Our solemn prayers and deepest sympathies are with the grieving loved ones of the victims in Monday’s tragic shooting spree at a Boulder supermarket. And our hearts go out to the market’s other customers and employees as well as to the first responders who survived the carnage.
Ten people lost their lives in the apparently indiscriminate rampage by one armed man. A lone suspect was taken into custody by police. But the end of the terror didn’t come before it claimed the life of a Boulder police officer among the 10 who died.
That officer, 51-year-old Eric Talley, by all indications epitomized the finest attributes of our men and women in blue. He made the ultimate sacrifice — a scenario every cop knows he or she could face — giving his life in an effort to defend the many innocent lives around him. A father of seven, he reportedly had given up a six-figure-a-year job to become a police officer a decade ago. (Among the efforts to collect donations to help Talley’s family is one by the Boulder County Injured and Fallen Officers Fund. Go to: https://www.bouldercounty.org/safety/sheriff/fallen-officer-fund/)
“…He felt a higher calling," Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold told the media on Tuesday. "And he loved his community. He's everything that policing deserves and needs. He was willing to die to protect others, and that gets lost in translation.”
The nine other shooting victims represented a cross-section of ages and walks of life — everyday Coloradans whose lives intersected, seemingly randomly, amid a senseless horror:
Denny Stong, 20; Neven Stanisic, 23; Rikki Olds, 25; Tralona Bartkowiak, 49; Suzanne Fountain, 59; Teri Leiker, 51; Kevin Mahoney, 61; Lynn Murray, 62; Jody Waters, 65.
The suspect taken into custody after the shooting, Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 21, of Arvada, was hospitalized for a leg wound on Monday and was scheduled to be transferred Tuesday to the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office jail.
As in the wake of previous mass shootings — and yes, we are all sickened to think they risk becoming routine — there has been a scramble by the press and public to learn more about the man accused of this heinous act. We all seek desperately to explain the inexplicable.
The picture that has come together so far, for the most part, would suggest an ordinary young man — were it not for his own older brother’s recounting of previous episodes in which the suspect appeared to be suffering from mental illness. As reported by The Gazette, Ali Aliwi Alissa, the suspect’s 34-year-old brother, told The Daily Beast his brother was “very anti-social” and paranoid, adding that, in high school, he would describe “being chased, someone is behind him, someone is looking for him.”
The older brother recounted, “When he was having lunch with my sister in a restaurant, he said, ‘People are in the parking lot, they are looking for me.’ She went out, and there was no one. We didn’t know what was going on in his head,” Alissa said. He said he believes his brother to be mentally ill.
Many of us, of course, would reach the same conclusion based simply on the madness of the suspect’s alleged actions. We cannot know for sure what motivated the shooter or what was his state of mind; the answers, if they are to be learned, lie ahead, following what will be an extensive investigation by authorities.
But it is not too early to remind ourselves that mental illness — too often at root of such mass violence — needs earlier intervention by loved ones, friends, authorities and a community’s mental health network. It is frustrating as well as heartbreaking to realize anew how those who experience the alienation and delusion of mental illness are capable of just about any calamity. The key is to detect and intervene before violence is set in motion by those who have lost their tether to reality. There are many caring people who can and will reach out if the infrastructure for early detection is in place — and if people who are closest to those teetering on the edge are willing to take the first step in finding help.
Once again, an American community — yet again, one of our own Colorado communities — has been devastated by the unthinkable. It will take time to heal. We wish Boulder and all of Colorado both — time, and healing.