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.
— 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.
— 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.
- Dec. 13, 1993, Aurora. An 18-year-old man opened fire in a Chuck E. Cheese, killing four.
- April 20, 1999, Columbine High School, Littleton. Two teenagers killed 13 of their fellow students and themselves in one of the most notorious school shootings in history.
- Dec. 9, 2007, Arvada and Colorado Springs. Five died and five were injured when a man opened fire at two locations 60 miles apart. Two were killed at a Christian missionary training center in Arvada, just outside Denver, and another two died later in the day after the same shooter drove to Colorado Springs and opened fire in the parking lot of New Life Church. A church security guard, Jeanne Assam, who was also a former officer with the Minneapolis Police Department, shot the shooter inside the church. The shooter then committed suicide with the same weapon used in Arvada.
- July 20, 2012, Aurora. A shooter opened fire and threw explosives at a packed crowd of moviegoers at a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises, killing 12 and injuring 70. After being captured alive, the shooter told police his nearby apartment was booby-trapped. Police eventually used a bomb squad robot to deactivate a tripwire inside the apartment that connected the front door with 30 homemade grenades and 10 gallons of gasoline.
- Dec. 13, 2013, Arapahoe High School, Centennial. Carrying a shotgun and explosives, an 18-year-old student killed a fellow student and himself.
- Oct. 31, 2015, Colorado Springs. On Halloween morning, a man shot and killed three pedestrians near the city’s downtown before being killed in an exchange of fire with police. Two of those killed were women sitting on the front porch of a domestic abuse shelter, though no connection other than happenstance was ever established between the shooter and his victims.
- Nov. 27, 2015, Colorado Springs. One police officer was killed and five more injured in a five-hour standoff with a 57-year-old gunman at a Planned Parenthood office on the city’s north side. The man attacked the office less than a month after the city’s Halloween shootings. In all, three were killed and nine injured before police rammed the building with an armored truck, rescuing several civilians inside and prompting the shooter to surrender. The officer killed was Garrett Swasey, 44, of the University of Colorado campus police.
- Nov. 1, 2017, Thornton. A man shot and killed three in a Walmart in a Denver suburb.
- May 7, 2019, STEM School Highlands Ranch. An 18-year-old man and a 16-year-old girl attacked a charter school campus, killing one and injuring eight. The attack was the third premeditated mass shooting at a public school in the suburbs south of Denver. STEM School Highlands Ranch is less than 5 miles from both Arapahoe High School and Columbine High School.
- March 22, 2021, Boulder. King Soopers grocery store shooting.