BOULDER, Colo. — Officer Eric Talley, an 11-year veteran of the Boulder Police Department, was the first to arrive at the scene of a mass shooting at a King Soopers grocery store the afternoon of March 22 and the first of 10 to be killed at the store.
A Catholic family man who took his faith seriously, Talley often stopped by St. Martin de Porres Church just across the street from the store “and participated in its events, even though he wasn’t a parishioner there,” Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila said.
“My heart is broken. I cannot explain how beautiful he was and what a devastating loss this is to so many,” his sister Kirstin tweeted about her big brother, who was 51. “Fly high my sweet brother. You always wanted to be a pilot (damn color blindness). Soar.”
Talley’s father, Homer Talley, told KVDR-TV Channel 4, his son “was a man of heart who loved his job,” was a good father and in a recent conversation the two had said “he would lay down his life for any of the officers that he worked with.”
Officer Talley was a man of faith and “believed in Jesus Christ,” his father said.
The slain officer and his wife, who has not yet been identified, had seven children ages 5 to 18.
Police arrested 21-year-old Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa of Arvada, Colorado. He was treated at a local hospital for an injury he sustained, but has since been booked into the Boulder County Jail. He was charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and so far his motive for the shooting rampage remains unknown.
Law enforcement officials identified the nine others who died as: Denny Stong, 20, Neven Stanisic, 23, Rikki Olds, 25, Tralona Bartkowiak, 49, Suzanne Fountain, 59, Teri Leiker, 51, Kevin Mahoney, 61, Lynn Murray, 62, and Jody Waters, 65. Some were customers and some were store employees.
The Denver Post daily newspaper reported the suspect, who witnesses said was wearing black and shooting “a rifle of some kind,” began shooting outside one of the store’s entrances and then came into the store shooting. One witness said he didn’t say a word.
Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold told reporters at a news conference that Talley “loved this community and he’s everything that policing deserves and needs.”
“He cared about the Boulder Police Department,” she said. “He cared about his family and he was willing to die to protect others.”
Herold said Talley went into police work to pursue a “higher calling.” Some news reports said he left a good career in information technology to become a police officer. Other reports said he was training to be part of a drone unit to have a safer job in the department.
Colorado is no stranger to mass shootings. On April 20, 1999, students Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris at Columbine High school in the Denver suburb of Littleton went on a shooting rampage, killing 12 students and one teacher and injuring 21 others before taking their own lives.
On July 20, 2012, at a theater in the Denver suburb of Aurora, mass shooter James Holmes, now 33, killed 12 people and injured 70 others.
He was not tried until nearly three years later. He confessed to the shooting but pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. On Aug. 7, 2015, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. On Aug. 26, 2015, he was given 12 life sentences, one for every person he killed.
Holmes also received 3,318 years for the attempted murders of those he wounded and for rigging his apartment with explosives, which, according to news reports, were supposed to go off when the front door was opened. Holmes reportedly they would kill police when they searched his place, but the explosives never detonated.