Officer Eric Talley died in the line of duty while attempting to stop an active shooter in the King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, Colo., Monday, March 22, 2021. Photo courtesy of the Boulder Police Department/Twitter. Composite by Joshua Skovlund/Coffee or Die Magazine.
A 10-year veteran police officer was shot and killed by a gunman Monday night in the opening minutes of the mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado. By the time police arrested a 21-year-old man an hour after the first shots, 10 were dead, including Boulder Police Department Officer Eric Talley, 51.
Talley (pictured above), a father of seven, was the first to arrive on the scene, according to local authorities, and was mortally wounded after entering the grocery store to confront the shooter.
Though police say the single gunman appears to have acted alone, no motive has been announced by officials, who said at a Monday night press conference outside the King Soopers grocery store that they expect the investigation will take at least five days to collect and process evidence.
Three survivors spoke to NBC’s Today show Tuesday morning and recounted what they had experienced. Logan Smith, an employee of the grocery store’s internal Starbucks coffee kiosk, said he helped co-workers hide after first running toward the shots at about 2:30 in the afternoon. “A customer ran into the store alerting me that there was an active shooter in the parking lot. I wasn’t the smartest and ran outside to see what was actually going on,” Smith said. “I ran back inside, immediately grabbed my phone, and called 911. […] Then shooting began inside.” Smith helped a co-worker hide behind trash cans, then tried to hide behind another trash can himself — which, at 6-foot-5, was no easy task. “I was definitely in a life-threatening situation,” he said.
Clear video of the suspected Boulder shooter's arrest, Ahmad Al-Issa. pic.twitter.com/LYnVjTDj9W
— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) March 23, 2021
Newlyweds Neven and Quinlyn Sloan told Today they were shopping when the shots started. The couple ran out the back of the store, but Neven Sloan joined another man in returning to help others flee.
“I just felt God compel me to go back in,” Neven Sloan said. “There were two older women trying to get out and I wanted to go back and help them.”
Quinlyn Sloan watched as her husband ran back. “I was like, everyone in the crowd is running away and my husband of a month and a half is running towards it,” she said. “That’s totally his heart, and he just loves people in that way.”
A Boulder-area videographer was in the area when the shooting unfolded, and his livestream video caught gunshots fired by the shooter inside the store. The photographer broadcast pictures of three different adult bodies, including one each in the parking lot, on an access ramp in front of the store, and just inside the front doors — each a grisly marker of the shooter’s path as he approached the store.
#BOULDERSHOOTING Updated information, live press conference https://t.co/00999WftkY
— Boulder Police Dept. (@boulderpolice) March 23, 2021
Shortly after, a massive multiagency police response arrived with SWAT teams from Jefferson County, Denver, and other local agencies. Police officers in SWAT gear were raised up to the roof of the grocery store, and they appeared to secure the rooftop as officers were gathering in a position outside the main door to enter and clear the grocery store. Police armored vehicles breached the front windows of the grocery store and appeared to take up a blocking position.
Coffee or Die Magazine monitored the radio traffic via a police scanner app until the radio channel was encrypted and shut off after the suspect was arrested. Radio calls at 3:31 p.m. indicated that officers had entered the grocery store. At 3:35 p.m., just over an hour after Smith and his Starbucks co-workers hid, radio calls indicated police were about to escort out a shooter. Live-streamed videos from news agencies flying overhead showed officers and a firefighter medic escorting a handcuffed suspect out of the grocery store.
The handcuffed male appeared to have blood covering his right leg from an unidentifiable injury. He also appeared to be limping and wore only tattered pants.
As officers searched the building and nearby cars, three different medical helicopters came and went from the scene. At approximately 4:12 p.m., officers radioed that they believed they had the shooter’s vehicle and that a rifle case was located inside it.
In total, the gunman killed 10, including Talley.
#BoulderShooting live update 3/23/21 8:30 AM https://t.co/T3yXqQ1TP9
— Boulder Police Dept. (@boulderpolice) March 23, 2021
As frequently occurs in the early hours of public shooting events, incorrect information swirled among both responding officers and in the media covering the event. Early reports stated more than one shooter and several officers down, though in the end police say the 21-year-old was the lone gunman and Talley the only responder to be shot. Media also tracked a nearby raid of an apartment, where a suspect was said to be “antagonizing” dispatchers over the phone. News agencies moved some of their coverage to the second location, which appeared to involve a barricaded individual. After some time, officers cleared the area and authorities said that the location was unrelated to the grocery store shooting.
During a press conference Tuesday, law enforcement authorities identified the shooter as Ahmad Alissa, 21, of Arvada, a suburb of Denver, and said he has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder. Authorities confirmed Alissa was struck by at least one bullet during an exchange of gunfire with law enforcement officers and was in stable condition at a local hospital. Authorities said that he will be booked into the Boulder County Jail at some point Tuesday.
Colorado, and particularly the ring of small, fast-growing cities that surround Denver, is no stranger to gun violence in public places. Smith, the Starbucks employee, said that the state’s history often lurks in his mind at work. “Because of the events within Colorado’s history, it’s been in the back of my head […] that something like this could happen,” Smith said. The bloody history entails 10 mass shootings, including Monday’s, that date back to 1993. Each incident left multiple victims searching for clarity as to why such tragic events happen.
Here are the previous events that led to mass chaos and death in Colorado.
Joshua Skovlund has covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis that followed the death of George Floyd. Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, he grew up playing football and soccer before serving as a forward observer in the US Army. After leaving the service, he earned his CrossFit Level 1 certificate and worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. He went on to work in paramedicine for more than five years, much of that time in the North Minneapolis area, before transitioning to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married with two children. His creative outlets include Skovlund Photography and Concentrated Emotion, where he publishes poetry focused on his life experiences.
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