Colorado suspect bought gun six days before shooting

The suspect, Ahmad Alissa, had a history of angry outbursts and was previously arrested for assaulting a classmate.

Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 21, of Arvada, identified by police as the suspect in a mass shooting at King Soopers grocery store, poses for a county jail booking photograph in Boulder, Colorado, March 23, 2021 [Boulder Police Department/Handout via Reuters]

The suspect accused of opening fire at a crowded Colorado supermarket was a 21-year-old man who had a history of physical and angry outbursts, and he had bought an assault weapon less than a week before the shooting, according to police reports.

Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa bought the weapon on March 16, just six days before the attack at a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder that killed 10 people, according to an arrest affidavit. It was not immediately known from where the gun was bought.

A law enforcement official briefed on the shooting said the suspect’s family told investigators they believed Alissa was suffering some type of mental illness, including delusions. Relatives described times when Alissa told them people were following or chasing him, which they said may have contributed to the violence, the official said. The official was not authorised to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press news agency on condition of anonymity.

History of angry outbursts

When he was a senior at Arvada West High School in 2018, Alissa was found guilty of assaulting a fellow student in class after knocking him to the floor, then climbing on top of him and punching him in the head several times, according to a police affidavit.

Alissa “got up in classroom, walked over to the victim & ‘cold cocked’ him in the head”, the affidavit read. Alissa complained that the student had made fun of him and called him “racial names” weeks earlier, according to the affidavit. He was sentenced to probation and community service.

One of his former wrestling teammates, Angel Hernandez, said Alissa got enraged after losing a match in practice once, letting out a stream of invectives and yelling he would kill everyone. Hernandez said the coach kicked Alissa off the team for the outburst.

“He was one of those guys with a short fuse,” Hernandez said. “Once he gets mad, it’s like something takes over and it’s not him. There is no stopping him at that point.”

Hernandez said Alissa would also act strangely sometimes, turning around suddenly or glancing over his shoulder. “He would say, ‘Did you see that? Did you see that?’” Hernandez recalled. “We wouldn’t see anything. We always thought he was messing with us.”

Brooke Campbell, a classmate of Alissa’s and the wrestling team manager, told The New York Times that Alissa had an anger problem. “When he’d lose wrestling matches, when it’s something not that important, he’d get too angry,” she told the Times.

“It’s scary, you know, looking back, that you knew someone that was capable of those things, or is now,” Campbell said of the shooting.

Arvada police detective David Snelling said officers investigated but dropped a separate criminal mischief complaint involving the suspect in 2018 and cited him for speeding in February. “Our community is obviously concerned and upset that the suspect lived here,” he said.

Alissa was booked into the county jail on Tuesday on 10 counts of first-degree murder and an attempted-murder charge. He was due to make a first court appearance on Thursday.

Investigators have not established a motive, but they believe Alissa was the only attacker, Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty said.

The shooting victims were aged between 20 and 65. They were identified as Denny Stong, 20; Neven Stanisic, 23; Rikki Olds, 25; Tralona Bartkowiak, 49; Suzanne Fountain, 59; Teri Leiker, 51; Kevin Mahoney, 61; Lynn Murray, 62; and Jodi Waters, 65. The officer who was the first to arrive at the scene, 51-year-old Eric Talley, was also killed.

Monday’s attack was the nation’s deadliest mass shooting since a 2019 assault on a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, where a gunman killed 22 people in a rampage that police said targeted Mexicans.

It was the seventh mass killing this year in the US, following the March 16 shooting in which eight people died at three Atlanta-area massage businesses, according to a database compiled by the AP, USA Today and the Northeastern University.

It follows a lull in mass killings during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, which had the smallest number of such attacks in eight years, according to the database, which tracks mass killings defined as four or more dead, excluding the attacker.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies