‘Beyond Understanding:’ 10 Lives Lost in Boulder


Eric Talley, 51, had already had a career in the tech industry when he changed course at 40 and joined the Boulder Police Department.

He was as busy patrolling as he was at home, helping raise seven children, the youngest of whom was 7 and the oldest 20. A friend recalled Officer Talley’s choice of transportation: a 15-passenger van.

He had done such painstaking work teaching his sons first aid that when one of his sons swallowed a quarter, another son jumped into action, using the resuscitation skills his father had taught him. The police department gave the oldest son an award for saving his life just a couple of weeks ago.

Officer Talley was on duty Monday when he received a flood of calls: A shooting had broken out at a King Soopers grocery store. He was the first to arrive on the scene.

“The world lost a great soul,” said the officer’s father, Homer Talley, a retired optical engineer who lives near Abilene, Texas. “His family was the joy of his life.”

Like people who shopped at a Walmart store in El Paso in 2019, like those who worked at three Atlanta-area spas last week, 10 victims in Boulder, Colorado, including Officer Talley, were shot dead by a heavily armed man.

They were young and old, single and married, King Soopers customers and King Soopers employees. The youngest was 20 years old; the oldest 65.

Some had spent years working in the grocery store. Others had been in the store for only a few minutes. They all left behind family and friends who were struggling to understand what had happened and who were more eager to talk about how their family member or friend had lived than how they had died.

I don’t want her name to be another name next to an age on the list, ”said Alexis Knutson, 22, a friend of Teri Leiker, 51, a King Soopers employee who she said had worked there for about 30 years and who died in the attack.

Ms. Knutson met Ms. Leiker through a program called Best Buddies that connects University of Colorado Boulder students with community members who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. Ms. Knutson remembered going to college sporting events together and how Ms. Leiker loved to cheer for the teams.

“He had the biggest and brightest smile,” Knutson said. “She always had these dimples that, especially when she got excited about something, her smile was huge.”

She worked as a bagger. If a customer tried to help her purse, she was known to cheerfully put her hand away and say, “I have this.”

Despite their age difference, Knutson said, they would bond and talk often. “I always had a rule: I couldn’t call before 9 am because I like to sleep,” he said. “She always called me at 6 am”

Rikki Olds, another King Soopers worker, also died. She had been a front-end manager at the store, where she had worked for about seven or eight years, her uncle, Robert Olds, said in an interview.

“We are devastated,” he said.

Mrs. Olds was an energetic young woman who “gave life to the family,” her uncle said.

She was the oldest of three siblings and had stayed with her grandparents as a teenager, Olds said, adding that the grandparents raised her in Lafayette, Colorado.

Lately, Ms. Olds had been living alone, but regularly stopped by her grandmother’s house to spend time with her and other relatives.

“My mom was her mom,” Olds said. “My mom raised her.”

Denny Stong, 20, worked at the store for several years. Just a few years ago, he had been a student at Fairview High School in Boulder.

One day, in a hallway in Fairview, he congratulated a classmate, Molly Proch, on her superhero t-shirt, and the two quickly became friends.

“I’ve spent most of my morning crying, really confused about how something like this could happen again,” said 20-year-old Ms Proch. “He was an essential worker, he worked in a grocery store. It makes my blood boil “.

Ms. Proch said that Mr. Stong enjoyed hunting and was a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, but also supported the strengthening of certain gun regulations. “He was passionate about expressing how he thought the government should handle guns” to avoid mass shootings, he said.

Mr. Stong had recently posted on his Facebook page, encouraging his friends to donate to the National Gun Rights Foundation for his birthday.

He dreamed of becoming a pilot, working extra shifts at King Soopers to save money on jet fuel while he worked toward his pilot’s license, said Laura Spicer, whose son was Stong’s best friend.

Lynn Murray, a 62-year-old mother of two, was also working Monday, but not for King Soopers. Mrs. Murray was there filling out an Instacart order.

She had retired from working behind the scenes in the New York fashion world, her husband said. She was a cinematographer for several glossy New York City magazines, said her husband, John Mackenzie, and the couple moved from New York in 2002, first to Stuart, Florida, and then to Colorado, to raise their two. sons. children.

“I just want to be remembered as this amazing, amazing comet that spent 62 years flying through the sky,” Mackenzie said. “Our tomorrows are forever filled with unimaginable pain.”

To her children, Olivia, 24, and Pierce, 22, Ms. Murray was a fashion expert of a different kind, with a knack for designing their Halloween costumes.

“The most unworthy person to shoot that I can think of has to be my mother,” Olivia Mackenzie said, “and I wish it had been me.”

Erika Mahoney, the daughter of another victim, 61-year-old Kevin Mahoney, recalled on social media how he had walked her down the aisle from her marriage last summer. Ms. Mahoney, news director for KAZU Public Radio in the Monterey, California area, wrote on Twitter that she was heartbroken.

“I know he wants me to be strong for his granddaughter,” she posted, noting that she is now pregnant. “I will love you forever dad. You are always with me.”

Mahoney had served as chief operating officer for Stonebridge Companies, a hotel management and hotel development company, before leaving in 2014, a Stonebridge spokesperson said.

Neven Stanisic, 23, had been fixing coffee machines at the Starbucks inside the supermarket, but had left and was in the parking lot when he was shot, said the family’s priest, the Rev. Radovan Petrovic.

The son of Serbian refugees who had fled central Bosnia during the violence of the 1990s, Mr. Stanisic was born in the United States. His Facebook page is full of anime drawings. His profile photo shows him in a blue cap and gown, posing with friends from his high school in Lakewood, Colorado.

He was the bright hope, Father Petrovic said, “of a family that, like many refugees, had come with basically nothing but their lives, to start a new life here.”

After high school, Mr. Stanisic had gone straight to work repairing coffee machines in the Denver area with his father, Father Petrovic said.

“They fled the war to save their lives and to be struck by such a terrible tragedy: the loss is beyond comprehension.”

Neighbors knew Suzanne L. Fountain, 59, as a prolific gardener who gifted a steady stream of tomatoes, lettuce and basil over the tall wooden fence that surrounded her garden in Boulder.

“She grew some amazing vegetables,” said Laura Rose Boyle Gaydos, who until recently lived next door to her. “She would always share her abundance with us.”

Ms. Fountain especially liked a peach tree that she had planted and could often be found sitting outside in the early evening, watching the sun set over the mountains. He had lived at home for over 20 years, raising a son and going through a divorce.

She’d been an actress in the early 1990s, appearing in productions at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, but she’d given up on that. In 2018, Ms. Fountain embarked on a new career, starting a business to advise people just turning 65 on how to apply for Medicare.

Tralona Lynn “Lonna” Bartkowiak, another victim, was the face of Umba, a store in Boulder that sold yoga and festival clothing. Ms. Bartkowiak, 49, ran Umba, which was launched by her sister, and used to attend Burning Man and other festivals, where she mingled with potential clients.

“His people,” recalled his brother, Michael Bartkowiak. “She always said that. ‘I want my people.’ “

Mrs. Bartkowiak was the oldest of four close-knit siblings. “He rented a house outside of Boulder,” his brother said, “and he lived there with his little Chihuahua, Opal. She had just gotten engaged. She was, you know, organic, stir fry, salads, she was always trying to be healthier. “

Ms. Bartkowiak was at the grocery store Monday to pick up a recipe when the shooting began.

Officer Talley, who was an 11-year veteran of the Boulder Police Department as of Monday, was born in Houston and raised in Albuquerque, his father said.

Not long after joining the Boulder department, he made the local newspaper, The Boulder Daily Camera. He was mentioned, along with two other officers, for a complicated operation: getting into a drainage ditch to rescue a trapped mother duck and 11 ducklings.

“We’re just trying to put the pieces back together,” said the older Mr. Talley. “It was always on my mind, and hers, that this could happen. It worried him because he didn’t want his family to go through something like this. “

Neil MacFarquhar Y Elizabeth days contributed to reporting. Jack Begg, Susan C. Beachy Y Kitty bennett contributed research.

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