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Vigils are held for the Boulder shooting victims as the gunman’s first court appearance is expected Thursday

Two days after the community was traumatized by a mass shooting, the people of Boulder honored the victims on Wednesday as support poured in from public figures and citizens around the country.

The conversation also turned to how to prevent such a loss of life, especially following the mass shootings at three Atlanta-area massage spas that happened less than a week earlier.

Tribute was paid to the heroism of Officer Eric Talley, who lost his life at the scene, as people lined the streets Wednesday.

“It’s sad but glad we could honor his life,” Crystal Hootman told CNN. “I was talking with another resident and we both shop at the grocery store. I’m hoping out of sadness, Boulder becomes an even better place to live,” she said.

Talley’s body was transported to a funeral home in nearby Aurora, escorted by a procession of police and first responder vehicles.

At the King Soopers store, where the shooting took place, visitors left flowers and paid their respects to the ten people who died. Chaplains from churches were available to those in need, as well as Cubby, an emotional support golden retriever.

“They take on people’s feelings,” K-9 Crisis Response Coordinator for Lutheran Church Services Bonnie Fear told CNN affiliate KUSA. “We bring the dogs and bring comfort and smiles and just open up emotions for people so they can start the healing process.”


Monday’s attack began with a gunman shooting a man in the parking lot before entering the grocery store and opening fire. Employees and customers tried to flee as the gunman roamed store aisles, according to witnesses and an arrest affidavit.

The victims were: Talley, 51; store manager Rikki Olds, 25; store employee Denny Stong, 20; store employee Teri Leiker, 51; Neven Stanisic, 23; Tralona Bartkowiak, 49; Suzanne Fountain, 59; Kevin Mahoney, 61; Lynn Murray, 62; and Jody Waters, 65.

Boulder Mayor Sam Weaver said Wednesday that he spoke with President Joe Biden, who expressed his condolences and sympathy.

“Of course, the conversation turned toward what can we do to make sure this never happens in another community in our country, and so we explored that a little bit,” the mayor told CNN’s Pamela Brown. “The President expressed that he regretted that when the first federal assault weapons ban was passed in 1994, that there had to be a ten-year sunset to get that through.

“He further regretted that the sunset occurred, and the ban expired. And then we talked some about what steps could be taken at the federal level to make sure that things like this just don’t happen to other communities.”

The gunman’s first court appearance

As the community mourned those who were lost, the alleged gunman is scheduled to hear the charges at a hearing on Thursday.

Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 21, was arrested on 10 charges of murder in the first degree and one charge of attempted murder, according to a Boulder County arrest warrant. He is expected to make his first appearance in court Thursday morning, according to a statement from the Boulder County District Attorney.

It is unclear if Alissa will be present since a court document noted he has the right to waive his appearance in person. He will be advised of the charges he is facing, his rights, and the next court date in his case, according to the statement.

“It is anticipated that this appearance will be the first court appearance in what will likely be a lengthy court process,” the statement said. The hearing will be publicly accessible online.

Investigators are working to piece together a possible motive for the shooting, which has left questions over its location, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation. Alissa lives about 30 minutes from the store and there are other grocery stores closer to his residence.

It is suspected the attack was planned given his recent purchase of a pistol believed to have been used in the shooting and investigators are also examining possible mental health questions, the official told CNN.

The FBI is looking at Alissa’s online activity and conducting interviews with friends and relatives, one law enforcement official told CNN, adding that Alissa was not previously the subject of any FBI investigation and it appears nothing in the federal system would have prohibited him from buying a firearm.

Two store employees are remembered

Meanwhile, Bianca Porter, a friend of 20-year-old Denny Stong, the youngest victim in Monday’s shooting, said she wasn’t surprised to hear reports of Stong trying to protect others during the shooting.

“I had no doubt that he lost his life trying to save other people, that’s who he was,” she told CNN’s Erin Burnett Wednesday night.

She shared her favorite memory of Stong, a close friend of four years whom she had texted just an hour before the attack.

“Last year on my birthday, he was one of the only people that got me a birthday present, which made me feel very special,” Porter told Burnett. “He was really into aviation and stuff, so he brought his RC [radio controlled] plane and he was controlling it over the pond and just doing some really cool tricks with it. We were just all laughing and having a great time.”

Porter said Stong was dedicated to his work at the supermarket and had dreams of becoming a pilot.

“He was really passionate. Denny had a work ethic like no one else that I’ve ever met,” Porter said. “It’s not the most interesting job, but he looked forward to doing it, never once did I ever hear him complain about having to go into work late or something. He just really did what he could and had no complaints.”

The uncle of 25-year-old store manager Rikki Olds, a victim in Monday’s shooting, spoke about her personality at a press conference Wednesday.

“Rikki was kind of the light of our family,” Robert Olds said. “When Rikki showed up at the house, we never knew what color her hair was going to be, we never knew what new tattoos she may have.

“But that was Rikki and Rikki lived life on Rikki’s terms — not anybody else’s terms.”

Olds also said that “she had dreams, she had ambitions,” and praised her as “a strong, independent young woman.” She had planned to be a nurse, he said, but her attention turned to becoming a store manager at King Soopers.

Olds said that the outpouring of support has been “overwhelming,” adding that “It just goes to show how many lives that Rikki touched,” he said.

“She was a snorter when she laughed hard and I will really miss her,” he said. “I will really miss that personality of hers.”

Article Topic Follows: National-World

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