Suspect allegedly bought assault rifle after ban on sale was blocked
The suspect accused of opening fire inside a crowded Colorado supermarket was a 21-year-old man who allegedly purchased an assault weapon less than a week earlier, it has emerged. Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa bought the weapon on 16 March, six days before the attack at a King Soopers store in Boulder that killed 10 people, including a police officer, according to an arrest affidavit. It was not immediately known where the gun was purchased.
The shooting came 10 days after a judge blocked a ban on assault rifles passed by the city of Boulder in 2018. That ordinance and another banning large-capacity magazines came after the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead.
A lawsuit challenging the bans was filed quickly, backed by the National Rifle Association. The judge struck down the ordinance under a Colorado law that blocks cities from making their own rules about guns.
Alissa, who is from the Denver suburb of Arvada, was booked into the county jail Tuesday on murder charges after being treated at a hospital. He was due to make a first court appearance Thursday.
Investigators have not established a motive for Monday’s attack, but they believe Alissa was the only shooter, Boulder county district attorney Michael Dougherty said.
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, said the official, who wished to remain anonymous.
The attack was the nation’s deadliest mass shooting since a 2019 assault on a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, where a gunman killed 22 people in a rampage that police said targeted Mexicans.
In Washington, president Joe Biden called on Congress to tighten the nation’s gun laws.
“Ten lives have been lost, and more families have been shattered by gun violence in the state of Colorado,” Biden said at the White House.
Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer vowed to bring forward two House-passed bills to require expanded background checks for gun buyers. Biden supports the measures, but they face a tougher route to passage in a closely divided Senate with a slim Democratic majority.
Supermarket employees told investigators that Alissa shot a man multiple times outside the Boulder grocery store before going inside, according to the affidavit. Another person was found shot in a vehicle next to a car registered to the suspect’s brother.
The gunfire sent shoppers and employees scrambling for cover. SWAT officers carrying ballistic shields slowly approached the store while others escorted frightened people away from the building, which had some of its windows shattered. Customers and employees fled through a back loading dock to safety. Others took refuge in nearby shops.
Multiple 911 calls paint a picture of a chaotic, terrifying scene, according to the affidavit.
One caller said the suspect opened fire out the window of his vehicle. Others called to say they were hiding inside the store as the gunman fired on customers. Witnesses described the shooter as having a black AR-15-style gun and wearing blue jeans and maybe body armor.
By the time he was in custody, Alissa had been struck by a bullet that passed through his leg, the affidavit said. He had removed most of his clothing and was dressed only in shorts. Inside the store, he had left the gun, a tactical vest, a semiautomatic handgun and his bloodied clothing, the affidavit said.
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, the document said.
No one answered the door at the Arvada home believed to be owned by the suspect’s father. The two-storey house with a three-car garage sits in a relatively new middle- and upper-class neighborhood.
Monday’s attack was the seventh mass killing this year in the US and came a few days after the shooting that left eight people dead at three massage businesses in Georgia.
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