Feature: Colorado mourns loss of 10 lives in worst mass shooting since 2012

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by Peter Mertz

BOULDER, the United States, March 24 (Xinhua) — As snow fell from the skies above, hundreds of Boulder residents brought fresh flowers Tuesday to line a chain link fence surrounding the grocery store where 10 people were gunned down on Monday.

The mass shooting rattled the small, affluent city 50 km north of Colorado’s state capital Denver, as residents feared for their safety while mourning the loss of their families and friends.

LIVES LOST

According to a police affidavit released Tuesday, a 21-year-old man entered the King Soopers, a grocery store just south of downtown Boulder, on Monday and went on a shooting spree with an AR-15 assault rifle.

The 10 victims included the son of refugees, a police officer, business owners and employees at the store.

The mass murder was the second in the United States in a week, following last week’s killing of eight people in Atlanta, including six women of Asian descent and two others.

It was also the worst mass killing in Colorado since the movie theater shooting in Aurora in 2012, which left 12 dead and 70 wounded.

The loss of three young lives in Boulder sent shock waves through the famous college town and the largest campus of the University of Colorado with 31,000 students.

Denny Stong, 20, the youngest killed in the shooting, graduated from nearby Fairview High School in 2019, one of Colorado’s top public high schools, school data showed.

“My heart breaks,” Stong’s family friend Laura Spicer posted on Facebook. “My son’s best friend, Denny Stong was killed … he was training to become a pilot,” she said.

Stong’s friend James Noland, who created a GoFundMe account to support Stong’s family with funeral expenses, described him as a “kind soul with a funny sense of humor and unique interests,” and also ironically, a gun advocate who wanted to carry a concealed weapon when he was older.

Young Stong was “a hero who guided people out of the store through the back and was leading people to safety before losing his life,” Noland said, adding, “he had saved others while risking his life.”

Neven Stanisic, 23, the second youngest of the victims, was born in the United States after his family left Serbia in 1990. Stanisic graduated from Alameda International High School three years ago.

“His family fled the war in the former Yugoslavia and everything they had was either left behind or destroyed,” Rev. Radovan Petrovic of Saint John the Baptist Serbian Orthodox Church told local media Denver7.

DEEPEST MOURNING

According to AboutBoulder.com, the city is an extremely affluent community where a crime of this nature and magnitude is unheard of, and where median home prices in 2020 were close to 1 million U.S. dollars.

All day Tuesday, local social media sites were filled with condolences and prayers from hundreds of sympathizers for the victims, who were all local residents.

“I go to that store almost every day, and I knew one of the victims,” Ben Brown, 27, told Xinhua. “She was a sweet, wonderful woman.”

Brown, a Boulder resident of eight years, was referring to shooting victim Rikki Olds, who was “always upbeat and positive … a person who could change your whole day in a 20-second conversation.”

Olds, 25, one of the young adults who lost their lives on Monday afternoon, was working as a front-end manager at store.

Family members told local media that Olds was raised by her grandparents and attended high school in nearby Lafayette city. She played softball on the school team and also golf, briefly attending Front Range Community College.

“I went to Front Range as well,” Brown said. “And I almost went to the (King Soopers) store Monday to say hello to her, but I was working on a project and didn’t go,” he said, adding, “everybody in town is fearful and devastated by this event.”

Perhaps the most tragic person killed was 11-year Boulder police officer Eric Talley, a 51-year-old man of “deep faith,” and a devoted father of seven children who became a police officer after his friend was killed by a drunk driver, according to media reports. He was the first responder, racing to the scene shortly after gunfire rang out.

Talley, who died to save others, was “the definition of an American hero,” said U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday.

WEAPONS BAN

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday that the Biden administration is considering taking executive actions on gun safety measures.

“We are certainly considering a range of levers, including working through legislation, including executive actions to address, obviously, you know, not just gun safety measures but violence in communities, so that has been under discussion and will continue to be under discussion,” Psaki said.

While investigations into recent shootings in the United States are still ongoing and police have not yet identified the suspects’ motives, Biden condemned the violence, urging Congress on Tuesday to pass legislation banning assault weapons and large-capacity magazines.

The president also called on the Senate to immediately pass two gun reform bills enhancing background check that the House approved earlier this month. Two senators from Colorado, Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, both said they are in favor of Biden’s request.

“As the investigation continues, we need to revisit a national conversation about gun violence that does not regress into partisanship,” Bennet said in a written statement. “Enough is enough.”

“We DO know our country has a horrific problem with gun violence. We need federal action. Now,” Hickenlooper tweeted shortly after the tragic incident.

However, to put onto Biden’s desk any legislation that tightens gun control, Democrats will need 60 votes, or at least 10 Republican defections in the current 50-50 Senate, to end the filibuster. That is next to impossible given the degree to which Republicans are opposed to stricter gun laws.

Boulder also passed a similar ban in 2018. But County District Court Judge Andrew Hartman on March 12 blocked the city from enforcing the ban, citing “only Colorado state (or federal) law can prohibit the possession, sale and transfer of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines.” Enditem

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