2021 Boulder shooting

2021 Boulder shooting
Part of mass shootings in the United States
Boulder King Soopers parking lot (Green Mountain - panoramio (2) (cropped)).jpg
The King Soopers parking lot where the shooting began (2016)
LocationTable Mesa neighborhood of Boulder, Colorado, U.S.
Coordinates39°59′01″N 105°15′05″W / 39.98361°N 105.25139°W / 39.98361; -105.25139Coordinates: 39°59′01″N 105°15′05″W / 39.98361°N 105.25139°W / 39.98361; -105.25139
DateMarch 22, 2021 (2021-03-22)
c. 2:30 p.m. – 3:28 p.m. (MDT)
TargetPeople at a King Soopers supermarket
Weapons
Deaths10[3]
Injured1 (the suspect)
MotiveUnder investigation[2]
AccusedAhmad Al Aliwi Al-Issa[4]
Charges10 counts of first-degree murder, 1 count of attempted murder

On March 22, 2021, a mass shooting occurred at a King Soopers supermarket in Boulder, Colorado, United States. Ten people were killed, including a local on-duty police officer.[3] The alleged shooter, 21-year-old Ahmad Al Aliwi Al-Issa, was arrested after being shot in the leg by police. He was temporarily hospitalized[5] before being moved to the county jail.[6] Legal proceedings against Al-Issa began on March 25.

Events

The shooting began shortly after 2:30 p.m. MDT (20:30 UTC) when a gunman entered the parking lot of a King Soopers supermarket and began to fire at people.[7] He was described by witnesses as wearing an "armored" vest and holding a "rifle", which turned out to be a modified Ruger AR-556 pistol that was used in the shooting (he also carried a 9mm semi-automatic handgun).[1][2] He was first seen by employees and customers who watched him shoot at customers in the parking lot before turning and entering the store.[8] The first victim was a repairman who was killed in a van parked next to the gunman's vehicle. The gunman then walked towards the store; along the way, he killed another person in the parking lot who was trying to flee, shooting him multiple times.[9][10][11] Next, he killed two more people while entering the store through its eastern entrance.[9]

A man waiting in line with his family for his COVID-19 vaccine at the store's pharmacy witnessed the gunman shoot a woman at the front of the line before finding safety in a coat closet with his family.[12] Some customers and employees reached safety through a back exit for the supermarket.[13][14] Some were praised for their actions in helping evacuate and hide individuals away from the shooter.[15]

At 2:33 p.m., the Boulder Police Department began receiving calls of a person with a "patrol rifle" in the area and shots being fired. Witnesses at the scene reported hearing anywhere from ten to thirty shots fired in rapid succession by the gunman.[13][14] At 2:34 p.m., a Boulder Police dispatcher provided an initial description of the gunman as "a white male, middle-aged, dark hair, beard, black vest, short-sleeved shirt."[16] The first responding officers arrived at the scene within two minutes of the first calls. Officer Eric Talley entered the store within 30 seconds of his arrival, and at around 2:37 p.m., an unidentified female officer radioed in to say that she and Talley were going in.[9] Running towards gunfire, Talley was shot and killed by the gunman.[5][16][17][18] He was the last victim in the shooting, according to Boulder police.[19]

By 2:39 p.m., responding officers reported being fired upon repeatedly by the gunman.[16] At around the same time, an armored police vehicle was used to break the store's front windows.[9] Officers engaged the gunman in a shootout from 3:00 p.m. to 3:21 p.m.[16][20] They also used a sound system to order him to surrender. According to police and witnesses, the gunman was laughing and occasionally mumbling.[9] A store employee said that while she was hiding, she heard gunshots and screams and then only the store music and phones ringing afterwards.[21] Police did not enter the store again until 3:22 p.m., fearing an ambush.[9] Eventually, the gunman was shot in the leg; he surrendered by saying, "I surrender. I'm naked",[8] and at 3:28 p.m., he was taken into custody.[21] Boulder police formally took him into custody using the handcuffs of slain officer Eric Talley.[22][23] He had a leg gunshot wound at the time of his arrest, so he was first transported to Boulder Community Health Foothills Hospital,[24] and eventually transferred him to the Boulder County Jail, where he was held without bond.[6][25]

After the gunman was taken into custody, police searched through the store and evacuated people who had remained inside.[9] A shelter-in-place order was issued in the area at 4:18 p.m. and lifted at 6:40 p.m.[26] Up to fifteen agencies responded to the shooting, including the Jefferson County SWAT, the FBI, the ATF and local police departments.[27] A fire department ladder truck was used to get a SWAT team onto the roof.[28] At least three medical helicopters were summoned to a staging area at nearby Fairview High School.[29][30]

Victims

There were ten fatalities in the shooting:[18][29][31][32][33]

Officer Talley, who had been working with the Boulder Police Department since 2010, was one of the first police officers to arrive at the scene.[9][18] His death marked the first time a Boulder police officer was killed in the line of duty since 1994, only the sixth such death in the department's history.[34] Seven of the victims died inside the store, while the other three died outside.[9]

While Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold initially said several other police officers were injured during the response, the department later said that no other officers were injured.[35][36]

Suspect

Ahmad Al Aliwi Al-Issa (or Alissa), age 21, from nearby Arvada, Colorado, is the alleged shooter. Al-Issa was born in Syria in 1999 and became a naturalized U.S. citizen.[35][37][22] His family immigrated to the U.S. in 2002 and moved to Arvada in 2014.[38] Al-Issa's older brother said that Al-Issa has a history of paranoid, disturbed, and antisocial behavior that developed after Al-Issa was bullied in high school, and his brother was concerned for his mental health.[37][38][39][40] Al-Issa was convicted of a misdemeanor in 2018 for punching a classmate at Arvada West High School.[2][22][40] He pleaded guilty to an assault charge in relation to the incident and received two months of probation in addition to 48 hours of community service.[40][41][42]

According to a police affidavit, Al-Issa bought a Ruger AR-556 semi-automatic pistol, a pistol similar in appearance to an AR-15 style rifle, on March 16 in his hometown, which he modified with an arm brace.[38] Boulder police clarified in a news conference on March 26 that they believed the AR-556 was the only weapon used by the suspect during the shooting, but he also had a 9mm handgun with him.[38][43][44] Al-Issa's identity was already known to the Federal Bureau of Investigation due to a link to another person under investigation by law enforcement officials.[35]

Al-Issa expressed on his now-deleted Facebook page and to his high school wrestling teammates that he believed he was being targeted for harassment due to racism and Islamophobia.[22][40][41] According to SITE Intelligence Group, "there was no indication on his Facebook account that suggested radical views of any kind, whether it be Islamist, anti-Trump, or anything else."[22] His brother said the shootings were not a political statement.[38][40][45] The Boulder County District Attorney is waiting to reveal more information about Al-Issa's motives while the FBI and other agencies are investigating the case, to ensure a fair trial.[2]

Legal proceedings

After the shooting, Al-Issa was charged with ten counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.[36][31][46][25][47] Al-Issa's identity was revealed to the public on March 23, the day after the shooting.[38] At Al-Issa's first court appearance on March 25, his lawyer asked for a mental health assessment.[48] It was later reported that, due to threats, Al-Issa was moved to another county.[49][50]

Reactions

Tributes

At around 8:00 p.m. on the day of the shooting, a procession honored Officer Eric Talley as his body was being taken to a funeral home.[51] A separate memorial for the victims was created along a chain-link fence bordering the grocery store, as mourners placed candles, flowers, and other items along its base or through the chain-link.[52][53] The Museum of Boulder began preserving stories and artifacts from the memorial, but no specific plans for an exhibit have been made as of yet, with the museum planning on consulting the community for input.[54][55] Governor Jared Polis ordered the state's flags to fly at half-staff for ten days: one day for each victim.[56] President Joe Biden also ordered flags on federal property nationwide to be flown at half-staff. This order came on the same day as the expiration of a federal order to fly flags at half-staff to honor the victims of the Atlanta spa shootings of March 16, less than a week before.[57] A week after the shooting, Talley's funeral was held. It included a 21-gun salute and another procession.[58]

Sports teams in Colorado and victims of other mass shootings expressed sympathy for the victims and family members of the Boulder shooting.[59][60][61] A vigil for the victims and survivors of the shooting was held on March 25. U.S. Representative Joe Neguse, whose district includes Boulder, spoke at the vigil about curbing gun violence.[62] University of Colorado Boulder professor and poet Khadijah Queen also spoke at the vigil, which was organized by gun violence prevention group Moms Demand Action.[63] In an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper that day, the family of one of the victims spoke about him and their appreciation for the outpouring of support.[64]

Gun control debate

Al-Issa legally purchased a Ruger AR-556 pistol on March 16 at a local gun shop in an Arvada shopping center using Colorado's universal background check law, even though he was previously convicted of a misdemeanor assault. Federal law only prohibits firearm purchases for those convicted of a felony.[2][64] Police began investigating if he used a 30-round magazine, which is deemed illegal in Colorado, and also whether other firearms were connected to him.[65][66] He was reported to be carrying a 9 mm handgun in addition to his primary weapon.[38]

President Biden delivered remarks on the shooting the day after. (transcript)

Following the shooting, discussion was renewed on the topic of gun control. At the national level, President Joe Biden called for an immediate ban on assault weapons; other Democratic politicians echoed his sentiments, including U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, U.S. Representative Joe Neguse of Colorado, and former President Barack Obama.[67][68] Biden also urged that loopholes be closed in the background check system and praised Officer Eric Talley, who was killed in the shooting, for his heroism.[69] In an interview with CBS This Morning, Vice President Kamala Harris responded to the mass shootings by discussing the need for gun reform legislation.[70] At the state level, members of the Colorado General Assembly began discussions on gun reform proposals.[71] Gun control advocates were reported to be working on a bill that would create a five-day waiting period in Colorado on March 26.[72]

Similar calls for gun control and loopholes to be closed were echoed by newspaper editorial boards,[73][74] and many celebrities.[75] Particular discussion was raised over the weapon used in the shooting, an AR-15 style firearm billed as a pistol despite its closer similarities to a rifle in appearance and operation.[44][76] Satirical news site The Onion republished its 'No Way To Prevent This,' Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens article in response to the shooting.[77][78]

Republican politicians, such as Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, have criticized the renewed push for gun control, saying that they believe gun control does not help lessen crime.[79][80] Likewise, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin spoke out against two bills recently passed by the House of Representatives that were in favor of universal background checks banning almost all gun sales without federal government approval, saying his views were more in line with the bill he co-authored with Republican Senator Pat Toomey shortly after the Sandy Hook school shooting.[81] In the Colorado General Assembly, which is fully controlled by the Democrats, Republican lawmakers acknowledged the difficulties of preventing gun reform legislation and have focused on mental health legislation as a preventive measure.[71]

Media coverage and discussion

A man who livestreamed the crime to a YouTube channel received criticism from some and praise from others. He had identified himself repeatedly as a journalist to law enforcement before being removed from the scene.[82] At peak viewership during the event, the livestream had about 30,000 viewers, and many criticized YouTube for allowing the video to remain on its site. The company responded with a statement that the video had enough news or documentary context to remain, regardless of the violence shown.[83]

Before officers arrived on the scene, a police dispatcher described the active shooter as a "white male"; the suspect's actual identity was released around 18 hours after the shooting.[16] Deborah Richardson, ACLU of Colorado's executive director, said that early assumptions made by law enforcement about Al-Issa were affected by the perception that he was white.[84]

Before the suspect's identity was made public, the race and inclusion editor of USA Today's Sports Media Group, Hemal Jhaveri, an Indian American woman, reacted to the shooting on Twitter, inaccurately saying, "It's always an angry white man. Always." She later expressed "regret" for the "careless error of judgement" in sending the tweet. By March 26, Jhaveri had been fired by USA Today, with her attributing this to the tweet and its promotion by alt-right Twitter users "as an example of anti-white bias and racism against whites". USA Today did not directly comment on her firing, instead stressing their commitment to "diversity, equity and inclusion".[85][86][87][88]

See also

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