Boulder marks anniversary of deadly supermarket attack

FILE – Crosses are enveloped with bouquets and other tributes to the victims of a mass shooting in a King Soopers grocery store, Friday, March 26, 2021, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

BOULDER | With flowers and a public remembrance for those who died and those still grieving, Colorado residents were marking 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 searching for answers about why last year’s attack happened.

“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. MDT, about the time a lone gunman opened fire at the store. Polis and others planned to gather 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 photo 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.

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.

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 legally bought the Ruger AR-556 pistol he allegedly used six days before the shooting after passing a background check. 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.

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8 months ago

It’s important to commemorate and memorialize all victims of gun violence. Thoughts and prayers are best followed by action. Please consider joining or supporting such organizations as Ceasefire Colorado, Colorado Faith Communities United to End Gun Violence (CFCU), Brady or others working to lesson the epidemic of gun violence in our society.

Guns don’t kill people; people with guns do.