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Colorado’s troubled history of gun violence

People are tended to after Boulder, Colo., shooting
People are tended to after being evacuated from a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, Colo., after a gunman opened fire, killing 10.
(Chet Strange / Getty Images)

The attack at a Boulder, Colo., supermarket that left 10 people dead was the deadliest mass shooting in the U.S. since 23 people were killed at a Walmart in El Paso in 2019. Monday’s shooting took place in a stretch of Colorado that has a troubled history of gun violence.

Over the last 25 years, the Denver suburbs have seen so many high-profile shootings — in supermarkets and schools, in a movie theater and a Planned Parenthood clinic — that Colorado state legislators have passed some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. At least seven shootings of multiple people have happened within 50 miles of the King Soopers grocery store in Boulder.

A Colorado judge recently blocked Boulder from enforcing its two-year-old ban on assault weapons.

Here’s a a look at some of the shootings:

April 20, 1999: The Columbine High School massacre, one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history, took place less than 35 miles from the King Soopers. Two students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, clad in long black coats and dark ski masks and wielding handguns and pipe bombs, stormed into the high school in Littleton, a suburb southwest of Denver, fatally shooting 12 students and one teacher. Two dozen other students were injured. After four hours, the shooters turned the guns on themselves.

July 20, 2012: A lone masked gunman, James Holmes, walked to the front of a crowded movie theater in Aurora during a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” and opened fire on the audience, killing 12 people and wounding more than 50. Another 12 people were injured as they attempted to leave the building. Holmes was arrested in the theater parking lot.

Oct. 31, 2015: On the morning of Halloween, a man carrying a rifle and a revolver shot and killed a man riding his bike in a residential neighborhood near downtown Colorado Springs. The gunman then walked less than a mile and fired at two women on the front porch of a sobriety house, killing them both. The gunman, Noah Harpham, was later killed in a shootout with police officers.

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A shooting at a Colorado supermarket Monday killed 10 people, including a police officer, and a suspect was in custody, authorities said.

Nov. 27, 2015: A shooter armed with a long gun opened fire in a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, killing two civilians and a police officer who confronted him. Nine people were wounded before Robert Lewis Dear surrendered. During a court appearance less than two weeks later, the suspect shouted that he was guilty and proclaimed: “I’m a warrior for the babies.”

Nov. 1, 2017: Scott Ostrem walked into a Walmart Supercenter in Thornton, a suburb north of Denver, and opened fire, killing three people and causing some shoppers to grab their own guns. After a national manhunt, police arrested the gunman the next morning 10 miles from the store.

Dec. 31, 2017: On New Year’s Eve, a former attorney barricaded himself in the bedroom of his apartment in Highlands Ranch, about 12 miles south of Denver, and engaged in a gun battle with police officers who responded to a noise complaint. One deputy, Zackari Parrish, was killed. Three deputies, one police officer and two civilians were injured before the police killed the gunman.

May 7, 2019: Two students entered a STEM charter school in Highlands Ranch, a Denver suburb near Littleton, and fired at fellow students. A student, Kendrick Castillo, 18, who lunged at one of the shooters was fatally shot. Eight others were wounded by gunfire before the two assailants were captured. Law enforcement officials said the suspects had two handguns that they were not old enough to buy or own.

Dean Schiller, who filmed the shooting scene in Boulder, Colo., was criticized for appearing to walk by victims without offering aid.

A number of school shootings have also occurred within 50 miles of Boulder. In 2010, a gunman walked into Deer Creek Middle School in Littleton and shot and wounded two eighth-graders. In 2013, an 18-year-old student armed with a gun and Molotov cocktails entered Arapahoe High School in Centennial, a suburb 12 miles south of downtown Denver. After shooting a student in the head, he was confronted by a sheriff’s deputy and turned the gun on himself.


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