Neven Stanisic’s family fled war-torn Bosnia in the 1990s, said Iva Petrovic, the wife of the reverend at their Denver-area church.
They left “everything” behind, she said, Serbian refugees seeking a safe life in the United States.
Monday’s shooting brought a whole new world of loss.
“You can lose everything you have, like material things, you can always recover, you can always recuperate, you can always start again. … But with stuff like this, it’s like, how can you? How can a person do that?” said Petrovic.
She calls herself a “spiritual mother” to Stanisic and all the children who belong to Saint John the Baptist Serbian Orthodox Church in Lakewood, a city just west of Denver.
Twenty-three-year-old Stanisic started working as a teenager, helping to support his family, she said. On Monday, he was fixing the coffee machines inside King Soopers and was just leaving in his truck when the violence unfolded.
Stanisic’s family knew he had a job at King Soopers, Petrovic said. They tried to find him — but they couldn’t get anywhere near the scene of the shooting, she said. Everything was blocked. They called Petrovic and her husband about 3 in the morning, crying, to share the terrible news, she said: Neven was dead.
Petrovic remembers Stanisic as a quiet boy who gave her shy smiles, someone she held up as a role model for her own children. He was well-mannered and respectful to the parents who worked so hard for him and his sister, she said. “And he was very loved.”
“Their whole life, they worked and sacrificed, and they’re a hard-working, decent family,” said Petrovic, a 36-year-old resident of Lakewood. “We really love them and feel their loss like our own.”
The family asked the Petrovics to handle all media inquiries, which have poured in from as far away as their native Europe, she said. The phone has been ringing all day, with parishioners calling as well.
“Every one of them, they all cried,” she said.
Everybody seems to have the same question, she said Tuesday evening.
“What drove a person to do something like that? … Why? Why?”