A gunman killed 10 people at a King Soopers in Boulder on Monday afternoon, the latest in a grim litany of mass shootings in Colorado — this one including among its victims a police officer who was first to respond to reports of shots fired at the grocery store.
The suspect was taken into custody, but there were few answers in the following hours. Officials said it would take days to investigate the large crime scene and to notify families that their loved ones had been killed.
The workers and shoppers who survived the violent scene in the Front Range college town fled the store any way they could — if they couldn’t, they took shelter inside — as the shots echoed.
“It seemed like all of us had imagined we’d be in a situation like this at some point in our lives,” 57-year-old James Bentz said.
Boulder police Chief Maris Herold identified the deceased officer at a news conference Monday night as 51-year-old Eric Talley, who had been with the department since 2010 and was first on the scene of the shooting.
The names of the other victims were not publicly known as of late Monday night.
At about 7:45 p.m., a long procession of police vehicles and ambulances, their lights flashing in the night, drove away from the grocery store to escort Talley’s body.
Officer Mark Bliley, head of the Boulder Police Department’s union, said Talley was a close friend who was passionate about policing. On the job, Talley had a unique ability to connect with people, Bliley said.
“He was just a highly respected, well-loved person and officer,” Bliley said. “Just a solid person … I don’t know of anyone who didn’t like Eric.”
The suspect, a man, was in custody and being treated for injuries, Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty said, but he was not identified nor any motive ventured as of Monday night. The FBI is helping investigate at the request of Boulder police.
Police said the gunman was reported to have been carrying a rifle.
“He just came in and started shooting”
The shooting started sometime after 2:30 p.m. in the parking lot of the store at 3600 Table Mesa Drive. A livestream video, taken by local videographer Dean Schiller, who had just walked out of the store, showed what appeared to be victims and a man wearing a King Soopers employee uniform saying the shooter was inside the store.
Then what sounded like two gunshots could be heard over the video.
Two roommates who were buying pizza at the self-checkout watched the shooter come into the store. “He just came in and started shooting” without saying a word, one of them told The Denver Post on condition of anonymity to avoid national media attention. His roommate said the gunman “let off a couple of shots, then was silent, and then he let off a couple more. He wasn’t spraying.”
Outside, law enforcement from all over the Front Range — Jefferson County, Erie, Boulder, Longmont — was quick to respond. The Denver Police Department sent about 30 people. They came in fire trucks, ambulances, armored vehicles, helicopters and regular police cars. They even used drones to respond to the shooting.
Some wore body armor and carried rifles. Some walked on top of the store, others inside, others manning vehicles that rammed the front of the building. Authorities over a loudspeaker said the building was surrounded and that “you need to surrender.” They said to come out with hands up and unarmed.
About an hour into the livestream, a bearded, balding man was taken out of the store by police in handcuffs, wearing no shirt and no shoes, just a pair of black elastic-waist shorts and his right leg bloodied. It wasn’t known as of Monday night if this was the shooter.
King Soopers spokeswoman Kelli McGannon said the company is cooperating with investigators and will be deferring to law enforcement on all inquiries about the shooting.
“Our hearts are broken over this senseless act of violence,” she said.
Watching from rooftops
The King Soopers anchors the shopping center, which is a little less than two miles from the University of Colorado campus, and includes a bank, an auto shop, restaurants and an animal hospital. It was completely blocked off by law enforcement on Monday. Main roads around the shopping center were blocked off, too.
Young people stood on the roofs of houses across the street trying to see what was going on during daylight. And dozens of people milled about, walking their dogs and trying to catch a view of the scene, before police told them to go away.
Some people were showing up to see if they could find their relatives, who were King Soopers employees, because they weren’t able to get a hold of them. They declined to speak with The Post.
Steven McHugh said his son-in-law and his two granddaughters, ages 13 and 14, were in the store as their dad got a COVID-19 vaccination. McHugh said he was told his family watched people get shot and managed to run to a staff area and hide in a coat closet until police rescued them.
“They’re in seventh and eighth grade,” he said of his granddaughters’ experience. “This is completely fricking terrifying. This is unacceptable.”
Several unharmed people who had been sheltering inside the King Soopers were escorted out by officers in the late afternoon; Post reporters saw the witnesses loaded onto buses to be taken away from the scene.
“This is a tragedy and a nightmare for Boulder County,” Dougherty said at an early evening news conference.
This is not the first mass shooting in Colorado, Dougherty acknowledged later Monday night. But in all cases, he said, law enforcement officers from surrounding areas and from local state and federal agents have rallied to support the communities.
Backed by acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado Matthew Kirsch, Dougherty said that will happen again in this case.
“I also want to stress how incredibly sorry I am for all the victims who were killed in King Soopers,” he said. “These were people going about their day, doing their food shopping and their lives were cut abruptly and tragically short by the shooter who is now in custody.”
“Enough is a enough”
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis issued a statement late Monday evening about the “devastating news.”
“This year we have all been surrounded by loss of life, illness and isolation, and the deep grief that has accompanied the loss of life as we knew it,” Polis said. “As spring sprung this weekend, and vaccines continue to get into arms, lightness creeped back in only for the darkness to descend on us again today. Today we saw the face of evil. I am grieving with my community and all Coloradans.”
U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse — who represents Boulder, has lived in the county for years and whose wife was born there — called Monday’s mass shooting “devastating” in a statement and called for changing gun laws because “Americans should feel safe in their grocery stores … their schools, their movie theaters and in their communities.”
“Twenty-one years ago, as a young student in Douglas County, I joined many Coloradans in weeping for the victims of the terrible massacre at Columbine High 10 minutes from my high school,” he said in a statement. “Two years ago, I felt the fear that so many Coloradans experienced learning of the shooting at the STEM School in Highlands Ranch, where my niece — a kindergartner — was locked down, as we all wept at the tragic loss of life.
“And tonight, I weep for the families of my constituents, who have tragically lost their lives in yet another mass shooting. Enough is enough.”
The King Soopers shooting comes more than three years after Scott Ostrem walked into a Walmart in Thornton and fired seven shots in 20 seconds, killing Victor Vasquez, 26, Carlos Moreno, 66, and Pamela Marques, 53. Ostrem was later given three life sentences for the November 2017 shooting. A motive was never made clear.
The last mass shooting at a grocery store was at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, in August 2019, in which 22 people died and 26 were injured. That shooter targeted Latinos, and has not gone to trial yet on more than 90 federal charges.
And in October 2018, a white man fatally shot two Black people at a Kroger store in Louisville, Ky.; the man pleaded guilty just last week to federal hate crime and gun charges.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
This is a developing story and will be updated. The Denver Post does not report off of police radio traffic, which can be unreliable. Our information will generally come from officials and eyewitnesses and, at times, other media with a track record of accuracy. In fast-moving situations like this, authorities sometimes alter their statements in the wake of new information. The Denver Post will update the story as quickly as possible to correct any errors.