of a shooting at a busy supermarket in the college town of Boulder that left 10 people dead, including employees, customers and a veteran police officer.
The March 22, 2021, attack at a King Soopers grocery close to the Rocky Mountain foothills shocked a state that has seen its share of mass shootings, including the 1999 Columbine High School massacre and the 2012 Aurora movie theater shooting.
With the slogan “Boulder Strong,” residents and elected officials sought to rally a community still seeking reasons for last year’s attack.
“Let today serve as a reminder that moving forward doesn’t mean leaving those we’ve lost behind,” Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement. “We must never forget the Colorado spirit of strength and resilience demonstrated in our darkest hours.”
The city, home to the University of Colorado, called for a communitywide moment of silence at 2:30 p.m., about the time a lone gunman opened fire at the store. Polis and others gathered with residents Tuesday evening for a public remembrance in a park downtown.
Flowers adorned a police car parked in front of the Boulder Police Department headquarters with a large portrait of Officer Eric Talley, who was shot and killed after rushing into the store with an initial team of police officers. The 51-year-old father of seven left his career as an information technology worker a decade before after feeling a calling to become a police officer.
The nine others killed inside and outside the supermarket were Denny Stong, Neven Stanisic, Rikki Olds, Tralona Bartkowiak, Teri Leiker, Suzanne Fountain, Kevin Mahoney, Lynn Murray and Jody Waters.
Stong, Olds and Leiker worked at the supermarket.
On a cold, blustery day, mourners observed the moment of silence at a police department ceremony honoring Talley, whose family sat under a tent. Police Chief Maris Herold presented Talley’s widow, Leah, with a framed uniform pin bearing the date of the shooting and Talley’s radio number, given to everyone working for the department, at the time of the shooting. The sun cracked through the clouds briefly.
Speaker after speaker stressed that Talley saved many lives when he rushed into the building despite not knowing how many shooters there were. “The survivors of the attack walk amongst us still,” said District Attorney Michael Dougherty.
About 100 people gathered for a remembrance ceremony at a bandshell in downtown Boulder later Tuesday, where 10 bare trees were decorated in white lights.
Boulder County Commissioner Claire Levy told those gathered that Boulder’s residents are compassionate activists — and she urged them to extend kindness to those who are suffering. “We will enfold them with our love,” Levy said.
Anne Mutaw, a resident of nearby Louisville, said she was there to honor Rikki Olds, a front-end manager at the supermarket who had attended high school with Mutaw’s granddaughter. “We’re all here showing love toward one another, and that’s very healing,” Mutaw said.
The remodeled King Soopers reopened last month, with about half of those who worked there at the time of the shooting choosing to return. The store was closed Tuesday for the anniversary; a sign in front with the victims’ names read “We Will Never Forget.” Ten white roses were placed in a row on a grassy strip between the store and the street.
People paused at the store to honor the victims, including Jonathan Ditlow, 19, and his mother, Terri. Ditlow worked at another King Soopers store when the shooting happened but filled a manager job at the Boulder shop when it reopened. He said he’s mindful that some of his colleagues are still grieving.
“You just have to understand what people are going through and realize that it is bigger than a job now,” Ditlow said.
Investigators have not released any information about why they believe the man charged in the shooting, Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 22, launched the attack or why he may have targeted the supermarket. He lived in the neighboring suburb of Arvada, where authorities say he passed a background check to legally buy the Ruger AR-556 pistol six days before using it in the shooting. However, he is accused of unlawfully possessing 10 high-capacity ammunition magazines, which were banned in Colorado after previous mass shootings.
Alissa’s prosecution has been on hold since December, when a judge ruled he 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 understand court proceedings and help his lawyers defend him.
Few details about Alissa’s mental health have been released. The reports by experts who have examined Alissa are not public, but a court filing discussing one of those evaluations said he had been provisionally diagnosed with an unspecified mental health condition that limits his ability to “meaningfully converse with others.”
A hearing is scheduled next month to discuss whether there has been any change in his condition.
After the shooting, Polis, a Democrat, signed into law a bill creating a state office to craft initiatives to deter firearms use. A second law allows municipalities to enact gun regulations that are stricter than what state law allows. A court had overturned a Boulder ban on assault weapons just days before the supermarket shooting.
A third law bars people convicted of certain violent misdemeanors from buying a firearm for five years. Alissa had been convicted of a third-degree misdemeanor assault charge, but authorities said last year he legally bought a firearm before the attack.