Police released on Tuesday (23) the identification of the ten victims of the Monday afternoon (22) bombing at a King Soopers chain supermarket in Boulder, a town of about 100,000 people on the outskirts of Denver , Colorado (USA).
Among the dead, aged 20 to 65, were an official who defended the right to arms and a son of Bosnian Serb immigrants who fled war in the 1990s.
Authorities had previously identified Eric Talley, 51, the first police officer to attend the scene – he was killed by the sniper, who shot at the police as soon as they reached the market.
“The world has lost a great soul,” said the policeman’s father, Homer Talley, a retired engineer who lives in Texas. “He was a devoted father, he had seven children. The youngest was seven and the oldest 20, and his family was the joy of his life.
Talley was born in Houston, in the southern state, and raised in Albuquerque, according to his father. He joined the police force as a second career at the age of 40, but was considering leaving the company to seek safer employment.
For Teri Leiker, 51, the King Soopers supermarket was a happy place. She worked there for about 30 years and was dating a colleague from the store who was present in the attack but survived, her friend Lexi Knutson said. “They were good friends and started leaving in 2019.”
The two met in 2017 as part of a University of Colorado program that aims to foster friendships between students and members of the disabled community – Leiker had an intellectual disability.
They went to sporting events together at the university, whose main campus is close to the supermarket, Knutson said. “She had the biggest, brightest smile.”
In addition to Leiker, two other employees died. Denny Stong, the youngest of the victims at 20, worked at King Soopers for several years.
High school friend Molly Proch described him to the New York Times as one of the nicest people she has ever met. According to her, Stong loved to hunt and was a strong supporter of access to guns in the country.
Earlier this month, he asked his friends on his social media to donate to the National Arms Rights Foundation as a birthday present. “I chose this non-profit organization because its mission means a lot to me,” he writes.
“He was so excited to express how he thought the government should treat guns,” to avoid mass shootings, she said. “And that is how he is no longer here.”
Rikki Olds, 25, was a manager at King Soopers, where he worked for about seven years, according to his uncle, Robert Olds. He described his niece as a strong, independent woman who enjoyed hiking and camping – her social networks were full of photos of rivers, mountains and waterfalls.
Olds was the oldest of three siblings, and her mother abandoned them when she was seven, leaving her at the doorstep of her grandparents, who raised her in Lafayette, also Colorado. Even though she lived alone, she used to visit her grandmother regularly.
Neven Stanisic, 23, worked in maintenance and was called in to repair a machine at a cafe in the same complex as the supermarket, according to Rev. Radovan Petrovic of the Serbian Orthodox Church of St. John the Baptist.
He fixed the camera and was about to leave for another job when the sniper hit him in the parking lot, police said.
Stanisic’s parents, Bosnian Serbs, fled the war of the 1990s, the deadliest conflict in Europe since World War II, and went to the United States as refugees. “They avoided a tragedy by coming here, but now this tragedy has hit them,” Petrovic said.
Kevin Mahoney, 61, had his death confirmed by his daughter Erika, who posted on social media a photo of her father taking him down the aisle of the church during his wedding. “Now I am pregnant. I know he wants me to be strong for his granddaughter, ”he wrote. “You are always with me.”
Tralona Lynn Bartkowiak, 49, had stopped at the resort to buy medicine when the shooting occurred, her brother, Michael Bartkowiak, told The New York Times. He described his sister, the oldest of four children, as “an amazing person, just a ray of light”.
She had moved to Boulder to run a yoga clothing store set up by one of her sisters. Tralona had just become engaged.
Michael said he met his sister about a month ago, when the family last met on a trip to the state of Oregon.
Retired cinematographer Lynn Murray, 62, a mother of two, was shopping at the supermarket at the time of the attack.
“She was an amazing woman, probably the nicest person I have ever met,” her husband, John Mackenzie, told NYT. Lynn has worked as a director of photography for several magazines in New York, including Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire and Glamor.
The couple moved from New York City in 2002, first to Stuart, Florida and then Colorado, to raise their children, Olivia, 24, and Pierce, 22.
Also among the victims are Suzanne Fountain, 59, and Jody Waters, 65.
The perpetrator of the attack was identified as 21-year-old Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa. He is a naturalized U.S. citizen of Syria, according to police interviewed by Reuters news agency, and has spent most of his life in the United States.
Investigators believe Alissa – who lived in Arvada, near Boulder – acted on her own and said she still didn’t know what was behind the attack. The weapon used was an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, often used in massacres.
According to a police arrest statement, he purchased the gun six days before the crime. His brother Ali Aliwi Alissa, 34, said in a newspaper interview that the gunman was anti-social and paranoid.
Alissa has already had at least two problems with the law, according to a spokesperson for the Arvada Police Department, who said there were two criminal reports, one for third degree assault in 2017 and the another for criminal damages, in 2018 – details were not disclosed and it was not clear if he had ever been convicted of a felony.
He graduated from Arvada West High School in May 2018, according to Cameron Bell, a spokesperson for the school district, and was part of the school’s wrestling team. Alissa was taken to hospital after a shootout with police, and transferred to prison on Tuesday, where she is awaiting trial.
This is the second major shooting attack on record this week in the United States. On Tuesday, a man killed eight people – including six women of Asian descent – in three different massage parlors.
In his first statement after Tuesday’s attack, President Joe Biden urged lawmakers to adopt tougher measures to control large-capacity weapons commonly used in massacres.
From the White House, the Democrat asked the Senate to approve the two bills that strengthen previous controls on the purchase of weapons, which have already passed through the Chamber of Deputies.