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Tuesday October 26th, 2021 2:04AM

Relative of Colorado victim: A void that 'won't be filled'

By The Associated Press
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BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — A relative of a grocery worker who died in the shooting that killed 10 people at a Colorado supermarket said Wednesday that he and his family were trying to take in that she's gone.

Rikki Olds, 25, was slain inside the King Soopers store in Boulder on Monday. Her uncle, Robert Olds, told reporters that she was an ebullient soul who wanted to be a nurse. Her backup plan was to work her way up to store manager.

“Rikki lived life on her own terms,” Robert Olds said, recalling how she constantly changed her hair color or sported a new tattoo. “It's sad in that she didn’t get to experience motherhood. She didn’t get to experience marriage. ... There's a hole in our family that won't be filled.”

Portraits of Rikki and others who were killed emerged as multiple law enforcement agencies pressed ahead with what they say will be a monthslong investigation into why the attacker opened fire at the supermarket. They revealed no new details Wednesday but said a statement would be issued later in the day.

The 21-year-old suspect, Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, is in jail and is scheduled to make his first court appearance Thursday. He will be advised at the hearing of the murder charges he will face and his rights. He won't be asked to enter a plea until later.

No lawyer was listed for Alissa in court records. Public defenders usually represent people who do not have an attorney at their first court appearance, but defenders' office policy prohibits them from speaking to the media.

Meanwhile, hundreds have paid their respects to the victims at a growing makeshift memorial near the supermarket, adorning it with wreaths, candles, banners reading “#Boulderstrong” and 10 crosses with blue hearts and the victims’ names.

Several community vigils were planned this week to honor the victims. The Boulder Police Department invited the public to show support for Officer Eric Talley, who was killed responding to the shooting, during a procession Wednesday as his body is transported from the coroner’s office to a funeral home.

Talley, 51, was the first officer to arrive at the shooting. Homer Talley described his son as a devoted father who “knew the Lord.” He had seven children, ages 7 to 20.

The other victims are Denny Stong, 20; Neven Stanisic, 23; Tralona Bartkowiak, 49; Suzanne Fountain, 59; Teri Leiker, 51; Kevin Mahoney, 61; Lynn Murray, 62; and Jodi Waters, 65.

Along with Olds, Leiker and Stong worked at the supermarket, former co-worker Jordan Sailas said.

Kim Cordova, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, which represents more than 30 store employees, said they 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.

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

It follows a lull in mass killings last year during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Boulder and Atlanta-area shootings prompted President Joe Biden to call on Congress to tighten gun laws. 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 the Senate, with its slim Democratic majority.

The suspect in the Colorado shooting bought a Ruger AR-556 pistol — which resembles an AR-15 rifle with a slightly shorter stock — on March 16, six days before the attack, according to an arrest affidavit.

Authorities have not disclosed where the gun was purchased. An AR-15-style gun was recovered inside the supermarket and was believed to have been used in the attack, said a law enforcement official briefed on the shooting who was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

A green tactical vest and a handgun also were recovered inside the grocery store after the suspect removed most of his clothing shortly before he was taken into custody, authorities said.

The law enforcement official said the suspect’s family told investigators that he had delusions and that they believed he had some type of mental illness. The 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.

___

Associated Press writers Michael Balsamo in Washington, Jim Anderson in Denver and AP staff members from around the U.S. contributed to this report. Nieberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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