One person was down in front of a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado. Possibly two people down. One of the first officers at the store was getting out of her car and trying to tell others what she was seeing.
Dozens of people had just called 911 to say someone was shooting at the store. Customers and employees were taking shelter wherever they could find inside the store. They called 911 to plead for help.
“We got another party down just inside the doors,” the officer relays over her police radio.
“…shooter is inside, he just shot at us twice,” the officer says moments later.
Dispatchers call out an active shooter as police continue to descend on the scene. For more than an hour the panic, confusion and training take over for officers. They try to find the suspect as he mocks them and fires in their direction.
Victims are down. Customers are barricaded. Police are desperate.
March 22 was a typical day in Boulder, Colorado. Police calls were routine for a Monday in the college-town outside of Denver. The most it had been in the news lately was when students rioted on campus and pelted officers with debris and causing property damage.
The town is most known for its left-leaning ways, not a mecca of violence — until 2:30 p.m.
“Shooting in progress, King Soopers. 3600 Table Mesa,” a dispatcher calmy relays to police in the field, following her training.
The details of the call and the next hour as police descended on the grocery store were played over the public airwaves in police radio traffic. FrontPageDetectives obtained the audio, which helps paint the horror the victims and police faced Monday afternoon.
Initial reports say the suspect is leaving the scene of the shooting. Initial reports are often hectic and confusing from witnesses. That is why police race to the scene and relay accurate information to the squad.
There were reports the suspect was wearing an armored vest. He was chubby, standing 5-feet-8-inches and weighs 280 pounds.
Officers start to arrive at the store and tell of the two people down, with a third person inside. That is when the suspect fires at the police.
“Everybody arriving needs to armor up,” an officer tells the responding police.
Dispatchers again relay the suspect could be wearing body armor. He might also have an AK rifle. Officer inside relay their location to the other cops hurrying to the scene, police inside the store speak quickly, but aren’t panicked and resort to their training.
“Officer down inside the building!” one says, changing the cadence of the conversations.
The fellow officers give the downed cops location.
“We’re in a gunfight, hold the radio,” one officer says, as another cop again says the suspect is shooting at them. Five officers are now at the front door and shots are being fired in the store.
It’s then the full scope of what is happening starts to unfold as more officers come to the store. A scene that has become almost common in the U.S. an active mass shooting. A rescue operation is called for and police equipment is requested.
Each time the officers from the store speak on the radio, yelling can be heard in the background of the call.
It was then a civilian called 911 and suggested there may be up to three gunmen, adding to the confusion and difficulty for police inside the store.
“I got it. We’re taking multiple rounds,” the officer says.
FINDING THE SHOOTER
Police try to position themselves safely in the store, as one officer says they have possibly one gunman firing at them from the back of the store. More officers are called, this time from county agencies. Officers also say they want the police tank positioned at the back of the grocer.
One of the police officers then asks for medical helicopters to the scene as several people are hurt.
“We got multiple people down,” he says. Dispatchers ask to confirm for multiple helicopters and the officer says that is correct and noted they don’t know the status of the downed officer.
An officer requests police shields so they can rescue the fallen cop.
Police have their positions as more equipment and officers arrive at the scene. SWAT teams from Denver are on the way. Police try to get a unit to the back of the store. The situation has become almost a standoff, but officers still don’t know where the suspect is in the store.
Officers try to clear some areas of the store, including the milk fridge. A team is on the way to check storage.
Eight people call 911 to tell dispatchers they are barricaded in a second-floor conference room.
A second team of officers has now arrived at the main entrance and ready to go into the store. It’s now about 20 minutes after the initial phone call and police are still trying to get in position around the store.
Officers spend the next few minutes trying to figure out the shooter’s location and a way to remove their injured officer from the scene.
But, police are afraid the suspect is setting them up for an ambush if they try to get their fallen brother. At one point, an officer notes the suspect is laughing at them.
Officers again call for SWAT teams to the front with a shield that can withstand rifle bullets.
About 30 minutes after the incident started, a commanding officer comes on the radio and reminds those on the scene to remember their training. The suspect is believed to be wearing body armor, so if police need to use lethal force, shots should not be to the torso.
“Due to body armor, headshots only,” the officer states.
Police inside try to spot the suspect as an officer finds the manager who has live surveillance from inside the store. Still, officers can’t locate the suspect inside the store. There is also talk of launching a drone inside the store to try and see the suspect’s location.
About 45 minutes after the shooting, SWAT Teams in the back of the store go inside and start to clear the area. An officer reminds them that when officers first arrived, the suspect opened fire on them.
An hour after the initial call, officers are still talking about finding the suspect’s location. But, then static chatter overlaps and the conversation is hurried. An officer outside says they can’t understand what the officers inside are saying.
“We’re in contact with the possible suspect,” the officer says.
About an hour after the first officer arrived at King Soopers and left her car, SWAT officers say they have a person in custody and they will need a car and ambulance for the suspect. The person is in custody and TV helicopter footage showed the suspect being escorted from the scene. The chubby, shirtless man has blood on his leg.
But, officers still need to make sure the scene is safe.
“Are we pushing hard now to make sure there are two suspects?” an officer asks.
SWAT teams descend on the building from several directions and work to ensure the area is safe and get the victims out. Then one of the officers with the suspect tells the others what the man has just said.
“He said he came here alone, nobody else inside,” an officer relays.
Boulder police identified the suspect as Ahmad Al-Issa, 21. He suffered a gunshot wound to the leg during the incident, but police don’t know if it was from one of their guns. Police said they have not determined a motive for the shooting as of Monday morning.
The ten victims were identified as:
- Denny Strong, 20
- Nevin Stanisic, 23
- Ricki Olds, 25
- Tralona Bartkowiak, 49
- Suzanne Fountain, 59
- Terry Leiker, 51
- Officer Eric Talley, 51
- Kevin Mahoney, 61
- Lynn Murray, 62
- Jody Waters, 65
“They had family and friends, loves and passions and dreams of tomorrow that will no longer come from them,” Boulder Mayor Sam Weaver said.
Weaver was one of several police officers who spoke at a Monday morning press conference to update the world on the situation and name the victims.
“People who started their day with a cup of coffee and reading the morning paper…None of them expected this would be their last day here on this planet,” said Gov. Jared Polis. “Our heart aches for those that lost their families.”
The loss is painful for the family and friends left behind and Polis expressed condolences for those killed in the shooting.
The investigation continues as Boulder, state and federal police officials are ready to help, the Governor said.
“We will hold the evildoer responsible to the fullest extent of the law for his actions,” Polis said.