Boulder Police Officer Eric Talley was a father of seven who ran into gunfire while responding to an active shooter call at a Colorado grocery store when he was shot and killed in the nation’s latest mass shooting. He was one of 10 people who were killed at supermarket King Soopers March 22, 2021, authorities said. The shooting suspect was identified as Ahmad Alissa, 21, of Arvada.
Talley, 51, was one of the first officers to arrive on the scene, where he was called with fellow officers shortly before 3 p.m. local time at 3600 Table Mesa Drive. The husband and father had been with the police department since 2010, Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold said during a Wednesday evening press conference. Talley had made headlines during his decade with the department for spearheading a community-based police initiative and for rescuing a family of ducks on the same road where he was fatally shot years later. A survivor of domestic violence wrote a Twitter thread saying Talley saved her life.
Talley joined the Boulder Police Department late in life, his friend and fellow law enforcement officer Jeremy Herko, an Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, told The Washington Post. Talley had worked in information technology, but decided in 2010 to change careers after the death of a friend in a DUI crash and graduated from the police academy at 40, Herko told the newspaper.
“It was remarkable to me that somebody would go to law enforcement from IT,” Herko told The Post. “He lost pay. He lost time away from his family. He joined the police academy without a guaranteed job.”
Here’s what you need to know about the life and death of Boulder Police Officer Eric Talley:
Talley Was a Father of 7 Who Was Training to Get Off the Front Lines So He Would Not Leave His Children Fatherless & He Was Remembered For His Heroic Actions
Talley had seven children, and the youngest was only 7 years old, his dad, Homer Talley, said in a statement published by The Denver Channel. He became a police officer when he was 40 and was training to change roles within the department to not be on the front lines.
“He took his job as a police officer very seriously. He had seven children. The youngest is 7 years old. He loved his kids and his family more than anything,” his dad said. “He joined the police force when he was 40 years old. He was looking for a job to keep himself off of the front lines and was learning to be a drone operator. He didn’t want to put his family through something like this and he believed in Jesus Christ.”
Homer Talley told KDVR, “He was a man of heart who loved his job.” His children range in age from 7 to 20. Homer Talley told the news station the fallen officer’s wife is “a rock.” Donations to help Talley’s family can be made to the Boulder County Injured & Fallen Officers Fund.
Talley was one of the first officers to arrive on the scene at King Soopers in Boulder, Colorado, and encountered the suspect, who was armed with a high-powered rifle, officials said.
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.”
An emotional Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold said during a press conference Wednesday night:
Our hearts of this community go out to the victims of this horrific incident. We know of 10 fatalities at the scene, including one of our Boulder PD officers by the name of Eric Talley. He’s been on the Boulder Police Department since 2010. He’s served in numerous roles supporting Boulder Police Department and the community of Boulder. And I have to tell you, the heroic action of this officer when he responded to this scene. At 14:30 hours the Boulder Police Department began receiving phone calls of shots fired in the area. And a phone call about a possible person with a patrol rifle. Officer Talley responded to the scene, was the first on the scene and he was fatally shot. I also want to commend the heroic actions of the officers responding, not only from Boulder PD, but from across the county and other parts of this region. Police officers actions fell nothing short of being heroic. I also want to thank the men and women who responded, including state, local and federal authorities.
She said it’s a “complex investigation” that will take “no less than five days to complete.” Herold, holding back tears, said, “Again, my heart goes out to the victims of this incident. And I’m grateful for the police officers who responded and I am so sorry about the loss of Officer Talley.”
Joe Gamaldi National Vice President of the Fraternal Order of Police, spoke about Talley’s heroism in a statement.
“Boulder Officer [Eric Talley] has lost his life running towards the gunfire of an active shooter. No words can adequately capture the heroism exhibited. Keep him in your prayers,” he said. “Police Officers don’t ‘deserve’ your respect, because no one ‘deserves’ anything, but we da*n sure earn it everyday!”
Boulder Police Department Commander Kerry Yamaguchi confirmed a Boulder Police Officer was killed during an earlier Monday evening press conference, and requested privacy for the family and fellow officers.
He said there was “loss of life” and added, “I am sorry to have to report that one of them was a Boulder police officer.”
Yamaguchi did not release the officer’s name at the time, or any information about how the officer was killed. He said that officers arrived “within minutes of the initial 911 calls and entered the building very quickly.”
He added Boulder Police received “tremendous support” from local and federal agencies.
“Without that quick response, we don’t know if there would have been more loss of life,” he said.
A 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.
The Boulder Office of Emergency Management issued a list of resources for the community and ways to help the families of the victims.
Boulder City Council is holding a special meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 24, 2021 to honor the victims and “acknowledge the need for community healing.” The meeting can also be viewed through livestream and on YouTube.
Talley’s Sister Says He Wanted to Be a Pilot & Wrote in a Tribute, ‘I Cannot Explain How Beautiful He Was & What a Devastating Loss This Is To So Many’
Talley was born in Houston, Texas, graduated from Highland High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1988, according to a post on the school’s alumni Facebook page from a classmate. He had a master’s degree related to IT before becoming an officer.
Homer Talley, the officer’s father, told 9News it, “Didn’t surprise me he was the first one there.” His father told the Colorado news station, “He had a great sense of humor, he was a prankster. He loved his family more than anything.” The slain officer’s sister, Kirstin, paid tribute to him on Twitter, writing, “Officer Eric Talley is my big brother. He died today in the Boulder shooting. My heart is broken. I cannot explain how beautiful he was and what a devastating loss this is to so many. Fly high my sweet brother. You always wanted to be a pilot (damn color blindness). Soar.”
A longtime friend of Talley described him as a husband, father and devout Christian in a post on Facebook. Jeremy Herko wrote he and Talley attended the police academy together. They were talking earlier that day, he wrote.
“I cannot describe the level of devastation I feel right now,” he wrote. “My heart is heavy. So many things I would do differently.”
“The person I was calling and messaging earlier, one of my best friends, died today in Boulder,” he continued. “He was the police officer killed. Eric Talley is his name, and he was a devout Christian, he had to buy a 15 passenger van to haul his kids around, and he was the nicest guy in the world. I’ve known him since we went to the academy together, and we talked all the time. Please keep his wife and kids in your thoughts.”
Herko told The Post he met Talley in 2010 at the Community College of Aurora’s Police Training Academy. “He is drawn to people, and people are drawn to him. It’s easy to be drawn to a guy like that. I was fortunate that he liked me as well. He was pretty driven to join law enforcement,” Herko told The Post.
Several Boulder residents who encountered Talley during his 10-year career working in the city shared experiences with him, remembering him as a dedicated and caring officer who went above and beyond everyday. One woman wrote on Twitter, “In 2013 I called 911 when my abusive HS/college ex boyfriend showed up uninvited pounding on my door threatening me outside my apartment in Boulder. One of the officers to respond & help that night was Officer Eric Talley. He stayed with me throughout the entire ordeal, calmed me down & said he was just at the right place at the right time.While the other officers were outside reading my abuser his rights, Officer Talley was kind enough to stay with me until a friend could come get me.”
The woman added, “He gave me his personal card, ‘call me if the coward decides to show his face again.’ To this day I credit Officer Talley for saving my life. I still have his card. Thank you for being my hero that night & thank you for being a hero to everyone in King Soopers today. I am absolutely heartbroken to hear yet another shooting has occurred. RIP Eric Talley & the other victims of today’s shooting. This is becoming far too frequent of a headline America.”
A fellow officer wrote in a tribute on Facebook:
Talley-Man, I’m at a loss of words and don’t quite know how to say goodbye. You were a great officer and such an incredible person! I will cherish our memories and all the great times we had together in District 5. I will miss hearing our locker room banter of the Talley-Man/Sassy-Pants Show. To hear you died a hero is not surprising to me. Knowing you would lay your life down for others is the perfect way to describe your character. Fly high, you Drone Team geek. Eric Talley: A hero remembered, never dies.
Retired Boulder police sergeant Lauri Wegscheider wrote on Facebook, “My heart is more than broken. Officer Eric Talley was one of the smartest people I know. He was caring, compassionate and kooky with a heart of gold. He always had my back and we were more than just coworkers. He was my friend!! He adored his children and family. I am so so sorry to all my Boulder PD brothers and sisters. Mtn Dew my friend, all you can drink!”
Edwin Hurwitz, a Boulder attorney, said he met Talley when he was in law school. Hurwitz wrote on Facebook:
I just found out that the officer who was killed was Officer Eric Talley. When I was in law school, in the criminal law clinic, we had to do a police ride along and I was paired with him and we spent a Saturday night riding around Boulder. I had just transitioned from my music career and was getting used to the idea of my new one as a lawyer and he had just transitioned from his career and had been an officer for less than a year. That ride changed my view of cops. He was outgoing, thoughtful, and interested in the safety of the community. Given that defense attorneys and cops are kind of at odds by the nature of our jobs, I left that night feeling that we had made a connection and bridged the institutional distance between the conflict that comes up on both sides.
Former Boulder Police officer Andreas Reimann wrote on Facebook, “I really don’t know what to say, Eric Talley was the definition of a kind and warm hearted person. He wasn’t a stereotypical cop, he was goofy, nerdy, kind, funny, and always wanting to help whenever he could. He helped and covered me on more calls than I can count. It always made me smile after I left Boulder that he would regularly ask about me and how I was doing, and pass along messages that he missed me at BPD.”
Reimann added, “Like most heroes Eric would probably hate that label, but anyone who runs towards the sound of gunfire when other people run away is the definition of a hero in my book, and someone who I am proud to have worked beside. Rest well friend.”
Talley Presented a Community Policing Initiative to His Department So Officers Would Serve as Familiar Faces in Neighborhoods
Talley brought an initiative to the police department with community-based policing, the Martin Acres Voice wrote in 2015. The initiative was geared toward officers becoming a familiar face in their communities. The newsletter described community policing as a return to traditional policing before the days of police cars, when officers lived among the neighbors they policed and “walked a ‘beat.'”
Talley and two other officers presented the initiative during a conference at the time, which involved dividing the city into 35 districts and assigning an officer to each of those districts. The officer in each district was assigned to monitor the neighborhoods, serve as “a familiar face” and become familiar with the details of their districts. Martin Acres was a part of Talley’s district, the newsletter said.
“If you see him, say hello!” the newsletter said. “Officer Talley is working on getting to know our neighborhood, what’s normal, what is out of place, tracking trends, suspicious activity and, hopefully, enabling a safer environment.”
It went on to say, “Officer Talley says he hopes to empower us to be more vigilant neighbors, with direct access to the police department, and to give the police department a clearer picture of the community and our needs.”
Witnesses told the Denver Post about touching moments amid the tragedy of a mass shooting that left 10 people dead. James Bentz, 57, told the Denver Post he found himself “at the front of a stampede” as people rushed to the back of the grocery store. He jumped off a loading dock to escape, he said. Younger people helped older people down from 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 a gunshot. He thought it was a misfire until he heard more gunshots. Then, everyone started running, he said.
Neven Sloan and his wife, Quinlyn Sloan, told the newspaper they had split up in the grocery store when shots were fired. She was in the dairy section, and he was in produce. They ran to find each other, then escaped together.
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.
Talley Was Recognized in 2013 for Rescuing a Family of Ducks From a Drainage Ditch Near the Grocery Store Where He Was Fatally Shot
Talley was among three officers who were recognized by the Boulder Daily Camera for rescuing 11 ducklings and their mother from a drainage ditch in 2013. The drainage ditch was in the area of Table Mesa and Broadway, very close to the location where Talley would be gunned down eight years later.
One of the other responding officers on the duck rescue attempted to coax the ducks and scoop them to safety with a net. When that didn’t work, Talley took the plunge to wade into the water and round up the ducks so he and the other officers could save every member of the duck family, the article said.
“He was drenched after this,” said Jack Walker, who was the Boulder Police Sergeant at the time. “They would go into these little pipes and he would have to try and fish them out.”
When the duck family was reunited, “they were thrilled,” Walker said of the ducklings.
A group of about 30 to 35 people gathered to watch the rescue, and recorded it on their phones, he said.
“They were thrilled to see us doing this,” he said.
The entire rescue operation took about an hour.
“This was my first duck rescue,” Walker said. “But I’m an animal lover, so for me it was easy to do.”
Conor McCue, a witness to the grocery store shooting, told CBS4 it took a moment to realize what was happening after he heard gunshots.
“Heard a loud bang… thought someone dropped something. Then by the third bang everyone was running,” he told the news outlet.
When police arrived, he said they were shouting at a suspect either in the car or inside the store. “Surrender now!” he said he heard them saying.
A family was waiting in line for COVID-19 vaccinations when a woman was shot in front of them, the father of one of the family members told CBS4. They family ran away and found a closet upstairs, where they hid for an hour, he told the news station. He was communicating 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 inside the grocery store when police arrived were led outside by officers.
About 100 First Responder Vehicles Escorted Talley’s Body Following the Mass Shooting & Local Lawmakers Expressed Their Sympathy to Law Enforcement & Said Police Officers Were in Their Prayers
The Boulder Police Department shared a brief and touching tribute to Talley on Twitter as lawmakers and other officials expressed their condolences and pledged to fight for justice.
“Rest In peace Officer Eric Talley. Your service will never be forgotten,” the police department wrote.
About 100 first responder vehicles gathered to escort the body of the fallen Boulder police officer in the hours after the shooting, reporter Kyle Clark of 9News wrote on Twitter.
“Approximately 100 first responders’ vehicles are prepared for a procession to escort the body of the Boulder Police Officer who was among those killed in today’s supermarket shooting,” he wrote.
He shared a video of the procession as a sea of red and blue lights silently escorted the officer.
The City of Boulder shared an image on Twitter which was retweeted by the Boulder Police Department.
“Our hearts are broken. Lives were taken today, including one of our brave @boulderpolice officers,” the tweet said.
The image was a landscape overlaid with text.
“This is a tragic day in Boulder,” it said. “Our hearts are broken from the lives lost. Our thoughts are with the victims, their families and all.”
Videos emerged on social media soon after the shooting, which showed a man being led to a stretcher in handcuffs. It was not immediately clear whether the man was the shooting suspect, but it appeared that police were taking the man into custody. He had blood on one of his legs, the video shows.
“It was quite a chaotic situation,” a FOX DC reporter said on the air, referencing reports from witnesses. “There were two medical helicopters on the scene.”
The reporter spoke over live images taken from a 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. “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.”
He walks into the entrance of the store from its ramp, and a person in a store uniform says the shooter is still inside. Three people appear to be lifeless in the video. One is on a ramp leading into the store, another is in the parking lot, and a third is inside the store near a checkout counter.
Two gunshots can be heard on the video soon after the man goes inside to film.
“Guys this happened… not even 30 seconds ago. I heard gunshots going. Guys there’s an active shooter,” the man says. He later identifies himself as Dean Schiller.
Sirens could be heard in the background, and he said police officers arrived quickly.
He gave information to news stations later in the video, saying he was nearby and heard gunfire.
He described “loud bangs” and 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,” he said, and said he went around to the front of the building where he heard more gunshots. He said he hid behind cars and walls.
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, he said.
Colorado lawmakers shared sentiments online in the immediate aftermath of the shooting and specifically addressed first responders who were called to the scene. They wrote that they were “monitoring the situation,” expressed sympathy to the families of the victims and to the Boulder community as a whole.
“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.
Representative Joe Neguse wrote on Twitter he was praying for the first responders who rushed to the scene.
“Praying for the entire #Boulder community & all of the first responders and law enforcement responding to this terrible incident,” he wrote.
“We’re monitoring this tragic situation and our prayers are with the Boulder community,” wrote Senator Michael Bennet.
Congressman Ken Buck also said he was praying for law enforcement.
“Praying for our law enforcement who are responding to the active shooter at the King Soopers in #Boulder,” Buck wrote.