Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa is a 21-year-old Colorado man who was identified as the suspect in the mass shooting at a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder that left 10 people dead, including Boulder Police Officer Eric Talley.
Police were called for an active shooter inside 3600 Table Mesa Drive about 2:40 p.m. on Monday, March 22, 2021, and found a grocery store that had been turned into a bloodbath during the country’s most recent mass shooting. Alissa of Arvada exchanged gunfire with officers, killing Talley, police said in a Tuesday morning press conference. Alissa was also injured in the gunfight and taken to a local hospital, where he was in stable condition Tuesday morning. He was later released Tuesday afternoon to the Boulder County Jail, according to the inmate roster.
Alissa was born in Syria and spent most of his life in Colorado, he wrote on Facebook. He wrote about Islam on social media, saying, “Muslims might not be perfect but Islam is.” According to court documents, Alissa bought a Ruger AR-556 semi-automatic rifle on March 16, days before the shooting. Police said in an arrest affidavit Alissa did not say anything to officers at the scene but did ask for his mother. According to police, Alissa stripped off his clothes inside the store and was bleeding from his leg when he was arrested. The rifle, a handgun, body armor and his clothes were strewn about where he was taken into custody along with a substantial amount of blood, according to the arrest affidavit.
The victims have been identified by police as Denny Stong, 20, Neven Stanasic, 23, Rikki Olds, 25, Tralona Bartkowiak, 49, Suzanne Fountain, 59, Teri Leiker, 51, Officer Talley, 51, Kevin Mahoney, 61, Lynn Murray, 62, and Jody Waters, 65. Photos and details about the victims are available here.
Here’s what you need to know about Ahmad Alissa:
1. Alissa’s Brother Said He Was Mentally Disturbed & Paranoid; His Motive Remains Under Investigation
Alissa’s brother, Ali Alissa, told The Daily Beast his brother was deeply disturbed, “very anti-social” and paranoid. In high school, he would say he was “being chased, someone is behind him, someone is looking for him,” his brother said.
A former wrestling teammate, Dayton Marvel, told the Denver Post Alissa was “short-tempered” and “scary.” He once threatened to kill people during a match, he said.
“He was kind of scary to be around,” Marvel said.
Some of Alissa’s Facebook posts reflect the paranoia and mental health issues his family has mentioned to reporters. He went by Ahmad Al Issa on Facebook, but authorities confirmed the legal spelling was Alissa.
He wrote in March 2019, “Just curious what are the laws about phone privacy because I believe. my old school (a west) was hacking my phone. Anyone know if I can do anything through the law?”
Alissa wrote in July 2019, “Yeah if these racist islamophobic people would stop hacking my phone and let me have a normal life I probably could.”
Marvel told the Denver Post the wrestling team was “freaked out” by the threat but did not take him seriously.
“His senior year, during the wrestle-offs to see who makes varsity, he actually lost his match and quit the team and yelled out in the wrestling room that he was like going to kill everybody,” he added. “Nobody believed him. We were just all kind of freaked out by it, but nobody did anything about it.”
Marvel told the newspaper he did not like being around Alissa and that he did not have friends on the team. Another teammate, Angel Hernandez, told the Post Alissa got into a fight with another wrestler in the parking lot after the match.
“(The other wrestler) was just teasing him and goes, ‘Maybe if you were a better wrestler, you would have won.’ (Alissa) just lost it. He started punching him,” Hernandez said.
Marvel said Alissa was often concerned he was being targeted for his Muslim faith. He said he was “pretty cool” until someone made him mad.
“He would talk about him being Muslim and how if anybody tried anything, he would file a hate crime and say they were making it up,” Marvel said. “It was a crazy deal. I just know he was a pretty cool kid until something made him mad, and then whatever made him mad, he went over the edge — way too far.”
Hernandez described Alissa as “joyful” but with a “dark side.”
“The sad thing about it is that if you really were to get to know him, he was a good guy,” Hernandez told the Post. “Whenever you went up to him, he was always so joyful and so nice. But you could tell there was a dark side in him. If he did get ticked off about something, within a split second, it was like if something takes over, like a demon. He’d just unleash all his anger.”
Alissa often talked about people following him, Hernandez told the Post. Hernandez and others thought he was joking, he said.
“He was always talking about (how) people were looking at him and there was no one ever where he was pointing people out,” Hernandez said. “We always thought he was messing around with us or something.”
Ali Alissa told The Daily Beast his younger brother acted strangely and said they “didn’t know what was going on in his head.”
“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,” Ali Alissa said.
Police interviewed Alissa’s sister-in-law, who lived with Ahmad Alissa and her husband, the suspect’s older brother. She said two days before the shooting, she saw him playing with a gun that looked like a “machine gun” and said the 21-year-old told them it was loaded. They took the gun from him, she said, according to court documents.
A police investigation revealed Alissa purchased an AR 556 pistol on March 16. He was found on the scene with a rifle and a semi-automatic handgun, his affidavit said.
On the Facebook post about his belief that he was being stalked in high school, Alissa commented that it was in part racism and in part due to false rumors.
“I believe part racism for sure. But I also believe someone spread rumors about me which are false and maybe set that off,” he wrote.
Ali Alissa told The Daily Beast his brother was once outgoing but turned anti-social after he was bullied in high school.
“[It was] not at all a political statement, it’s mental illness,” he said. “The guy used to get bullied a lot in high school, he was like an outgoing kid but after he went to high school and got bullied a lot, he started becoming anti-social.”
A witness told police the suspect was first spotted outside, where he shot out a vehicle window and pursued a man toward Broadway Street, according to court documents. In the parking lot of King Soopers, witnesses said he shot an “elderly man,” then stood over him and shot him multiple times.
Authorities said they spoke to Alissa in the hospital, but they didn’t immediately reveal any of the details of their interview or identify a motive.
“We don’t have the answer for that yet,” said Boulder District Attorney Michael Dougherty during a Tuesday press conference.
Officials identified the 10 victims, who ranged in age from 20 to 65.
“The man who gunned them down will be held fully responsible,” Dougherty said.
Court documents indicated Alissa’s criminal history included a third-degree assault in Arvada in 2018.
The Denver Post reported the misdemeanor assault conviction stemmed from Alissa assaulting a classmate at Arvada West High School when he was 18. Alissa punched the classmate in the head without warning, knocking him to the ground, and continued punching him, the newspaper reported. The classmate had bruises and cuts on his head.
Witnesses told police they did not know of any reason Alissa would attack the classmate. Alissa told police the other boy “made fun of him and called him racial names weeks earlier,” according to the affidavit obtained by the Post.
He was sentenced to two months of probation and 48 hours of community service. Police told the Post they had at least one other interaction with Alissa, which involved criminal mischief.
Ali Alissa told The Daily Beast he and his family have lived in Colorado for 20 years and said they are “so sorry” for the victims. He went to King Soopers shortly after the shooting and found his brother in a police cruiser. He had been looking for their third brother, who left to run errands. They could not get in touch with the third brother. That’s when he learned Ahmad Alissa was a suspect, he said.
“I went to King Sooper that is close to our house to see if they are there, and then I saw a police car,” he said. “And then as I got closer to the police car, I saw my [other] brother was detained in the police car. That was 9:30 at night.”
Witnesses told the Denver Post about touching moments amid the tragedy of a mass shooting that left multiple people dead. James Bentz, 57, told the newspaper he escaped the grocery store by jumping off the loading dock at the back of the store. He saw younger people helping older people off the platform, he said.
“It seemed like all of us had imagined we’d be in a situation like this at some point in our lives,” he said.
He was in the meat section when he heard what he thought was a misfire, followed by more gunshots.
“I was then at the front of a stampede,” he said.
Neven Sloan and his wife, Quinlyn Sloan, told the newspaper they were in different parts of the store when shots were fired. They ran to find each other before escaping.
Neven Sloan said the shots “were muffled at first and then I heard it echo in the store and I knew we needed to get out.”
Quinlyn Sloan told the newspaper she didn’t know what she was hearing at the time of the first gunshot, but then “people started running. A few stood still like they didn’t know what was happening. Then [the shooting] went rapidly.”
Neven Sloan said once he knew his wife was safely outside, “I felt an impulse to go back,” and ran back inside to help others.
Another witness described his thoughts to Fox 31, saying he was in shock and called his mom to say he was OK. That’s when the gravity of the situation sunk in, he said.
“The fact that it’s happening all over America, seeing it on the news, [it’s] something I’ve grown up with, people my age, my generation are used to this. And it’s something I never thought would happen in my town,” he said.
Alissa has a court appearance scheduled for 8:15 a.m. local time Thursday, March 25, 2021, according to a statement from District Attorney Michael Dougherty. The hearing will be an appearance on an arrest warrant, which involves a judge informing the suspect of the charges he faces and his rights.
“It is anticipated that this appearance will be the first court appearance in a lengthy court process,” the statement said.
2. Alissa Lived ‘Most of His Life in the United States’ & His Facebook Page Said He Was Born in Syria
Officials said Alissa lived “most of his life in the United States” during a Tuesday morning press conference. Authorities said they are looking into his background but did not immediately release additional information on his past. His Facebook page, which has now been deleted, said he lived in Syria until moving to the United States when he was about three years old.
“born in Syria 1999 came to the USA in 2002,” he wrote on his Facebook profile. “I like wrestling and informational documentaries that’s me.”
According to his older brother’s Facebook page, which has been taken down, his family was originally from Ar Raqqah, Syria. Ahmad Alissa’s most recent post on his own Facebook page was on September 18, 2020.
His most recent public post before his page was deleted was a shared post from the Muslim Hub.
“The Prophet said: ‘If a Muslim plants a tree or sows seeds and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, it is regarded as a charitable gift,” the post said.
NBC’s Pete Williams said on MSNBC his federal sources told him there is no indication the shooting was an act of terror or a hate crime. Williams said if the motive was believed to be related to terrorism, the FBI would be the lead agency, but the Boulder Police are leading this investigation. The suspect’s family members revealed he “suffered from fairly severe mental problems, paranoia, thought people were always chasing him.” There were no known “records of encounters between him and law enforcement,” Williams said.
A witness told the Denver Post the gunman entered the grocery store, wordless, and opened fire.
“He didn’t say s***,” he said. “He just came in and started shooting.”
The witness, who did not give reporters his name, is a student who lives nearby. The University of Colorado, Boulder is located about two miles from the shooting scene. The witness said he and his roommate were at the grocery store to buy pizza for lunch. They were at self-checkout when the shooter entered and opened fire, he said.
The roommate said the shooter “let off a couple of shots, then was silent, and then he let off a couple more. He wasn’t spraying.”
They both escaped through a back door, they told the newspaper.
Fairview High School is also located just blocks away, the Denver Post reported. The Boulder Valley School District started spring break Monday, but two sports teams were practicing at the time of the shooting. The students were sent home, and nearby businesses were also placed on lockdown.
Alissa was charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder, according to the affidavit of probable cause filed in his case. He was denied bail. Alissa surrendered to a SWAT team after removing body armor and his shirt, police said. During his arrest, he identified himself by his name and date of birth and asked authorities if he could talk to his mother, according to police.
3. Alissa Graduated From Arvada West High School, Where He Was on the Wrestling Team
Alissa graduated in 2018 from Arvada West High School, where he was a member of the wrestling team. His Facebook page claimed he was studying computer science at Metropolitan State University in Denver, but an MSU spokesperson said “Boulder shooting suspect Ahmad Al Issa is not nor has ever been an MSU Denver student.”
Alissa posted often about his wrestling career and being a fan of collegiate and Olympic wrestling. He also was a fan of mixed martial arts and posted often about professional MMA, jiu-jitsu and the UFC. He also shared an MMA meme about self-control in October 2018.
Alissa wrote in August 2016, “Half of me wants to study hard and get a good career and half of me just wants to party and not care lol.” A few months earlier he wrote, “Summertime gonna bust my behind off so I can save and buy a car don’t care if it’s the ugliest car in the lot at least I earned it with hard work unlike you spoiled rich kids at awest.”
In March 2019 he posted a photo with two medals around his neck and wrote, “Alhamdullah i Got 2 gold medals today won in both divisions in the naga jiu jitsu tournament.”
“Alhamdullah” means “praise be to God” in Arabic.
Alissa’s Facebook posts also include mentions of video games. He posted in 2019 asking for other gamers to play with him on PS4 online.
Alissa wrote on Facebook in 2017, “When we’re emotional or angry we tend to say things we don’t mean…..It’s best not to talk when your emotional.”
Alissa exchanged gunfire with officers who entered the grocery store minutes after they were called, officials alleged during a Tuesday morning press conference. He was injured in the gunfight and taken to a local hospital, where he was listed in stable condition at the time, they said. Officials said he suffered a gunshot wound to the leg. He was armed with a patrol rifle, Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold said. He was released from the hospital Tuesday afternoon and booked into Boulder County Jail, according to the jail roster.
Here is his jail record:
Boulder Police Officers used Talley’s handcuffs when they formally arrested Alissa following his hospital stay.
“This week several Boulder Police officers & others responded to a local hospital to formally place Monday’s shooting suspect into custody. As they did, officers informed him the handcuffs used that day were those of Officer Eric Talley. The suspect was then taken to jail,” the Boulder Police Department wrote on Twitter. “It was our distinct honor to use Officer Talley’s handcuffs to formally process him into the jail. Though this was a small gesture, we hope it is the start of the healing process that so many of us need at this time. Officer Talley’s handcuffs are seen here.”
Alissa was “significantly injured” following the mass shooting and was taken to a local hospital, Boulder Police Commander Kerry Yamaguchi said during a Monday evening press conference. He was released from the hospital and booked into the Boulder County Jail at 12:49 p.m. local time, according to jail records.
Yamaguchi described the suspect at the time as a person of interest and said there was no ongoing threat to the public. Police did not release a possible motive in the shooting, noting that they were in the very early stages of a lengthy investigation.
Conor McCue, a witness to the grocery store shooting, told CBS4 he heard police telling a suspect to “surrender now!”
McCue said he heard the first gunshots, but it took a moment to process what was happening.
“Heard a loud bang… thought someone dropped something. Then by the third bang everyone was running,” he told the news outlet.
A family was waiting in line for COVID-19 vaccinations when a woman was shot in front of them, said the father of one of the family members in an interview with CBS4. The family ran away and found a closet upstairs, where they hid for an hour, he said. He was in communication with his daughter while they hid. The father advocated for gun control to the news outlet.
“When it’s your family, you feel it,” he said.
Victims who were still in the store when police arrived were led outside by officers.
4. Video Emerged of Alissa Being Arrested Shortly After the Shooting & Live Stream Video Showed the Immediate Aftermath
Videos emerged on social media soon after the shooting that showed a man being arrested. It was not immediately clear whether the man was the shooting suspect, but he was handcuffed and being escorted by police to a stretcher. He was later identified as Alissa.
“It was quite a chaotic situation,” a FOX DC reporter said on the air, referencing reports from witnesses.
The reporter spoke over the live image taken from a news helicopter and described what he was seeing: “a man who was escorted by police in handcuffs loaded onto a stretcher and being taken from the scene.”
A graphic and dramatic video captured the active shooter scene at the Colorado grocery store, beginning just seconds after the first shots rang out. The video shows injured and possibly deceased people inside and outside the store.
“Get 911 right here,” says the man filming, Dean Schiller. “We’ve got injured parties on the ground. We don’t know. There’s a shooter, active shooter somewhere. Could be in the store. He went in the store. Oh my God. Guys we’ve got people down in King Soopers.”
Schiller walks into the entrance of the store from its ramp, where another man tells him the shooter is still inside. One person appears to be dead on the ramp, another appears to be dead in the parking lot and a third person appears to be dead near a checkout counter inside.
Two gun blasts can be heard on the video.
“Guys this happened… not even 30 seconds ago. I heard gunshots going. Guys there’s an active shooter,” Schiller said on the live stream video.
Sirens could be heard in the background.
“People ran out the back door. The active shooter is still in there,” he said on the footage.
He ran to the front of the store.
“Guys we’ve got an active shooter situation at King Soopers. He’s inside the building right now,” he said.
He described the person who was in handcuffs as “mostly undressed. He was in his underwear.”
He gave information to news stations later in the video, saying he was nearby and heard gunfire.
He heard “loud bangs” but initially couldn’t believe it was gunfire. He said he saw a woman on the ground next to a gold Toyota RAV4, followed by another man motionless on the ground.
“We immediately took cover right outside” and went around to the front of the building where he heard more gunshots, he said. He added that officers arrived quickly and he hid behind cars and walls.
He said he saw three victims himself and watched officers arrive as shots continued to ring out. He estimated that the shooting lasted for 10 minutes before subsiding.
“I wouldn’t have believed it had I not seen it and heard it myself,” he said.
“My heart was pumping so hard,” he said.
He said he had friends “as close as family” inside. He lives across the street from the grocery store, Schiller said.
5. Alissa’s Facebook Posts Included Muslim & Anti-Trump References Along With Homophobic Slurs
Alissa said he was not very political in a post in 2016 before the presidential election. But at times he shared anti-Trump posts. In June 2019, he shared a post from PBS NewsHour about myths about immigration and the U.S. economy and added, “Why refugees and immigrants are good for America.” On May 1, 2019, he shared a YouTube video from an anti-abortion group and wrote, “Abortion is disgusting.”
In September 2018 he shared a story about Trump and possible tapes of the former president using racial slurs.
Alissa wrote, “Even if they released the tapes his base would probably throw a party for him. He could do whatever hew ants and his base would still support him regardless of what he says or does.”
That same day he shared a story about Trump’s approach to refugees and wrote, “Trumps such a d***.”
He wrote after Election Day in November 2016, “Regardless of political affiliation, I think it says a lot that one party has had the first minority president and the first women who might be our next president. Trump won, only time can tell what will happen other than that I will remain optimistic.”
He posted on Facebook often about his Muslim faith. He wrote on May 27, 2019, “Eids about to come up hope all us Muslims have a good eid and finish Ramadan strong.”
He wrote on May 7, 2019, “So Mary wears a hijab and Jesus doesn’t eat pork and prays on his knees and hands. There both Muslims it’s obvious.”
He shared a post in March 2019 and wrote, “What Islam is really about,” along with a list from Muslim Hub that included “Do not be rude in speech,” “restrain anger,” “be good to others,” “do not be arrogant” and “forgive others for their mistakes.”
In March 2019, Alissa shared a post about the Christchurch, New Zealand, mosque shooting, posting a meme that said, “The Muslims at the. #christchurch mosque were not the victims of a single shooter. They were the victims of the entire Islamophobia industry that vilified them.”
He wrote on May 14, 2019, “Just saying the genocide in Syria the Rwandan genocide the holocaust and slavery are all terrible things that should have never happened all have something in common too much government control.”
He wrote on December 4, 2018, “Muslims might not be perfect but Islam is.”
His posts also included homophobic sentiments and slurs. In a July 2019 post, he mocked Microsoft Xbox’s rainbow flag logo it used during pride month, writing, “F**box loses PS4 wins” with two laughing crying emojis.
He wrote in March 2019, “God created Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve just saying.”
He wrote on April 14, 2019, “Isn’t weird people who are always smiling and acting like they are having fun some of the most depressed people on earth. And then people like me who don’t bulls*** everything as in don’t fake smile or just act normal are some of the happiest. #stillhappy #stopactinglike a f** #donttakeanyones***”
District Attorney Michael Dougherty said in a press conference there would be a “coordinated effort” of officials to stand with the families of the victims and seek justice.
“This is a tragedy and a nightmare for Boulder County,” he said.
“We’ll be doing everything we can to fight for them and their families to be sure we reach the right and just outcome,” he added.
Colorado lawmakers shared sentiments online in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. They wrote that they were keeping tabs on the information and expressed sympathy to the families of the victims.
“Like my fellow Coloradans, I am closely watching unfolding events at King Soopers in Boulder. My prayers are with our fellow Coloradans in this time of sadness and grief as we learn more about the extent of the tragedy,” Governor Jared Polis wrote on Twitter.
“We’re monitoring this tragic situation and our prayers are with the Boulder community,” wrote Senator Michael Bennet.
Representative Joe Neguse said he was praying for the first responders and all of Boulder.
“Praying for the entire #Boulder community & all of the first responders and law enforcement responding to this terrible incident,” wrote Neguse.
“Praying for our law enforcement who are responding to the active shooter at the King Soopers in #Boulder,” wrote Congressman Ken Buck.