Boulder authorities will make fresh attempts to ban assault rifles as the Colorado city is “just beginning” to grieve after 10 people were killed in the mass shooting at a local supermarket on Monday afternoon.
The mayor of Boulder, Sam Weaver, said on Wednesday morning that the city is likely to appeal against a ruling just 10 days ago by a judge that blocked a ban on the weapons passed by the city in 2018 after a lawsuit that was supported by the National Rifle Association.
“We are still getting out of shock. It’s quite difficult to digest something like this happening in your backyard,” Weaver told CBS.
He said the city was likely to appeal the ruling on the assault weapons ban to the state supreme court.
“We will push on that, and we will also push our state legislature to put in a statewide ban,” he said.
The suspect accused of opening fire inside the crowded supermarket is a 21-year-old man who allegedly purchased an assault weapon less than a week earlier. Family members say they saw him with it a few days before the shooting.
Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa bought the weapon on 16 March, six days before the deadly attack at the King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, according to an arrest affidavit.
“The grieving is just beginning,” Weaver said.
Vice-President Kamala Harris on Wednesday called on Congress to pass gun control legislation.
“We are seeing tragedy after tragedy after tragedy … it’s time for Congress to act,” she told CBS TV, indicating that permanent legislation – an uphill battle in the Senate despite bills being passed in the House – was preferred to executive action by Joe Biden.
Well after dark, and in the chill on Tuesday night, about 100 people mourned at a makeshift memorial near the grocery that was adorned with wreaths, candles, banners reading “#Boulderstrong” and 10 crosses with blue hearts and the victims’ names. Therapy dogs were on hand to provide comfort.
Four young girls huddled in the cold, one of them crying as she reminisced about how they had protested against the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida. Others recalled the 1999 shooting at Columbine high school and the 2012 Aurora movie theater attack.
Weaver said the Boulder city council was due to hold a special meeting on Wednesday evening, and the council is to receive advice from experts on how to help the city recuperate from the tragedy. There is expected to be a formal vigil on Thursday evening.
The patrol car that Eric Talley, the police officer who died, drove to the supermarket as he was the first to respond to the shooting, has become an informal memorial, parked outside the police department and adorned with flowers and tributes.
Three of the dead are understood to have worked at the supermarket.
Kim Cordova, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, which represents more than 30 store employees, said workers did their best to get customers to safety.
“They grabbed everybody they could, and they brought them to the backroom or to other areas of the store to hide, or got them out through the back dock,” Cordova said.
“And these poor grocery workers have just been through hell in general working through Covid this entire last year of the pandemic.”
The suspect is due on court on Thursday. He has been described by family members as prone to angry outbursts and delusions, and has mental illness.
He had been suspended from high school for a sudden attack on a classmate that left the student bloodied. A police affidavit said he punched the student several times.
Alissa “got up in classroom, walked over to the victim and ‘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.
A police report on the incident said the victim was bloodied and vomiting after the assault. Alissa was suspended from school and sentenced to probation and community service.
One of his former high school wrestling teammates, Angel Hernandez, said Alissa became enraged after losing a match in practice once, letting out a stream of invective 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.”
Alissa, who is from the Denver suburb of Arvada, was booked into jail on Tuesday on murder charges.
Investigators have not established a motive in the shooting, said the Boulder county district attorney, Michael Dougherty. It was not immediately known where the suspect purchased the weapon.
After the shooting, detectives went to Alissa’s home and found his sister-in-law, who told them that he had been playing around with a weapon she thought looked like a “machine gun” about two days earlier, according to an arrest affidavit.