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The Daily Beast

‘Always Had a Smile’: These Are the Victims of the Boulder Massacre

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/ Photos via Facebook/InstagramMelissa Wing was shocked, but not surprised, when she heard her old neighbor Eric Talley was the first cop to confront a shooter with an AR-556 semiautomatic at a Boulder King Soopers grocery store Monday.“If there is somebody in danger, he’s gonna go right in,” Wing, who lived next door to the Boulder police officer on the outskirts of Aurora before moving to Florida about a year ago, told The Daily Beast on Tuesday. Talley, a 51-year-old who joined the force in 2010, was a “loving father, a kind neighbor, and a principled man,” she said. He and his wife, Leah, brought around Italian donuts for Christmas. She recalled Talley, a father of seven, planting flowers for his wife on Mother’s Day around a St. Mary statue in their yard.“I cannot explain how beautiful he was,” his sister, Kirstin Stillwell, wrote online.Talley was one of 10 people killed when 21-year-old Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, described by those who knew him as anti-social and volatile, allegedly opened fire at the Boulder supermarket. Officer Eric Talley was killed heroically responding to the #BoulderShooting on Monday. His police vehicle is parked outside the @boulderpolice station at 1805 33rd St. in memory of Eric and his service. pic.twitter.com/7Cr2xNGcFR— City of Boulder (@bouldercolorado) March 23, 2021 Authorities have identified the other nine victims as Teri Leiker, 51; Denny Stong, 20; Neven Stanisic, 23; Rikki Olds, 25; Tralona Bartkowiak, 49; Suzanne Fountain, 59; Kevin Mahoney, 61; Lynn Murray, 62; and Jody Waters, 65. At least three of the victims were King Soopers employees, including 30-year veteran Teri Leiker and the youngest victim, Denny Stong, who had worked there since 2018. Waters was a mother of two daughters who loved to hike. Murray was a retired photo director who was filling Instacart orders to keep busy. Stanisic was an avid church-goer who may have been repairing a coffee machine in the store. Fountain was a licensed Medicare agent who worked for a small firm in Lafayette, Colorado, run by Hilarie Kavanagh. She was a “wonderful” colleague who looked after hundreds of clients who were mostly seniors, Kavanagh told The Daily Beast.“She had so much integrity working with her clients, and she really, really cared about doing the right thing by them,” Kavanagh said. She added that Fountain worked for 15 years as a financial counselor at Boulder Community Hospital before joining her small firm in 2018.Steven Polutchko, 59, a neighbor in Broomfield, said his daughter and Fountain’s son grew up together. He said she was friendly with everyone and loved to plant sunflowers. “She was always walking around the block and would stop and say hey,” he told The Daily Beast. “It’s horrible. I have no idea how to deal with it. So close to home.” Suzanne Fountain, 59. Courtesy Hilarie Kavanagh Karrey Van Sky, 53, said she and Fountain would go to the Frozen Dead Guy Days annual celebration in Nederland, Colorado. They also volunteered at the Dairy Arts Center as “block captains,” working with the police to help reduce crime in the neighborhood.“She was always dependable,” she said. “We’re all sad. We’re a very close neighborhood. We rely on each other.”Tralona Bartkowiak, who went by Lonna, owned a Boulder store called Umba Love that sold alternative artisanal wares.“She was the most amazing person I’ve ever met in my entire life,” Matisse Molina, who worked at Umba last year, told The Daily Beast.“She accepted every single person that came into her store. In fact, she would give away clothes to people who admitted they came to steal.”Bartkowiak became like a sister to Molina. “[She] took care of me, making sure I was doing OK beyond when I was working with her,” she said. “I hope everyone learns and remembers who Lonna is because it was a gift being in her presence.”Lynn Stagl, a former neighbor of Bartkowiak, echoed those warm words. “She was unbelievable, loved by everyone,” Stagl, 72, said. Over their near-decade of friendship, Stagl said Bartkowiak was always ready to lend a hand to those in need.Between 2016 and 2018, Stagl and Bartkowiak lived together as roommates in Stagl’s Louisville, Colorado home, and after Bartkowiak moved out, she remained a common fixture, often dropping off her dog Opal to hang out with Stagl during the day, or for longer periods of time when Bartkowiak attended events or music festivals, two community-centric things she loved.The loss of Bartkowiak, Stagl said, is “not going to really hit home til next week when she doesn’t come over anymore.”One of Stagl’s greatest fears had been dying before her dog, Peaches, she said.“But Lonna always said she’d take care of Peaches for me. And now here I am, taking care of Opal for Lonna.”According to Stagl, Bartkowiak was recently engaged last fall and the couple had plans to buy a house together in Denver this coming spring. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Any Colour You Like 🌈 (@katyamoondyes) Erika Mahoney, the news director at Californian public radio station KAZU, confirmed that her father was among the victims.“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,” she wrote on Twitter. “I am now pregnant. I know he wants me to be strong for his granddaughter… I love you forever Dad. You are always with me.”“He was really sweet,” said Rachel L., a neighbor who lives across the street and recalled regularly receiving Kevin Mahoney’s lively, energetic waves as they shoveled snow from their sidewalks in the morning. Since moving to the area in 2007, the 25-year-old mechanical engineer said he was “our most-friendly neighbor, a happy-go-lucky kind of person.”Mahoney leaves behind his wife, Ellen, and two adult children. “He didn’t have a mean bone in his body,” Rachel L. said as she dropped a basket of apples and clementines off on the Mahoney family’s front porch, placing it next to a bounty of flower vases and take-out food containers left for the grieving family.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 Jody Waters, described as a “beautiful soul with a warm and loving heart,” worked for a leather goods brand named Embrazio. She kept a bounty of lush plants on her second-story balcony and had two rescue dogs, whom she adored alongside all other animals, according to attorney Joe Morrey, 35. He said he lived next door to Waters for several months before Waters moved into a bigger unit across their apartment complex’s shared yard.One night Morrey accidentally locked his cat out on his balcony. “When I got up the next morning, Jody was sitting on her balcony talking to the cat. She’d been out there all night to console it because she was worried about it. She was a very sweet lady,” he told The Daily Beast.After moving units, Esther Baumann and Fabrizio Jiorgetta became her new next-door neighbors. They’ve lived in the complex for nearly 14 years and said everybody knew and loved Waters. They described her as a loving grandma and dog mom, and someone who had a way with plants.“Just look at her entrance,” Jiorgetta added, pointing to the decorative pine cones, large bird-feeder, marbled rock slab, and small pine bough leaning against the small entryway to her apartment. One of the plants has been alive since her daughter was born, they said.The apartment complex, filled with families young and old, is located directly across the street from King Soopers. “Jody was probably just grabbing some regular groceries,” Morrey added. “Like any other day.”Her Embrazio colleagues described her on Facebook as “a beautiful soul with a warm and loving heart, a mother and grandmother.”She was “the sweetest person I know” and “a second mother to me,” a friend, Kyle Harriman, wrote in a Tuesday post. Jody Waters, 65. via Facebook Lynn Murray, 62, was a former photo director in New York for magazines, including Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, and Glamour, her husband, John Mackenzie, told The New York Times. She was a mother of two and was at the supermarket filling an Instacart order.“I just want her to be remembered as just as this amazing, amazing comet spending 62 years flying across the sky,” he said.Her daughter, Olivia Mackenzie, raced down to the supermarket on Monday, hoping her mom was a hostage who had made it out. “My mom was the least deserving person to die this way,” she told The Denver Post. “She was the most beautiful person I ever met.” Teri Leiker, 51. via Facebook Among the King Sooper employees who died while at work was Teri Leiker, who had spent the last 30 years working for the grocery chain. Working there was “her favorite thing to do,” her friend, Lexi Knutson, said.“To think Teri was murdered while simply doing her job angers me. The fact that a man decided to take away so much from so many in a matter of seconds angers me,” Knutson wrote in a touching Facebook post. “If you think we don’t need any sort of gun reform, you’re wrong. We can’t go to movie theaters without fear. We can’t go to school without fear. We can’t go to music events without fear. Now add going to the grocery store to that list.”Leiker was the “most selfless, innocent” person, Knutson added. They met during a Colorado University “Best Buddies” meeting. “Her shy friendship towards me turned into a sort of sisterhood,” she wrote. “Teri leaves behind her family, her boyfriend Clint, and many close friends that truly cared about her.”Ricki Olds, 25, was a manager at the supermarket, where she had worked for over five years, according to Kenny Nguyen, a 26-year-old who has known Olds since middle school.He described Olds as a “happy, welcoming person who always had a smile on her face.” “I can still picture her right now smiling at the self-check-out line at King Soopers,” he told The Daily Beast. Rikki Olds, 25. via Facebook On Facebook, Olds’ boyfriend, Jordan Arthur, wrote, “Rikki baby, you were taken too soon. I miss you dearly.”Denny Stong, a 20-year-old employee, was an avid model-airplane flyer and had dreams of becoming a pilot, according to friends. On a GoFundMe page set up by a childhood friend, James Noland, Stong was described as a “kind soul with a funny sense of humor and unique interests” who “simply showed up to work, and was in the wrong place at the wrong time.” “He did nothing wrong and deserved this in no way at all. He made no choice that led to this,” Noland wrote. Stong’s social media accounts showed his dedication to being a frontline worker during the COVID-19 pandemic, his interest in dirt-bikes, and his solidarity with the LBGTQ+ community. In his last Facebook post, Stong asked for donations to the National Foundation for Gun Rights, a nonprofit gun organization, because “their mission means a lot to me.” Denny Stong, 20. via Facebook Marko Djuric, the Serbian ambassador to the U.S., offered his “profound condolences” on Tuesday to all of the Boulder victims—including 23-year-old Stanisic, who he said was “of Serb origin.”St. John the Baptist Serbian Orthodox Church confirmed to The Daily Beast that Stanisic was a parishioner there—after he and his family left Bosnia for America 20 years ago. Social media shows that he graduated from Alameda International High School in 2016 and lived in Lakewood, Colorado.The church said that Stanisic was likely at King Soopers to fix a coffee machine at the Starbucks inside the store. Neven Stanisic, 23. via Facebook “He was an amazing child,” Ivana Petrovic, wife of the church’s Rev. Radovan Petrovic, told The Denver Post. “We’ve known the family ever since we became their spiritual father and mother here. He was a very good, shy, hardworking boy and one of those kiddos who listened to his parents the best.” The massacre marked the second major mass shooting in a week, coming just days after a gunman shot up three massage parlors in the metro Atlanta area, killing eight people, six of them Asian women.Nguyen said the Monday tragedy was particularly shocking considering how “safe Boulder is supposed to be.”“It’s only been seven days since Georgia. I can’t believe I was at a protest to Stop Asian Hate on Saturday and now I am learning that my hometown is the site of a deadly mass shooting,” he said. “Rikki was a wonderful amazing person. She always had a smile and the world is going to miss her.”Melissa Wing, Officer Talley’s former neighbor, said she lives one county over from the site of the 2018 shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. On Tuesday, Wing said, she felt physically weak—and choked up when thinking about the future of Talley’s family.“It’s really hard knowing that there’s seven kids without a father, and how each and every one of them have to deal with not having him around anymore.” Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.