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Police Continue To Investigate The Boulder Shooting

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

We begin this hour in Boulder, Colo., where police so far haven't released much detail about their investigation into Monday's mass shooting inside a grocery store. Ten people died in that attack. We're going to hear now from NPR's Martin Kaste, who's pieced together an account of the initial police response.

And, Martin, what have we learned from police so far?

MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: Well, the police here are saying they're processing a very complex crime scene. This is a complicated investigation, and they're asking for patience from us while they do so in terms of some of the details. But we can kind of get a sense of at least how things played out on Monday afternoon when we listen to the recordings of the emergency dispatch system here. As you may know, hobbyists record these radio transmissions and post them on a service online called Broadcastify. And when you listen to these recordings here from Boulder, they capture, for instance, the moment that dispatch first directed police to the shooting.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Looks like we have an active shooter. It's a white male, middle-aged, dark hair, beard, black vest, short-sleeved shirt seen in front of the King Soopers; shot out a window of a van. And he pursued a man towards Broadway.

CORNISH: How soon after did the police respond?

KASTE: It seems like they responded very quickly. The first 911 calls came in around 2:30 p.m. And about a minute later, it seems the dispatchers were sending officers to the grocery store. At first, just nearby units go there. But then within another minute or so, you hear a voice on the air saying, hold all radio traffic; everybody just go, which essentially throws every available officer at the incident. A few minutes later then, we hear this report from one of the patrol officers on the scene as she sees civilians lying on the ground where they'd been shot.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: So far, I have another party down just inside the doors.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Copy, party down inside doors.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Shooter is inside. He just shot at us twice (ph).

CORNISH: All right, I want to clarify that audio there. It sounds like what's being said is that the officer is saying that they're being shot at.

KASTE: Yes. And police tactical experts and tactical training who've listened to this tape tell me they're struck by the heroism of those initial responders. As we know, one of them, 51-year-old Eric Talley, was killed during this initial confrontation. And that kind of immediate confrontation is considered the gold standard for these situations. After the 1999 Columbine High School shootings, police learned that quick confrontation can interrupt the killing, even though it's very risky to the officers.

CORNISH: What were you able to learn about how they eventually captured a suspect?

KASTE: Well, we know from these recordings that they were trying to get to him from multiple angles. At the entrance, they tried pushing an armored truck into the entrance to use as a cover for officers who were trying to get to their fallen colleague. At the same time, other officers had gone into the back of the store. They were sweeping through storage and the refrigerated area behind the milk, if you know the common layout of a grocery store. But for a long time, they couldn't figure out where the gunman was and whether or not they were walking into some kind of an ambush. If you listen to this moment here, this recording, it's about 25 minutes into the incident. An officer seems to be clearing the aisles.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: OK, no movement looks like from lane six, seven, eight, nine and 10, partway down 11, where it's secured the rest of the way.

KASTE: Now, we don't know - exactly know how the gunman ended up in custody. According to the affidavit for the arrest, the officers report him walking backwards toward SWAT officers. He stripped down to his shorts. He's put down his gear. Apparently, he had two guns, some version of an AR-15 rifle and a handgun, a tactical vest as well. But at that point, the tension was not over, even though he told them as he was being taken into custody that he was acting alone. One of the 911 callers had said that there were three gunmen, so the police couldn't assume that this attack was over until everything was cleared.

CORNISH: What is the latest on that 21-year-old man who's been arrested?

KASTE: Well, we have no word on what his possible motives were for this. Some family members have talked about behavioral problems, kind of a history of anger. When he was in high school, he was convicted of a misdemeanor for beating up another student. Now he's likely facing 10 counts of first-degree murder. He'll be appearing in court here for the first time tomorrow morning.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Martin Kaste. Thank you for your reporting.

KASTE: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.