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From Columbine to Monday’s ‘killing spree,’ Colorado mass shootings have long history

Columbine High School students watch as the school is evacuated on April 20, 1999. (Mark Leffingwell/AFP/Getty Images)

Colorado is known for its gorgeous mountain views, but its history of violence is as ugly as that of any other place in America: the Sand Creek Massacre, the Denver Anti-Chinese Riot, the Ludlow Massacre.

In more recent times, Colorado has been disproportionately plagued by the gun violence epidemic. Here is a look at its history of mass shootings.

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Chuck E. Cheese: 1993

Four employees at a Chuck E. Cheese in Aurora were killed and another was injured when a gunman shot them on Dec. 14, 1993, to “get even” for being fired months earlier. Three of the victims in the attack were teenagers. The shooter, who had a long criminal history, was sentenced to death — a sentence later commuted to life in prison without parole when Colorado abolished the death penalty.

Columbine High: 1999

Two students attempted to blow up their high school in Littleton. When their homemade bombs failed, they entered the school on April 20, 1999, with guns and began shooting. They killed 12 students and a teacher and injured more than 20 others before killing themselves. Though school shootings had been happening throughout the 1990s, the Columbine High School shooting was a turning point. Afterward, schools nationwide began organizing safety protocols for active shooters.

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Bookcliff RV Park: 2001

A 42-year-old gunman with a history of schizophrenia opened fire on an RV park and a grocery store frequented by Mexican immigrants in Rifle on July 3, 2001. He killed four people and injured three before surrendering to police. He was later found not guilty by reason of insanity and committed to a state mental hospital. By 2012, he was being regularly released for camping trips and other excursions, according to the Denver Post.

Mission and church: 2007

A 24-year-old gunman killed four people and injured five others in two separate shootings on Dec. 9, 2007. He first opened fire at Youth with a Mission, a Christian missionary training center in Arvada, from which he had been let go years earlier. About 12 hours later, he opened fire at New Life Church, a Colorado Springs megachurch, killing two teenage sisters before being shot by a volunteer security guard. He then killed himself.

The terrible numbers that grow with each mass shooting

Aurora movie theater: 2012

A 24-year-old shooter opened fire on a packed theater screening the latest Batman movie, killing 12 and injuring 58 on July 20, 2012. Twelve others were injured in the ensuing chaos. The gunman surrendered to police and was later convicted and sentenced to more than 3,000 years in prison. At the time, the Aurora theater shooting had the largest number of casualties of any mass shooting; it has now been surpassed by the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting and the 2017 Las Vegas shooting at a country music festival.

Planned Parenthood: 2015

A shooter with a history of mental illness targeted a women’s health clinic where abortions were performed, killing three, including a police officer, and injuring nine others on Nov. 27, 2015. The gunman was found incompetent to stand trial and has been committed ever since. It was the second burst of deadly gun violence in Colorado Springs in less than a month. The other incident, during which three people were fatally shot, is generally not included in mass-shooting databases, because of the comparatively low number of casualties.

One fed-up Coloradan on Twitter noted other attempted mass shootings near his community, including a 2017 incident at Deer Creek Middle School, where two students were shot before a teacher wrestled the gunman to the ground, and a 2017 incident at a Thornton Walmart, where a gunman shot and killed three.

Although methodologies vary, most mass-shooting trackers do not include domestic violence incidents or incidents in which fewer than four people are shot.

Officials said at least 10 people were fatally shot at a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, Colo., on March 22. (Video: The Washington Post)

King Soopers: 2021

On March 22, a gunman began shooting outside a Boulder King Soopers grocery store before entering the store and continuing his attack. He killed 10, including a police officer. A 21-year-old suspect was taken into custody.

More than 240,000 students have experienced gun violence at school since Columbine

Frank DeAngelis, the principal of Columbine High School at the time of the 1999 shooting, told the Denver Post on Tuesday that after the latest incident, “the feelings are the same. We’ve seen this happen in Colorado way too many ways.”

DeAngelis is now on the board of the Colorado Healing Fund, a nonprofit group that provides a permanent and secure way to donate to victims and families and support communities after mass-casualty incidents in Colorado. The fund once again collected donations for the latest tragedy.

Denver-area “killing spree”: 2021

On Monday, four people were killed and three were injured, including a police officer, in what authorities called a “killing spree” in the Denver and Lakewood, Colo., area.

The suspected shooter was also killed. Law enforcement officials believe the shootings were the work of one person.

A 2019 analysis by the Denver Post found that Colorado had more mass shootings per capita than all but four states and that the Denver metropolitan area has had more school shootings per capita since 1999 than any of the nation’s 24 other largest metropolitan areas.


An earlier version of this report had incorrect ages for the shooters in the 2007 and 2012 attacks.

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