Former classmates of suspected King Soopers shooter believe mental illness led to actions

Grocery Store Tragedy

ARVADA, Colo. (KDVR) — An Arvada man is now facing likely murder charges for allegedly carrying out Monday’s deadly attacks on shoppers and employees at a Boulder King Soopers store.

Court documents show Ahmad Alissa purchased a gun less than a week before the shootings. He’s expected to make his first court appearance on Thursday.

Police have not released a motive, but a source tells the Associated Press the suspect’s family told investigators he was suffering from a mental illness, including delusions in which he thought people were following or chasing him.

He was shot in the leg during the attack on the store.

Several former classmates and friends of Alissa’s at Arvada West High School say they are horrified by the shooting.

“I don’t understand what happened. Obviously something happened that drove him to do this. I find it repulsive he would even consider doing something like that, let alone go through with it,” said Johnathan Schweitzer, a former classmate.

Schweitzer and Alissa had several classes classes together and ate lunch together.

Keaton Hyatt also knew Ahmad Alissa in high school. He was in a weight-training class with Ahmad.

“He fit in. It wasn’t like he was an outcast or anything. He was just another guy on the wrestling team,” Hyatt said.

The 21 year-old did plead guilty to a 3rd degree assault charge in 2017 for beating up a student. Court documents say Alissa “cold cocked” a student in the head and then punched him several more times after the student made fun of him and called him racial names earlier in the week.

However, Alissa’s friends say that student routinely bullied Alissa and many other minority students.

“People are trying to bring up that particular event and paint him like he’s always been a convicted, violent person,” said Hyatt.

The 2017 charge was the only blemish on Alissa’s criminal record prior to the shootings.

However, somewhere and somehow, both men say something changed after high school. The Ahmad they knew became someone they no longer recognize.

“He’s gained a serious amount of weight. His appearance has drastically fallen. It seems like he’s really gone down hill in the last year or so,” said Schweitzer.

Both men are convinced mental health issues led Alissa to commit the attacks.

“That’s the thing about mental health. You never know who’s going through it,” said Hyatt.

Ahmad Alissa was born in Syria and emigrated to the United State as a child. He’s also Muslim, and both men say they’re dismayed to see many on social media trying to claim the attacks were motivated by race or religion.

“I absolutely don’t believe race or religion had anything to do with it because he wasn’t even religious,” said Schweitzer.

However, a motive for the attacks remains unclear.

“There is no justifying his means or actions at all,” said Hyatt.

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