Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said he is ruling out claims that the Boulder mass shooting suspect had any ties to terrorist groups.
“From a preliminary perspective, there’s been comments from the brother, the family, that there were concerns about this individual’s mental health,” Polis said in a televised interview on Wednesday, adding that an investigation is ongoing.
“Again, there’s no reason to suspect any connection to terrorism,” he said. “I think it’s likely to be an instance where it’s at an age where, you know, people might come unbalanced. So, we’ll find out. We don’t want to conclude anything before the investigation’s done.”
Ahmad al Aliwi Alissa, 21, was identified by officials as the suspect in the case. He was charged with 10 counts of murder on Tuesday.
His former wrestling teammates in high school said that Alissa had a short fuse and was concerned about being targeted due to his Muslim faith.
But Ali Aliwi Alissa, the 34-year-old brother of the suspect, told news outlets Tuesday that he does not believe his brother was ideologically motivated, saying that he appeared to have mental issues and was paranoid.
The shooting was not “not at all a political statement, it’s mental illness,” his brother told the Daily Beast. “The guy used to get bullied a lot in high school. He was like an outgoing kid, but after he went to high school and got bullied a lot, he started becoming anti-social,” the brother added.
Alissa, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Syria who graduated from Arvada West High School in 2018, pleaded guilty to third-degree assault for punching a classmate in late 2017. The classmate said the attack was unprovoked, an account supported by interviews with several witnesses, according to an Arvada Police Department incident report. Alissa told an officer the classmate had called him a “terrorist” and racist names.
During a press conference Tuesday, officials said they haven’t ascribed a motive to the shooter.
Those who were killed in the supermarket shooting were identified as Denny Stong, 20; Neven Stanisic, 23; Rikki Olds, 25; Tralona Bartkowiak, 49; police Officer Eric Talley, 51; Suzanne Fountain, 59; Teri Leiker, 51; Kevin Mahoney, 61; Lynn Murray, 62; and Jodi Waters, 65.
The suspect’s sister-in-law told police on Monday evening that he had been “playing with” a firearm she described as resembling a “machine gun” two days earlier, upsetting family members, according to an arrest affidavit filed by police in the case.
Reuters contributed to this report.