Scott Ostrem, a sheet metal fabricator with a history of financial stress and failed businesses, was identified as the man accused of walking into a suburban Denver Walmart Super Store and randomly and “nonchalantly” shooting two men and a woman to death by the cash registers, sparking a scene of mass panic at the busy store. He was named in a national murder warrant, but he has now been arrested.
Police in Thornton, Colorado had previously released photos of the 47-year-old man, who filed for bankruptcy in 2015, according to federal court records obtained by Heavy (you can read them below; he reported debts exceeding $85,000, including back taxes, with assets of less than $3,000 and meager personal belongings). Police also released photos of Ostrem’s vehicle.
A picture is starting to emerge of the suspect as a man, crumbling from money problems, snapping at neighbors, who described him as “creepy” and rude and who said he was seen with shotguns and bows. He once unleashed an expletive at a neighbor for simply wishing him a nice day. He was unmarried and a registered Republican who didn’t vote. The victims have been identified as Carlos Moreno, Pam Marques and Victor Vasquez.
Thornton Police wrote the morning of November 2: “UPDATE: Walmart homicide suspect Scott Ostrem has been taken into custody.” Ostrem “was arrested in Westminster,” reported a 9News journalist on Twitter; a citizen’s tip led police to the suspect. Video and photos circulated of the arrest, which came about 14 hours after the carnage. Ostrem is accused of trying to flee police when they spotted his car, but he was blocked by traffic.
The motive for the mass shooting is not yet clear, but witnesses described the suspect wantonly murdering people in a casual manner, and then walking back out of the Walmart, all without uttering a word that could provide a glimpse into “why.” Police said on the morning of November 2 that the suspect has been identified as Scott Ostrem. They initially wrote before news broke that they had found him: “**UPDATE** Suspect identified as SCOTT OSTREM (DOB: 03-08-70), nationwide extradition homicide warrant. Any info tipline #720-977-5069.” Ostrem was at large for hours after the shootings. Police said they observed other people with guns (presumably customers responding to the gunfire) in surveillance video inside the Walmart when they were trying to identify the suspect, so it took some time to pinpoint who he was. It’s believed he acted alone.
“He walked in very nonchalantly with his hands in the pockets, raised a weapon and began shooting,” the police spokesperson said of the gunman, calling the shootings heinous. “From what we have right now it appears to be random. It’s a crazy world we live in.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Scott Ostrem Once Declared Bankruptcy, Reporting Zero Money in His Checking Account & a Slew of Credit Card Debts
Heavy has obtained Ostrem’s bankruptcy records. You can read the key document below. At the time of the bankruptcy filing, Ostrem was living in an apartment Northglenn, Colorado. The documents describe meager income, saying that he earned about $23,000 through September 2015, and under $8,000 in 2013. They reveal his occupation was working as a sheet metal fabricator for a roofing company in Erie, Colorado, and list thousands of dollars in credit card debts. He had only held the job for a year, though, at that time.
According to the Denver Post, the roofing company says he stopped working there in 2014. Business filings with the Colorado Secretary of State show that he had created several businesses that went under, including Ostrem Installation LLC in 2012 and MKA Electronics LLC in 2014.
The year 2014 was a better one for Ostrem financially; he pulled in just over $47,000, the bankruptcy filing reports. He had a zero balance in his checking account and sold off a car to pay for repairs. Among his liabilities: Taxes or money owed to the State of Colorado for income taxes and to the IRS. His personal property was pretty meager: Just the basics, including a microwave, living room furniture, a few other appliances, records, video games, and fishing poles. His pay stubs show he would gross just over $700 a week after working nearly 40 hours.
Two of the victims, males, died at the scene, and a female was taken to the hospital. However, police then confirmed she had also died, bringing the death toll to three. “There is currently NO one in custody. Unfortunately the female transported with injury has also passed away. (3) confirmed dead,” Thornton police wrote on Twitter late on November 1 several hours after the shooting occurred. They developed the suspect through video review and eyewitness interviews. “UPDATE: Detectives currently reviewing security footage & witnesses being interviewed for assistance with suspect(s) desc/info,” police said a short time before they released the photos.
It appears that the multiple shooting deaths in the Walmart were random, according to local news reports. “Share & call if you recognize this man. At this point @ThorntonPolice believe it was a random shooting at the southern entrance of Walmart,” reported Jackie Crea of the Denver Channel on Twitter. According to The Denver Post, police early on described “a gunman wearing a black jacket, blue jeans and a maroon shirt walked into the south entrance of the store and began shooting a handgun randomly. The three victims were all in the same area near the front of the store.” News9 reported that the man was white, had a handgun, and was believed to be armed and dangerous.
In a news conference on November 2, Thornton police said that a call of shots fired came into police and, as officers arrived, “they observed three persons down near the front of the store with gunshot wounds. The building was checked and obviously the suspect had left. Through lots of hours of surveillance, to be able to obtain the actual description of the suspect, we were able to get the identification through investigation.”
A search warrant was obtained for Ostrem’s residence in the area of 7100 Samuel Drive, however he was not home. “This was from a tip that came in from a citizen as to his location,” said police. Officers caught Ostrem when they spotted his car. “They did a high risk stop on the vehicle and were successfully able to take him into custody without incident. There was a flash bang that was used as a distraction,” police said. “The suspect was positively identified at the scene, and he did admit he was Scott Ostrem.”
2. Ostrem Has a Criminal History Dating Back to the 1990s & Was a Registered Republican Who Didn’t Vote
Ostrem has been in trouble with the law over the years, but it was for relatively minor offenses, and certainly was nothing that might have predicted he could turn into a mass shooter. “Scott Ostrem has a criminal history dating back to 1990 including harassment, multiple DUIs and disorderly conduct,” a 9News reporter wrote on Twitter. “What we discovered was that Mr. Ostrem did not have an extensive criminal history,” Thornton police said in the news conference. “He had a minimal criminal history.”
However, the Denver Post said his record is not lengthy. “According to court records, Ostrem declared bankruptcy in 2015, but he does not have a lengthy criminal record. In 2013, he was arrested for driving while ability impaired,” The Denver Post reported. Photos circulated of police towing his car away from the arrest scene. Court records show a prior arrest for resisting arrest, although the case was dismissed.
“In December 1999, he was charged in Denver with assault on a peace officer, possession of dangerous weapons, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. But he agreed to plead guilty to the resisting arrest charge in exchange for the other, more-serious charges being dismissed. He received a one-year deferred probation sentence in the case,” reported The Denver Channel.
Online voting records say that Scott Ostrem was registered as a Republican but indicate that he failed to vote. He does not appear to have any obviously available social media accounts.
Imagine the scene inside the Walmart: Gunfire breaks out, word of a gunman inside the store quickly spreads, and frantic shoppers head for the exits or any hiding place they can find. Thornton police said there was not an active shooter, at least not anymore, dispelling reports that circulated in the Denver area, and they confirmed the three deaths. The gunfire erupting inside the Walmart store sent panicked shoppers fleeing for exits. The victims have not yet been identified. The initial reports, which flooded in around 6 p.m. on November 1, said that multiple people were down inside the busy shopping center. The Walmart Super Center is located in suburban Denver, and the FBI was quickly at the scene.
When the shooting broke out, shoppers had two choices: Flee for their lives or hide. People did both, The Denver Channel reported. “The shooting at the busy shopping center forced customers to either hide in the store or frantically run for the doors,” according to the station.
One man “told Denver 7 he was in the store with his son when he heard at least three shots. He said an employee directed him and his son to a back door where they were able to safely escape,” according to The Denver Channel. The witness described hearing multiple bangs. Shoppers and employees were later taken by bus to reunite with their families.
3. Ostrem Was Described as ‘Creepy’ by a Neighbor & Was Seen With Shotguns & Bows
A neighbor described Ostrem as creepy to the Denver Post. “Suspect in Wednesday’s Walmart killings was ‘creepy,’ neighbors say. Once told a woman who wished him nice day ‘Ef you,'” Post reporter Tom McGhee wrote on Twitter. Neighbors described seeing him with shotguns and bows. The Denver Channel quoted a neighbor as calling Ostrem “weird.”
Gerald Burnett, another neighbor, told AP, “Dude had an attitude, big time. He’s the type of person if you said ‘good morning,’ he wouldn’t say nothing. If you greeted him, he wouldn’t say anything back. I just learned not to even talk to the clown.” Neighbors generally described Ostrem as angry and a loner.
Details were just starting to come out on Scott Ostrem after police released his name. A review of online records by Heavy shows that he’s a Colorado man, who has lived in multiple communities in that state over the years, including Arvada, Idaho Springs, Leadville, and Denver. By 2009, he shows up with a Thornton address.
The shooter walked into the store and indiscriminately shot people without saying a word, and then initially vanished in the hours right after the shootings, police confirmed in a statement on Twitter. That led to the release of his photo in a bid to determine the man’s identity. That approach obviously worked because by morning, Ostrem was named by police.
After combing through surveillance video, police also determined a description of the shooter’s car. According to The Denver Post, “the gunman fled in a red Mitsubishi Mirage four-door hatchback.” Police said the gunman “walked into the Walmart ‘nonchalantly’ and opened fire randomly on a group of people near the cash registers.” Police said they are still investigating whether the suspect knew any of the victims.
4. The Motive Is Not Clear But Terrorism Is Not Suspected
Authorities are still puzzling over the motive. “There’s nothing on motive as of yet. That’s obviously part of the investigation,” Thornton police said. Although the motive was not yet clear, The Denver Channel quoted a source as saying that terrorism was not suspected. That was an obvious concern early on in light of the Halloween afternoon terror attack in New York City by a man who rammed a truck into bicyclists. However, that information was preliminary. You can watch the initial police press conference here:
“Ranking Homeland Security Official tells Denver7 investigates there are no known terrorism links at this time,” The Denver Channel reported. Witness Aaron Stephens told 9News, “At first I thought it was a firecracker, but it sounded more – it was louder… I was like, what the heck’s going on? Then I heard two more shots and I freaked out and hit the ground.” He added: “I didn’t want to die. Here’s Las Vegas happening in Colorado – at that moment all I could think about was my life.”
Reaction on social media to the arrest soon became political with some people criticizing President Donald Trump for not calling for the death penalty or speaking out against Ostrem like he did in the case of Sayfullo Saipov, the accused Manhattan ISIS adherent who mowed people down in a bicycle path.
Witnesses described a frantic scene in which gunfire broke out near a checkout area in the store. “I was just picking up my last item and about to head toward the checkout,” a witness told KDVR. “I heard two slow pops that sounded like they were coming from the front checkout area, and then started to run as about four more shots rang out a little faster. At that point, everyone was just running and screaming.”
Another witness said desperate shoppers couldn’t all get the doors open. “I was one of the first people there and for some reason these doors weren’t opening. I was pushing on them, pushing on them,” Marcus Smith said to KDVR. “Another dude comes up and tries pushing on them and they wouldn’t open. Then a few seconds later you just hear people running right to the exit yelling, ‘He’s got a gun! HE’S GOT A GUN!’ Screaming and screaming.” He was finally able to get the door open and fled the store with his daughter in his arms, the television station reported.
5. Police Said There Were 48 Witnesses to the Shooting
With no one initially in custody, authorities turned to surveillance footage as well as witnesses to get a sense of the suspect, and this led them to Scott Ostrem’s identity after they were able to pinpoint the alleged shooter in the footage and circulate his photo to the public. It was a big task with a large crime scene. “Forty-eight witnesses were taken from the Walmart to a nearby police building,” reported 9News. “The delay on the public update from police is due to authorities gathering information on a potential suspect.”
“We had hundreds of police self evacuating,” Thornton police said. “We had to render the area safe. It was mass chaos in there. There was people running everywhere.” Once police were able to safely allow a Walmart employee into the store to pull the security footage, they were able to figure out a suspect. The television station added, “There is a large police perimeter set up outside the store – no one is allowed close. Police can be seen coming and going from the Walmart as they continue to investigate.”