CHICAGO: Leaders of Colorado’s Arab and Muslim community on Tuesday expressed sympathy with the families of the 10 victims of a mass shooting and condemned the suspect, identified as a 21-year-old Syrian American immigrant with personal and mental health problems.
Ahmad Al Aliwi Al-Issa, from Arvada, Colorado has been charged with 10 counts of murder over the shootings that included shoppers aged from 20 to 65, and a Boulder police officer who was killed when he responded to the sound of gunfire.
The announcement of the shooter’s identity sparked a social media backlash against Arab and Muslim extremism.
At a press conference on Tuesday, police in Boulder said that Al-Issa entered the King Soopers supermarket in the south of the city at 2:40 p.m. on Monday and began randomly shooting at customers. They are still investigating the motive behind the killings.
Leaders of the Colorado Muslim Leadership Council, which represents 26 Muslim organizations in the state, told Arab News: “The Colorado Muslim Leadership Council and its affiliated organizations mourn with our community. Our hearts are heavy as we stand with the survivors of violence. We will continue to remember and grieve for the innocent victims of this horrific and senseless crime.”
The victims were identified as Danny Strong, 20, Nevin Stanisic, 23, Rikki Olds, 25, Tralona Bartkowiak, 49, Teri Leiker, 51, Suzanne Fountain, 59, Eric Talley, 51, Kevin Mahoney, 61, Lynn Murray, 62, and Jody Waters, 65.
Talley, a veteran Boulder police officer, was familiar to the Arab and Muslim community, leaders said.
The council’s statement added: “We are devastated by his death. We thank law enforcement for their bravery and commitment in apprehending the shooter. We call for the prosecution of the shooter to the fullest extent of the law.
“Finally, we look forward to engaging with Colorado’s leadership on actions to make our state a safer place for all.”
Council leaders urged the public to support families by donating to the Colorado State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police, the Colorado Healing Fund, and the Community Foundation of Boulder County.
According to media reports, Al-Issa immigrated to the US at the age of three and went on to study computer engineering at the Metropolitan State University of Denver.
He received an injury to his leg during a firefight with police who arrived at the grocery store.
On his social media posts, Al-Issa complained about former American President Donald Trump and his policies toward Muslims, and claimed he was the victim of racism and Islamophobia.
More than 60,000 refugees have settled in Colorado, including around 300 who escaped the ongoing violence in Syria.
Police said that many of the shooting victims were at the store to receive their coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccinations.
Palestinian American Iman Jodeh, elected last year as Colorado’s first Muslim State Legislative member, expressed her condolences to the families of the victims and called for gun control reform.
“We in Aurora know this pain too well. We are sending our love to our fellow Coloradans in Boulder. I know, words can feel futile in the wake of terror, trauma, and loss of life. Beyond love, I am resolved to continue the fight for sensible gun reform,” she said on her Facebook page.
In a wave of anti-Muslim and anti-Arab sentiment posted on social media, Al-Issa was branded a “terrorist” and “Jihadist.”
In a tweet, conspiracy theorist and right-wing writer, Mike Cernovich, said: “The Boulder, Colorado terrorist was known to the FBI in advance of the shooting. The FBI chose not to act, as with the Pulse nightclub (in Orlando, Florida) shooter. The FBI must be immediately disbanded.”
Also, in a tweet, Errol Webber, an African American running for governor in California, said: “All 10 people shot and killed in Colorado were white. The killer, a Muslim jihadist from Syria. I’m waiting for the left to start their next hashtag movement and press tour vehemently denouncing racism against whites.”
Webber was referring to the mass murder of eight women on March 16 by a gunman at several spas and massage parlors in Atlanta. Officials across America denounced the massacre as an example of rising anti-Asian racism, noting that six of the victims were Asian.
US President Joe Biden said he was “devastated” by the carnage, the seventh mass shooting to take place in the country this year.