Lives lost too soon: Remembering the victims of the King Soopers shooting
BOULDER, Colo. (KKTV) - A police officer, a business owner, a performer, a grandfather-to-be.
Twenty-somethings just starting out their lives. Sixty-year-olds enjoying the fruits of a full life.
Ten people lost their lives Monday afternoon when a man with a gun went on a shooting rampage at a grocery store in Boulder.
Denny Stong, 20
Neven Stanisic, 23
Rikki Olds, 25
Tralona Bartkowiak, 49
Teri Leiker, 51
Eric Talley, 51
Suzanne Fountain, 59
Kevin Mahoney, 61
Lynn Murray, 62
Jody Waters, 65
“Ten friends, neighbors, sisters, brothers, parents, colleagues, community members. Families that are grieving today, woke up today without their loved ones. Including an officer who bravely died in the line of duty protecting this community,” said U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, who represents the Boulder area.
We are only beginning to learn their stories and will continue to update this article as we discover more about each of these individuals. But two days after the tragedy, this is what we know:
KING SOOPERS EMPLOYEES
Three of the people killed on Monday were employees at the Table Mesa Drive store.
Kroger, which operates King Soopers, issued a statement Tuesday identifying Stong, Old and Leiker as associates.
Stong was remembered by one friend as a “kind soul with a funny sense of humor and unique interests.”
“He did nothing wrong and deserved this in no way at all. He made no choice that led to this. He simply showed up to work, and was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” the friend wrote on a GoFundMe page.
Barely out of his teens at the time of his death, Stong was the youngest of the victims. His friend said he has heard stories of Stong’s courage and selflessness in his final moments.
“I’m hearing from different people that Denny was not just a victim, but a hero who guided people out of the store through the back and was leading people to safety before losing his life. His life was not lost in vain, as he had saved others while risking his. He is a hero.”
Leiker was easy to talk to, lifelong friend Allen Wooley told 11 News.
“She was funny. Everybody loved her at work. All the managers, everybody loved her. Was friendly and kind.”
Leiker worked at King Soopers for more than 30 years and loved her job, another friend wrote on Instagram. She was passionate about CU-Boulder and loved her many close friends. She was a former Special Olympics athete.
Olds’ family released a statement to 11 News sister station CBS Denver.
“From the outside, you might notice her colorful hair, her bubbly personality, her laughter and a smile that lit up the room. For those of you lucky enough to call her friend, you knew she was a type of person who would always be there for you. She’d embrace you and give you confidence to be the person you want to be. She was a giver to others, and she gave herself to her career. She aspired to work up the ranks of King Soopers, and she strived to be the best manager she could be to her work family. In fact sometimes that even caused her guilt because she had to correct employees she considered friends and family. Whatever Rikki set her mind to do, she would do it. She had the tenacity and big dreams to make a great life for herself and to help others along the way.”
Her family was the first to speak at length with media, holding a news conference Wednesday to share more about her life.
Fountain was a talented actress who once performed with the Denver Center for the Performing Arts Theatre Company.
Both Mahoney and Talley were remembered as loving fathers.
“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,” daughter Erika Mahoney wrote on social media.
Mahoney was going to be a grandfather in just a few months.
“I am now pregnant. I know he wants me to be strong for his granddaughter,” she said.
Talley, an 11-year veteran of the Boulder Police Department, left behind seven children between 5-18. In between praises of his heroism, colleagues spoke about his role as a father. Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold noted one of Talley’s sons had just won an award from the police department two weeks ago thanks to a lesson from his dad.
“One of his sons swallowed a quarter and because Officer Talley taught his children CPR, one of his son’s was able to save the little boy’s life.”
‘A BEAUTIFUL SOUL’
Waters worked with boutique stores around the Boulder area. One of those stores posted a statement to social media Tuesday morning after learning she was one of the victims.
“It is with a heavy heart that Stephanie and I share the news that our friend and colleague, Jody Waters, was shot and killed at the King Sooper’s mass shooting yesterday in Boulder. We just found out this morning. Jody was a beautiful soul with a warm and loving heart, a mother and grandmother, and she will be dearly missed by all who were fortunate enough to know her.”
The statement finished simply,“We are so sad.”
‘BEST BOSS EVER’
An outpouring of flowers, cards and notes can be seen in front of the clothing boutique Bartkowiak co-owned with her sister.
“I am heartbroken. You did not deserve this,” read one card, praising Bartkowiak for her compassion and sense of social justice.
“You are so loved. The kindest and warmest,” said another.
A third card called the 49-year-old the “best boss ever.”
‘HE WAS A GOOD BOY’
Stanisic was a repairman who was leaving King Soopers when he gunned down.
He was only 23.
JeffCo Public Schools has confirmed he was one of their students, having graduated Alameda International Jr./Sr. High School in 2016.
“Jeffco Public Schools and the Board of Education are saddened by the tragic event that took place in Boulder, and to learn it took the life of a former student,” district officials told sister station CBS Denver. “We share the heartbreak of the families, coworkers, and friends of the victims and of the Colorado community that again faces another senseless act of violence.”
A reverend at St. John The Baptist Orthodox Serbian Church, who has known Stanisic since he was 6 years old, remembers the young man as hardworking and loving.
“I think he would hope that this never happens again to anyone. I am sure he does see the struggle that his family is enduring. He was a good boy, I think he would never wish any such thing to happen to any person. And I hope and I sincerely pray this doesn’t happen anymore,” he told CBS Denver.
‘BE BOLDER AND LIVE BOLDER’
Murray would not want anyone to live in fear following this attack, her husband said.
“My wife, none of the victims, would ever want you to live in fear. They’d want you to be bolder and live bolder. That’s what this place is about,” he told the Associated Press.
Murray was a wife, mother, and had lived a rich and varied life in her 62 years, working as a photo editor for several major fashion magazines such as Glamour and Cosmopolitan, as an Uber driver after retirement, and most recently working as an Instacart shopper. Her Instacart job was why she was in King Soopers on that Monday afternoon.
Officer Talley was the first on scene and did not hesitate to put his life on the line to protect the others in the store.
Not a single survivor inside the King Soopers that day was significantly injured. Talley is a big reason why there were not even more casualties.
He came into policing later than most, switching careers from IT to law enforcement at the age of 40.
“He started at the bottom and worked his way up,” said father Homer Talley in an interview with CBS Evening News.
“He cared about this community, he cared about Boulder Police Department, he cared about his family, and he was willing to die to protect others,” Chief Herold said.
A sacrifice that will never be forgotten by the city of Boulder.
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