Boulder shooting suspect bought semiautomatic rifle just 6 days before the attack

Investigators say the suspect in the Boulder, Colorado supermarket shooting, 21-year-old Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, bought a semiautomatic rifle just six days before Monday's deadly attack. He's now charged with 10 counts of murder. CBS News correspondent Omar Villafranca joins CBSN with the latest on the investigation.

Video Transcript

- As Colorado mourns the loss of 10 people from Monday's mass shooting in Boulder, the shooting has reignited the debate for gun control. President Biden urged the Senate Tuesday to quickly pass two gun control bills that would expand background checks on firearm sales. He also called for a ban on assault weapons and high-magazines following the second mass shooting in less than a week.

But the discussion in Washington is likely no comfort to those who lost friends and family members. We'll hear more about the victims and who they leave behind soon. But we begin with the latest on the investigation as police try to figure out what motivated this attack. Omar Villafranca leads off our coverage from Boulder, Colorado.

OMAR VILLAFRANCA: 21-year-old Ahmad Alissa is now in the Boulder County Jail, charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder. His capture at the end of the almost hour-long rampage caught on a live stream. Alissa, in handcuffs, in nothing but shorts, blood running down his right leg.

- Can you tell us at all if-- anything about the suspect's injuries, in the hospital?

- He suffered a leg wound. It was a through and through wound to his leg. Midsection of his leg.


OMAR VILLAFRANCA: Reports of gunfire started around 2:30 p.m. Monday afternoon. According to arrest documents, witnesses say they saw the gunman shoot a male in his car. And they saw the gunman shoot an elderly man in the parking lot before walking up to him and shooting him several times.

Emergency crews were dispatched while shots were still being fired.

- It looks like we have an active shooter.

- Ryan [? Borowski ?] was inside the store getting something to drink when he heard a gunshot.

- The first gunshot was confusion. Everybody-- everything seemed silent.

OMAR VILLAFRANCA: What did you think it was?

- May I? I thought it might have been a big piece of sheet metal. Somebody, employee dropped. The only option for me was run.

OMAR VILLAFRANCA: [? Borowski ?] managed to escape through the loading docks. According to the arrest document, Alissa was taken into custody by a SWAT team, leaving behind a green tactical vest, a rifle, and a semiautomatic handgun. Police say gun records show he bought a semiautomatic rifle on March 16, 2021.

Ten others didn't make it out, including Boulder police officer Eric Talley. The first to arrive on the scene. A 10-year police veteran and father of seven. A visibly shaken Boulder police chief Maris Herold says it's a painful day for the department, but her officers will continue to do their jobs.

- Don't lose your compassion. And we'll get through this.

OMAR VILLAFRANCA: Alissa grew up 30 miles south of Boulder. His family migrated from Syria. Alissa's brother spoke to The Daily Beast and said he was mentally ill, paranoid, and was very antisocial. Police are still looking for a motive.

- Do want to stress that the investigation is really in its early stages, and we're going to work incredibly hard to see it through to completion.

- And Omar joins me now for more. So Omar, what more do we know about the suspect's background or anything that points to a possible motive?

OMAR VILLAFRANCA: Well, you heard some of the information there from his brother, who talked to The Daily Beast, who said he was kind of-- he was angry. He was kind of paranoid. That's not an excuse, but that's a little bit that we're learning about who he was.

We know the family came from Syria. And police told us he's lived in Colorado most of his life here. So he lived about 20, 25 miles away. So why he came here to Boulder, we are not really sure. That's something that we're trying to find out.

21 years old. You know, there's Facebook pages that we're trying to be careful to make sure that we're getting the correct information. Some of them have disappeared. But we're trying to find out as much as we can but also corroborate it with authorities.

- So Omar, as you reported, the suspect bought a rifle just six days before the shooting. Did he pass a background check to buy that gun?

OMAR VILLAFRANCA: Well, here-- if you're going to buy a long gun, a semiautomatic rifle, there is some sort of check you need to go through here. What's interesting on this particular case is that, after Parkland, the city of Boulder wanted to have a ban on semi-automatic long guns and long magazines that would hold a lot of bullets. And a judge just ruled this month that that ban could not be enforced here in the city of Boulder.

In fact, the NRA was tweeting about it, saying it was a victory for second amendment rights. So the purchase of that gun, from what we understand, was legal. We haven't heard otherwise yet from authorities and from federal investigators and sources. So he got it last week, March 16. And everybody, witnesses are saying that's the long gun that he used yesterday.

- So this tragedy, and the one in Georgia last week, have reignited the debate over gun control. So have local or state leaders offered any support for these measures?

OMAR VILLAFRANCA: They have. I mean, there was some federal leaders who were from the Boulder area here who say, you know, enough. This is enough. But it's one thing to say that. It's another thing, you know, the devil's in the details. You've got to get that passed on the federal level and on the state level. And it's not that easy.

I mean, keep in mind, it's-- we're not far from Aurora. We're not far from Columbine. And that kind of thing is still here. So it's one thing that people will talk about, but it's not anything that is actually happening just yet. Right now people-- the emotions are still raw.

- All right. I can only imagine. Well, finally, Omar, the suspect is due in court on Thursday. What can we expect?

OMAR VILLAFRANCA: Well, it will be our first times actually physically laying eyes on him. We'll be able to see, hopefully, what kind of physical condition he's in after he was in the hospital. The police chief told us since he was shot in the leg, and it was a clean shot, went through. Apparently no bones or anything was hit. He was able to walk on the leg.

So physically we'll be able to hopefully see. But how he's going to plea, who his attorneys are, if they're going to read him his rights, how far they are in the process. We're going to have to wait and see. The DA said this investigation could take up to a year to fully get this to trial.

So these are some of the baby steps. But we'll take any steps at this point, just to see how the process goes.

- All right, Omar Villafranca for us. Omar, thank you.

OMAR VILLAFRANCA: Thank you, Elaine.