US President Joe Biden called for a ban on assault weapons last night after a Syrian-born wrestler gunned down 10 people at a supermarket in Colorado.
Ahmad Alissa (21) was charged with murder after a gunman opened fire at a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder as some customers were having their coronavirus vaccine shots.
Relatives suggested he was “mentally ill” and paranoid, and that he had been bullied at school.
Addressing the nation, Mr Biden said: “I don’t need to wait another minute, let alone another hour, to take common-sense steps that will save lives in the future. We can ban assault weapons. We must act. Another American city has been scarred by gun violence and resulting trauma.”
The Boulder shooting happened less than a week after eight people were shot dead at spas in Atlanta.
Before that, there had not been a large-scale mass shooting in a public place in the US for more than a year.
Alissa, of Arvada, Colorado, was in a stable condition in hospital in Boulder, about 28 miles from Denver, after being shot in the leg by police.
He was born in Syria but his family moved to the US when he was a child. His social-media posts showed him competing as a wrestler at Arvada West High School.
He had an enthusiasm for martial arts, criticised Donald Trump for not accepting refugees, and said he was looking for a girlfriend. He had studied computer engineering in Denver.
According to a relative’s now-deleted Facebook account, his family was originally from Raqqa.
Alissa posted on Facebook in 2019 that he believed his school was hacking his phone, which he called “racism”. Ali Alissa (34), the suspected gunman’s brother, told The Daily Beast the killing was not political.
“Not at all a political statement, it’s mental illness,” he said. “The guy used to get bullied a lot in high school. He started becoming antisocial.”
However, wrestling team-mates reported Alissa, who was said to be 5ft 6in and weigh 14st, was “scary to be around” and fought with them.
Angel Hernandez, a former team-mate, told The Denver Post: “He would talk about him being Muslim and how if anybody tried anything, he would file a hate crime. It was a crazy deal.
“You could tell there was a dark side in him. Like a demon. He’d just unleash all his anger.”
In 2017, he attacked a classmate at school and was convicted of assault.
Police said they were still investigating the motive for the massacre, although it is understood Alissa was known to the FBI due to his links with an associate who was under investigation.
The shooting began in the car park where the gunman, wearing a green vest, repeatedly shot an elderly man before going into the store.
After the shooting, he took off most of his clothes, surrendered to police and asked to speak to his mother, The New York Times reported.
Ryan Borowski, a shopper, said: “I just nearly got killed for getting a soda and a bag of chips.”
The shooting stunned Colorado, where the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, and the 2012 Aurora cinema shooting, also took place.
The 10 victims, who were aged between 20 and 65, included Eric Talley (51), a police officer. Mr Talley was a devout Christian and father of seven.
Amid renewed calls for extended gun control the National Rifle Association tweeted an image of the Second Amendment showing the “right of the people to keep and bear arms”.
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