Colorado shooting victims include shop owner, local actress
Some were gunned down while picking up groceries, others while putting in a day’s work at a Colorado supermarket. Another was a police officer who raced in to try to rescue them from an attack that left 10 dead.
Details have emerged about the lives of some of the victims as the suspect in Monday’s killings waits behind bars for a court appearance Thursday.
Ranging in age from 20 to 65, those who lost their lives at the King Soopers store in Boulder include a local clothing shop owner, a man looking forward to a new grandchild, a magazine photographer, an actress who also became a Medicare agent and others going about their days at a busy shopping plaza.
They were identified as Denny Stong, 20; Neven Stanisic, 23; Rikki Olds, 25; Tralona Bartkowiak, 49; police Officer Eric Talley, 51; Suzanne Fountain, 59; Teri Leiker, 51; Kevin Mahoney, 61; Lynn Murray, 62; and Jodi Waters, 65.
Leiker, Olds and Stong worked at the supermarket, said former co-worker Jordan Sailas, who never got the chance to bring his baby son into the store to meet them.
A front-end manager at King Soopers, Olds aspired to work her way up the ranks at the store, her family said.
“She was 25 years old, just kind of starting life, bubbly and energetic and charismatic,” her uncle Robert Olds said.
He said he still remembers the preschool-age niece who would tag along with him and his sons to baseball tournaments and ask to go to McDonald’s afterward.
“We are devastated,” Robert Olds said. He added that the family had heard from one of her friends that she had been trying to lock the store doors after the shooting began in the parking lot.
Her grandmother choked up on the phone as she described the young woman she played a large role in raising.
“She was just a very kind and loving, bubbly person who lit up the room when she walked in,” said Jeanette Olds, 71, of Lafayette, Colorado.
Fountain was an actress and mother who later won loyal clients as a Medicare agent, doing extensive research to find the right supplemental coverage for older adults signing up for the federal health insurance program, said her life partner, Phi Bernier.
“She never skimped, she never did something because it was easier,” he said.
Fountain trained at the Circle in the Square Theatre School in New York, and the two first met while they were playing lead roles in “The Glass Menagerie” about 30 years ago, Bernier said. They dated for a time and then reconnected after Fountain came to see him in a play in 2013.
Up until the coronavirus pandemic, Fountain was also the manager of eTown, a nonprofit live music venue in Boulder.
“Suzanne was a bright light to all she met, and we were proud to have her represent eTown in our community as she welcomed people into our space hundreds and hundreds of times,” the organization said in a Facebook post.
Fountain won praise for her acting from both reviewers and those who worked with her.
“She was absolutely lovely, a natural, someone you simply didn’t forget,” Brian Miller, who worked with her on a show, told The Denver Post.
A Boulder Daily Camera review said her 2002 performance as a nurse in “Wit,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning play about a woman dealing with cancer, brought “a simple but crucial compassion to the play.”
A memorial of flowers, candles and cards was growing outside the clothing and accessories shop that Bartkowiak owned with her sister, Leesah Noble, on Boulder’s popular Pearl Street Mall.
The sisters would take trips to Thailand to support local women by bringing back their crafts to sell at the store, called Umba Love, Bartkowiak’s friend Stacy Dixon told KUSA-TV.
Known as Lona, she “had probably the brightest light I have ever met in a human being,” Dixon said, calling her friend and former roommate “giving and kind and uplifting.”
Bartkowiak was planning to get married soon, Dixon said. The memorial outside the store offered her a little bit of healing.
“When the community comes together to help carry it, it can be lighter,” Dixon said. “There is a sense of compassion.”
He “represents all things Love,” his daughter Erika Mahoney said in a poignant tweet that featured a wedding photo and drew wide attention on social media.
“I’m so thankful he could walk me down the aisle last summer,” added Mahoney, who is the news director at a California public radio station.
She told NPR in an interview that aired Wednesday that the pandemic had almost forced her to reschedule the wedding, which she and her husband decided to hold in a small backyard ceremony with their families.
Erika Mahoney said her father had tried to hold back his tears “in big life moments for me, like when he took me to the airport for college, but really, it’s just his softness shining through,” she said. “I admire my dad so much, and that’s why I picked that photo, because I’m looking up at him.”
She also tweeted that she’s pregnant and knows her father “wants me to be strong for his granddaughter.”
Erika Mahoney said her father was shopping at Kings Sooper when he was killed. As news of his death became public, she said, friends texted her that he was like a father to them as well.
“One death trickles to so many people and to an entire community and beyond,” she said. “In this case, 10 lives were lost, and I think about my daughter and that my dad will never be able to hold her, but I know on some level, he will be there and he was so excited – and I’m going to tell her that he loves her so much.”
He joined the police force in Boulder in 2010 with a background that included a master’s degree in computer communications, his father said.
“At age 40, he decided he wanted to serve his community,” Homer “Shay” Talley, 74, told The Associated Press from his ranch in central Texas. “He left his desk job. He just wanted to serve, and that’s what he did. He just enjoyed the police family.”
Eric Talley was the first to arrive after a call about shots being fired and someone carrying a rifle, Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold said.
Talley was “by all accounts, one of the outstanding officers” in the department, Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty said.
Talley’s father said his son – who had seven children, ages 7 to 20 – was a devoted father who “knew the Lord.”
“When everyone else in the parking lot was running away, he ran toward it,” Shay Talley said.
“We know where he is,” he added. “He loved his family more the anything. He wasn’t afraid of dying. He was afraid of putting them through it.”
Talley grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he was “the most liked person in our class,” said elementary school classmate Kerry O’Bryant, who started a fundraiser for Talley’s children.
“He wasn’t necessarily Mr. Jock or Mr. Popularity or whatever, but everybody liked Eric. There was nobody who didn’t,” O’Bryant told the Albuquerque Journal.
“If there was anyone who was potentially going to be able to go in and defuse a bad situation, it was him – because he was such a lovable person,” O’Bryant said.
Murray was shopping at King Soopers, where a friend’s daughter had seen her. Word made it to her husband, John Mackenzie, who drove to the store and started texting his wife.
After getting no answer in about five minutes, “I just fell over in my chair,” he said, choking up.
Murray had a long career taking photos for magazines including Cosmopolitan and Vogue, Mackenzie said.
“She charmed the pants off me” when they met at a photography studio in New York City years ago, he said. Computer backgammon games soon evolved into a relationship and eventually, two children.
“She’s the kindest person I ever knew, hands down. She had an aura about her that was the coolest freakin’ thing you’d ever want to know. She was just a cool chick,” Mackenzie said.
“She had it all together – she really did,” he said, and offered a message:
“Don’t live in fear. 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.”
The longtime King Soopers employee loved to watch the University of Colorado marching band perform in a kickoff celebration called the Pearl Street Stampede on Friday nights before home football games on the Boulder campus, band director Matt Dockendorf told The Denver Post.
“She was there even before we started gathering, which is half an hour before the stampede started,” Dockendorf said. “She was just a staple. She was kind of a personal cheerleader for the band.”
Associated Press writers Patty Nieberg in Boulder, Colorado, and Susan Montoya Bryan in Albuquerque, New Mexico, contributed. Nieberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.