Birthday party killings deadliest incident in Colorado Springs since 1911, says mayor; where it ranks in state history

Police arrived to a harrowing scene inside a mobile home on May 9, 2021.
Police arrived to a harrowing scene inside a mobile home on May 9, 2021.(KKTV)
Published: May. 10, 2021 at 4:41 PM MDT|Updated: May. 10, 2021 at 5:12 PM MDT
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - When an armed man drove to a birthday party Sunday morning and gunned down six people before shooting himself, he left one of the bloodiest scenes in modern Colorado Springs history.

“The only time we’ve had this many [deceased] victims in a single incident goes all the way back to 1911, and it was an ax murder, if you can imagine. A couple of families,” said Springs Mayor John Suthers.

And in a state that has seen more mass shootings in the last 39 years than almost any other (Source), the mobile home massacre is the fourth-deadliest in Colorado.

“This is a terrible tragedy. And a lot of innocent victims, a lot of completely innocent victims,” Suthers said.

Though what constitutes a mass shooting varies somewhat among agencies, the most commonly accepted definition is four or more people shot or killed.

Deadliest mass shootings in modern Colorado history:

The below list is ranked by number of deaths in a single incident. Some shootings may have more victims overall, such as the Aurora theater shooting and Planned Parenthood shootings, but fewer fatalities than other incidents on this list.

Columbine High School, Littleton, 1999 (15 dead including shooters): Two students went on a shooting massacre during a school day in April 1999, killing 12 classmates, one teacher, and wounding more than 20 others. The teen gunmen then killed themselves. It remains one of the most notorious school shootings in U.S. history.

Century 16 movie theater, Aurora, 2012 (12 dead): Using tear gas grenades and multiple firearms, convicted killer James Holmes ambushed a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises,” shooting 70 people and killing 12. Another dozen suffered injuries ranging from tear gas inhalation to a dislocated knee trying to escape. The number of people shot (injured and killed) was the highest in U.S. history until the Orlando, Florida nightclub shooting in 2016. (Click here for our past coverage.)

King Soopers, Boulder, 2021 (10 dead): Ten people including a police officer were shot and killed at a grocery store in March 2021. There were no injuries to any survivors, something law enforcement have largely credited to the actions of the slain officer, for stopping the shooter before he could target anyone else. The suspected shooter was captured on scene and is facing dozens of charges. (Click here for our ongoing coverage.)

Canterbury Mobile Home Community, Colorado Springs, 2021 (Seven dead including shooter): Police say a man drove to a birthday celebration and opened fire on the guests. Six people were killed by the shooter before he killed himself. A guest who left the party early told CNN the gathering was a double birthday celebration for a brother and sister, and that everyone who was killed was part of the same extended family. Unlike most of the shootings on this list, police do not believe these killings were random. Investigators say the suspect was dating one of the victims, and the shootings appear to have been an act of domestic violence that also claimed the lives of several bystanders. (Click here for our ongoing coverage.)

Youth With a Mission, Arvada/New Life Church, Colorado Springs, 2007 (Five dead including shooter in total incident): Technically two separate shootings, but committed by the same man within hours. The gunman opened fire in staff at the Arvada-based youth center after he was declined a place for the night. He killed two and wounded two before fleeing the area. The gunman made his way to Colorado Springs and ambushed a family in the New Life Church parking lot, killing two teen sisters and critically wounding their father. The gunman continued spraying a barrage of bullets in the parking lot, wounding one bystander and narrowly missing others. He then marched into the church and shot another bystander before he was finally stopped by a 42-year-old church security guard; her actions would be described later by a witness as “the bravest thing I’ve ever seen.” Cornered, the gunman took his own life. Between the two incidents, five people were killed, four people were wounded, and 42 rounds were fired.

Chuck E. Cheese, Aurora, 1993 (Four dead): Nathan Dunlap, a former employee, hid in a restroom until closing and then opened fire on staff. After killing four employees and injuring one, he fled with $1,500 cash and stolen game tokens. Dunlap was convicted and sentenced to death. The sentence was commuted in 2020 when Gov. Jared Polis abolished the death penalty in the state of Colorado.

Planned Parenthood, Colorado Springs, 2015 (Three dead): On a snowy Black Friday afternoon, a man dressed in hunting gear stormed a Planned Parenthood near Fillmore and Centennial. Over the next several hours, he would kill two people at the clinic, murder a police officer responding to the scene, and injure nine others as he traded gunfire with law enforcement. Hundreds of people in the area took refuge inside a nearby King Soopers until the gunman was captured. Twelve people total were shot, with three killed and nine injured (five law enforcement and four civilians.) The suspect in the case, Robert Dear, has openly boasted to committing the killings, but to date, his case remains in limbo as he has not been found competent to stand trial. (Click here for a by-the-minute account of the hours-long incident and click here for all of our previous coverage.)

STEM School Highlands Ranch, Highlands Ranch, 2019 (One dead): While eight students were injured, the courageous actions by an 18-year-old boy prevented even more from being harmed. Kendrick Castillo rushed at one of the two teens who had opened fire in the school, giving other students time to hide and a fellow classmate the chance to disarm the suspect. Kendrick died at the scene despite his classmates’ attempts at stopping the bleeding. The young hero is remembered for his selflessness and bravery. One of the two shooters has been sentenced to life in prison; the trial for the other suspect is expected to start later this month. (Click here for our past coverage.)

Other notable shootings:

Halloween shooting rampage, downtown Colorado Springs, 2015 (Four dead including shooter): A man shot and killed three people at random before dying in a shootout with police outside a fast-food restaurant at Wahsatch and Platte.

“Officers Hallas, Crofoot, Anderson, Surrat, David and Darress performed admirably in preventing further carnage in the city of Colorado Springs,” then-District Attorney Dan May said after the DA’s office ruled the officers’ shooting of the gunman justified.

Walmart, Thornton, 2017 (Three dead): A gunman walked into a Walmart and opened fire on a group of people, killing three. Then as abruptly as the rampage started, he strolled back out, went to his car and drove off. He was arrested the next day following a police chase and has since pleaded guilty to the shooting. No survivors were injured. (Click here for our past coverage.)

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