The Boulder supermarket shooter, Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, comes to the forefront of the American media with the profile of a deranged man capable of unleashing the “demon” within “a split second,” according to a former friend. Yet, the contours of his life and times are not that different from others who have committed such heinous acts. Without the spin and relying on the facts, the portrait of the man who killed ten people seemingly at random emerges.
What We Know
Here is what we know thus far:
- Alissa was born in Syria in 1999 and came to the U.S. in 2002.
- He was known by the FBI through a link to another person the bureau was investigating.
- Alissa has several previous criminal complaints on his record: One for criminal mischief, as well as a third-degree assault conviction and a traffic infraction.
- Political leanings: He self-identifies as a Trump hater. He referred to the former president on his Facebook as a “dick” and claimed that Trump “won because of racism.”
- Socio-cultural leanings: He posted various Islamic messages on FB, including quotes about what makes a good Muslim.
- As a high school senior, Alissa was suspended, found guilty of assault, and sentenced to probation for attacking another student.
- Alissa lived in the Arvada area near Boulder since 2014 on a street described by neighbors as “quiet” and “suburban.”
- Neighbors say the seven-bedroom house, owned by the shooter’s brother Ali Aliwi Alissa, was home to approximately 20 multi-generational individuals. Residents called the Alissa home “disruptive and chaotic” and stated, “their children are always running in the street at odd hours.”
What They’re Saying
According to former friends and family members, Alissa was a loner who exhibited paranoid tendencies exacerbated by a persecution complex.
Former classmate Angel Hernandez told the Denver Post, “He was always talking about [how] people were looking at him, and there was no one ever where he was pointing people out.” Hernandez also said, “The sad thing about it is that if you really were to get to know him, he was a good guy … But you could tell there was a dark side in him. If he did get ticked off about something, within a split second, it was like if something takes over, like a demon. He’d just unleash all his anger.”
Dayton Marvel, who matriculated with Alissa at Arvada West High School, told the Post, “His senior year, during the wrestle-offs to see who makes varsity, he actually lost his match and quit the team and yelled out in the wrestling room that he was like going to kill everybody.” Marvel relayed that Alissa “would talk about him being Muslim and how if anybody tried anything, he would file a hate crime and say they were making it up.”
These comments mirror statements made by Alissa’s older brother, Ali, who told the Daily Beast that his sibling was paranoid. In high school, he talked about being chased. “When he was having lunch with my sister in a restaurant,” the shooter’s brother recalled, “he said, ‘People are in the parking lot, they are looking for me.’ She went out, and there was no one. We didn’t know what was going on in his head.” Ali also said his brother was “bullied” in high school. This could have been the impetus for the shooter’s persecution complex.
Psychologists say a persecution complex “arises when a person falsely believes that someone is out to cause them harm. The intensity and longevity of these feelings can differ, as can the object of the paranoia.” It is an irrational fear of being poorly treated and a delusion that makes these people feel as if they are in danger from an individual or group.
Mental health experts maintain the person with a persecution complex “thinks with more emotion” regarding social interactions and can “attribute greater meaning to non-events.” These are the ones who compulsively “fixate” on people or events beyond logic. Psychologists speculate that those who suffer a persecution complex may do so because of over-sensitivity, childhood trauma, low self-esteem, or simply genetics.
It is clear Alissa’s psychological profile is akin to most random shooters. Because they mentally operate outside logical parameters, these individuals are unlikely to adhere to gun control measures. There is nothing in Alissa’s background that would lead one to believe he would act as a law-abiding citizen. Therefore, it appears illogical to conclude that adding more gun control would be effective. As such, it amounts to doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result from people who function outside the bounds of reason.
Read more from Leesa K. Donner.