The 10 people who died when a gunman opened fire Monday in a grocery store in Boulder, Colo., ranged in age from 20 to 65 and came from all walks of life. But all died together in one of the most communal of places.
There was Eric Talley, 51, the police officer who joined the force late but threw himself wholeheartedly into the job that would ultimately cost him his life. Rikki Olds was a 25-year-old store manager whose infectious laugh and silly dances cheered up her colleagues. There was Kevin Mahoney, 61, a beloved father who died before he could meet his granddaughter, and Teri Leiker, 51, a longtime grocer who loved attending sporting events and singing songs from “Frozen.”
Suzanne Fountain, 59, was a community actress and “bright light.” Lynn Murray, 62, was a former photo editor whose work had appeared in the nation’s top fashion magazines. Tralona Bartkowiak, 49, was engaged and ran a popular clothing store. Neven Stanisic, 23, was looked up to as a role model by members of his church. Denny Stong was the youngest to die. At just 20 years old, he was stocking shelves while training to become a pilot. Jody Waters, who loved working in retail, was the oldest at 65.
Lynn Murray’s husband described her as a brilliant comet who streaked through everyone’s life — but also the anchor of his family, whose grace and beauty seemed to hold everyone in her sway.
“She was very much the center,” John R. Mackenzie said Tuesday. “She was the spiritual guide. She was the awareness and consciousness for all of us. She understood all of us better than ourselves. She knew how to console and how to fix anything and make it better. She was adored.”
Murray, an Ohio native, was a former photo producer and editor for Condé Nast and Hearst, supervising shoots that appeared in Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire and other fashion magazines, before she left to raise her children. She was so likable and good with people that she befriended New York’s “Soup Nazi,” the famously cantankerous vendor who became the subject of a “Seinfeld” episode.
“It’s like the comet that goes across the sky for 62 years,” said Mackenzie, 59. “We recognized how blessed we were. I’m standing here talking to you and waiting for her to come through the door, and it’s not going to happen.”
Mackenzie said he met his future wife at a photography studio in the late 1980s while she was supervising a shoot involving French photographer Jacques Malignon and he was working for an apparel firm. Mackenzie said they took advantage of everything the city had to offer by way of culture or social life, including dinners with their friend, the late Anthony Bourdain. Mackenzie and Murray married in 1995 in Mauritius and moved to Long Island. While their two children, Pierce and Olivia, were still young, but their own lives were still built around endless work days, nannies and long commutes to Long Island, Mackenzie said they decided to step back. They moved to Florida, where Murray quit her job to devote herself to parenting. Eventually they moved to Colorado to be near Olivia.
Mackenzie, in a lengthy interview by phone, ranged over many of the conflicting emotions and thoughts that have occupied him and his family since they learned that his wife died inside the store.
“I walked around screaming at the world for two hours, you know? And I tried to talk to my wife,” Mackenzie said. “God you have no idea. I’m never going to see her again.”
— Freddy Kunkle
As an older brother, Eric Talley was always protective.
If his sister ever got in trouble when they were kids, he would take the blame. If she was picked on in school, he would make sure people knew not to mess with his little sister, Kirstin Brooks said of her brother.
That protectiveness carried into their relationship as adults. Talley would often call and check in with Brooks, 49, reminding her to take care of herself. He was the same way with his own family — his wife and his seven children, ages 7 to 20. Brooks described them as “a good, sweet, tight, close family.”
In 2010, after one of his closest friends died in a DUI crash, Talley quit his job in information technology, left behind his master’s degree and enrolled in the police academy at age 40, according to his friends and family. He would join the Boulder Police Department.
“It was remarkable to me that somebody would go to law enforcement from IT,” said Jeremy Herko, a lieutenant with the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office. “He lost pay. He lost time away from his family. He joined the police academy without a guaranteed job.”
Brooks, detailing all the things she said her brother excelled at — he had a black belt in karate, he was an “extremely fast” runner, he “once made a little engine out of a racecar” — said he was “just talented and gifted and loved.”
— Andrea Salcedo and Paulina Firozi
Rikki Olds was a vibrant and strong-willed woman who had shrugged off a covid scare while working at King Soopers, only to be killed in Monday’s shooting. Olds had worked for Kroger grocery stores for about six years, said her uncle, Robert Olds. She was working as a manager Monday.
“Rikki was a very strong, independent, bubbly, outgoing person,” Robert Olds said. “She was a people person who loved life.”
Olds had been raised by her grandparents after a rough childhood, Robert Olds said. Her grandfather died a few years ago, but her grandmother is “absolutely devastated.” The last time the two spoke was on Saturday. It was her grandma’s birthday, but Rikki called to say she was sorry she couldn’t be there. She had to work.
“Rikki was the one who always said, ‘Okay, somebody’s not showing up to work, I gotta go to work, I gotta take care of it,” he said. “I cannot believe the adult that she was from her childhood.”
Olds grew up in nearby Lafayette, Colo., where she attended Centaurus High School, her uncle said. Facebook photos show she often changed her hair color, occasionally rocking bright colors. It was a sign of her strong personality, he said.
“She was her own person,” Robert Olds said. “She didn’t care what you thought. She was going to do what she was going to do, and that was that.”
The pandemic had transformed the grocery store into an uncertain place to work at times, said Carlee Lough, a co-worker. But Olds had always lightened the mood with a joke, her infectious laugh or what everyone called her “gorilla dance.”
Olds would walk around, throwing her arms, making funny sounds as pop music played over the store’s speakers, Lough recalled with a laugh. “She was a fun-loving spirit. … She would do anything to make you smile.”
— Michael E. Miller
Denny Stong was training to become a professional pilot. He had worked long hours stocking shelves at King Soopers since late 2018 to earn money for airplane fuel, said Laura Spicer, the mother of Stong’s close friend.
When the coronavirus pandemic began last March, Stong added a border to his Facebook picture that read: “I can’t stay home, I am a grocery store worker” — an homage to essential workers who have risked their health throughout the crisis.
One day, Spicer said, she saw Stong at the store and asked him how he was doing.
He gestured his hand like a plane coming off a runway and said, "‘I’m flying!’” Spicer said. “And my son said today, 'I guess he really is now.’”
Stong was gregarious, generous, confident and loyal. He was drawn to anything fast, including old muscle cars, motorcycles, dirt bikes and airplanes.
A fan of the rock band Pink Floyd, Stong also liked model aircraft. He participated in the Boulder Aeromodeling Society, a club of about 77 people who design, build and fly model planes, said the group’s president, Aidan Sesnic. Stong was also passionate about the Second Amendment and requested donations to the National Foundation for Gun Rights this month for his birthday. “I’ve chosen this nonprofit because their mission means a lot to me, and I hope you’ll consider contributing as a way to celebrate with me,” he wrote on Facebook.
During a hike last summer, Stong egged on Spicer’s son Ben and motivated him to keep going. The pair had been planning to go camping once they received their coronavirus vaccines, Spicer said. Stong’s Facebook page is full of photos of him making goofy faces and sporting different hair colors. In his most recent profile picture, his hair is bushy and red.
“He occupied a space in the room,” Spicer said. “And now it’s like oxygen has left the room because he’s not there.”
— Marisa Iati
Erika Mahoney tweeted a photo from her wedding day, her arm laced through her dad’s, her face looking up at him adoringly as he appears to be holding back tears before he walks her down the aisle.
The moment captured on a bright, happy day makes the news she shares with it that much more devastating.
“I am heartbroken to announce that my Dad, my hero, Kevin Mahoney, was killed in the King Soopers shooting in my hometown of Boulder, CO,” she wrote. “My dad represents all things Love. I’m so thankful he could walk me down the aisle last summer.”
Mahoney, a news director at KAZU, a public radio station in Monterey Bay, Calif., then shared in a second tweet that she’s pregnant.
I am heartbroken to announce that my Dad, my hero, Kevin Mahoney, was killed in the King Soopers shooting in my hometown of Boulder, CO. My dad represents all things Love. I'm so thankful he could walk me down the aisle last summer. pic.twitter.com/SLS2bdm5Hc— Erika Mahoney (@MahoneyEb) March 23, 2021
“I am now pregnant,” she wrote. “I know he wants me to be strong for his granddaughter.”
She thanked Boulder law enforcement for their kindness and in a final tweet wrote, “I love you forever Dad. You are always with me.”
— Colby Itkowitz
We are heartbroken by the senseless violence in Boulder yesterday. We were especially saddened to learn of the death of Suzanne Fountain, an actress who appeared with our own DCPA Theatre Company. Our hearts go out to everyone affected by this tragedy. pic.twitter.com/hFnizDtHmn— Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA) (@DenverCenter) March 23, 2021
Helen Forster met Suzanne Fountain in the late 1980s when they were in a community play together. Forster and her husband, Nick, own a live music venue, eTown Hall, in downtown Boulder where Fountain worked for many years as the front house manager, Forster said.
“She was just a bright light,” Forster said. “Just a delightful person to be around, her smile lit up the room. It’s a big loss. She was one of the kindest people I’ve ever known,” Forster said through tears. “Just in the way she dealt with people and in the way that she was always fair and calm and reassuring. She just was a joy to be around.”
Forster said she didn’t feel comfortable discussing anything outside her own relationship with Fountain.
“A lot of people love her. So many people, I couldn’t even begin to fathom. She’s touched a lot of people in her short life,” she said.
— Colby Itkowitz
Jody Waters brought Beanie Babies to Boulder.
Waters used to co-own a boutique called Applause, then part of Boulder’s downtown Pearl Street Mall pedestrian district, where the plush animals were first sold in Boulder in the 1990s.
Jenn Haney said friends gathered Tuesday at her clothing store, Island Farm, to remember Waters, who worked at the store for six years until recently taking time off to care for her new grandson.
“She just brought such a bright, sparkly energy, and the world’s just dimmer with her gone,” Haney said. “She loved retail, and she loved the customers. She made people really feel like they mattered.”
Lily Rood met Waters when Rood started working at Island Farm two years ago. Rood said Waters helped her get through a tough breakup.
“She told me to move into her neighborhood so she could look over me and be a mother figure to me,” Rood said. The two lived close to each other in a neighborhood across from King Soopers.
“We went out for margaritas one night, and we went straight back to my apartment, across the street from her, and we built my bed and my dresser. And to this day,” she fondly joked, referring to the margarita-laced, assembly, “I don’t want to jump on my bed, and a screw is definitely loose in my dresser.”
The Denver Business Journal published a feature on Waters’s boutique in time for Applause’s 20th anniversary in 1999.
The shop, which she co-owned, sold clothing and gifts “for mother and child.” Waters described her shopkeeping style as “a creative shopper who buys for other creative people,” according to the article. She didn’t try to set trends. She sold things she liked — including the Beanie Babies.
— Amanda Miller
Teri Leiker was a longtime King Soopers employee who enjoyed attending sporting events and singing songs from the movie “Frozen,” according to friends who mourned her on social media.
“I am absolutely heartbroken to share the loss of my friend Teri Leiker,” wrote Katie Rinderknecht, a recent graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder. She said she met Leiker through the university’s chapter of Best Buddies, which connects students with members of the community with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“All she knew was how to love and support those that meant a lot to her,” wrote Rinderknecht, who could not be reached for comment. Another friend wrote that she would never forget Leiker singing songs from Frozen “on repeat.”
Leiker had worked at King Soopers for around 30 years and loved the job, a third friend, Alexis Knutson, wrote on Instagram, adding that she had met the older woman through the Best Buddies program in 2017.
“Teri was the most selfless, innocent, amazing person I have had the honor of meeting,” wrote Knutson, who could not be reached for comment. “Her shy friendship toward me turned into a sort of sisterhood.”
Photos on the Best Buddies Instagram account show Leiker decked out in UC Boulder sports gear, smiling. In an interview with the New York Times, Knutson said the two women — nearly 30 years apart — would talk often. “I always had a rule she couldn’t call before 9 a.m. because I like my sleep,” Knutson told the newspaper. “She would always call me at 6 a.m.”
— Michael E. Miller
Tralona Bartkowiak ran a clothing store with her sister in downtown Boulder — a “treasure chest” of a shop called Umba that catered to the music festival crowd, her friend Jessica Bella Lewkovitz said.
Bartkowiak had a “shining” heart, said Lewkovitz, who used to take Zumba classes with her. Bartkowiak made everyone feel like a close friend and was engaged to be married. Lewkovitz said she went to Umba on Monday evening after the shooting, not realizing that Bartkowiak was at the scene of the rampage, let alone that she had been killed. News of the tragedy was everywhere that evening, and an employee expressed concern that her friend was at King Soopers, Lewkovitz recalled. But she didn’t hear anything about Bartkowiak.
Then, on Tuesday, authorities shared a list of the victims. Lewkovitz saw the name “Tralona” and still did not realize her friend was dead — because everyone knew Bartkowiak simply as “Lonna,” she said.
“I cannot believe it,” she said.
Lewkovitz said she had just popped into Umba to browse last week, chatting for half an hour with Bartkowiak instead of buying something.
“I realized I hadn’t even looked at any of the clothes,” she said. “I left with a smile on my face.”
Lewkovitz remembered inviting Bartkowiak to her belly dance class during the catch-up and learning that Bartkowiak already knew the teacher. That wasn’t a surprise.
“The whole community that goes to festivals, the dance community, we all know her store,” said Lewkovitz. “We all know her. Really, this is huge loss to Boulder,” she said.
Another friend, 40-year-old Jess McStravick, said the pandemic was tough on Umba’s business. But things were looking up when she dropped by the store about a month ago. Bartkowiak had made big push for online sales, McStravick said, and it was working.
“She had redesigned the website and she was really proud of that,” she said.
Bartkowiak told McStravick that she was engaged and that she was excited to go see family in Oregon. She seemed “the happiest I’d ever seen,” McStravick said.
“She is a rock of the festival and art community in Boulder,” said McStravick, an event producer, remembering Bartkowiak as someone who boosted lots of local artists and clothes-makers.
Umba describes itself online as “a family run business” and “a progressive operation with conscientious practices” that puts profits toward an organic farm in Oregon.
“We believe in positivity, and we can’t wait to share that energy with the universe,” the business says on its Facebook page.
The Post could not immediately reach employees at Umba or family members Tuesday, but friends took to social media with their grief.
“Life will not be the same without you and I know this will be hard for a lot of people to heal from,” Kristian Reynolds wrote on Facebook, remembering Bartkowiak as “one of the nicest kind hearted people I’ve ever met.”
Reynolds posted a photo of Bartkowiak smiling on motorcycle for a photo shoot, gazing up through purple-heart sunglasses.
— Hannah Knowles
Neven Stanisic’s family fled war-torn Bosnia in the 1990s, said Iva Petrovic, the wife of the pastor 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.
She calls herself a “spiritual mother” to Stanisic and all the children who belong to St. 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, Petrovic said. He was just leaving in his truck when the violence unfolded. Stanisic’s family knew he had a job at King Soopers. They tried to find him — but they couldn’t get anywhere near the scene of the shooting, Petrovic said. Everything was blocked. They called Petrovic and her husband about 3 a.m., 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 the 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?”
— Hannah Knowles
Julie Tate, Jennifer Jenkins and Alice Crites contributed reporting