JUPITER, Fla. — His paper route delivering The Denver Post would send him biking nearby, so it wouldn’t have been unusual for young John Mozeliak to take a detour and drop in for a quick snack at the local King Soopers, an area supermarket chain.
“I don’t recall going to another grocery store as a kid,” the Cardinals executive said.
This past week, as an all too familiar outburst of violence and tragedy happened in Colorado, Mozeliak, watched the news and saw an all too familiar place. A gunman opened fire at the Boulder, Colo., supermarket and 10 people, including a Boulder police officer, were killed in the latest mass shooting this week, and one of many mass shootings for that state.
“A nightmare,” read the Post’s headline Tuesday.
The area of Boulder is known as Table Mesa. Mozeliak knows it as his boyhood home. His mother worked at the bank that shared a parking lot with the supermarket. His house was walking distance, about a mile away, toward the mountains. When they got donuts on the weekend, this was where the Mozeliaks went.
“Anybody who had the opportunity to grow up in Boulder – we always felt like it was living in a bubble,” said Mozeliak, the Cardinals president of baseball operations. “We knew it was special. We knew it was not necessarily realistic to what other people experienced where they lived. To see what happened there, I remember saying to myself, ‘Here was this utopia, this perfect little town that now will be scarred forever.’”
Mozeliak and I spoke via Zoom this past week about the shooting in Boulder, about people we knew in the area, a mutual acquittance and friend of his who still lived there, and about waiting to hear the names. He expressed condolences to the families who lost loved ones.
Like him, I grew up in Boulder County, but just outside of Boulder proper, in Louisville, Colo. There’s a spot along the highway into Boulder where you could sometimes get KMOX/1120 AM known as the scenic overlook – Boulder is the scenic, Louisville is the overlook. Mozeliak graduated from Fairview High; I started at Centaurus High while he finished his degree at CU. It is entirely likely that we were at the same game, same corporate holiday event, same place at some point in our youth only to first meet each other as baseball executive and baseball writer in baseball city, St. Louis. It could have been getting ice cream at the Baskin-Robbins by that King Soopers after he finished his paper route and I got done with a violin lesson I had nearby his home, or soccer practice I had a few blocks away.
We talked about the shops we frequented right there, our haunts nearby, recalling their locations – the Hallmark store, the burger joint that is no longer there. His house was near a great sledding hill. His parents remain in the area, living outside of Boulder after selling the home Mozeliak grew up in.
“That time in my life was nothing but innocent,” Mozeliak said.
On Monday afternoon, several hours after overnight snowfall left roads slick and slushy, a gunman began shooting in the parking lot outside the King Soopers. According to reports, he moved into the King Soopers and continued firing as shoppers scattered and sought cover. This spasm of terror happened in a supermarket – the staple of so many communities and during a pandemic, as restaurants closed and social distancing ruled, a place that became a necessity while offering fleeting moments of normalcy. That solace shattered.
Police responded, and there was an exchange of gunfire between the shooter and officers. Said Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty to reporters on Friday: “They charged into the store. Their actions saved others from being killed. They charged into the story and immediately faced a significant amount of gunfire. … They put their lives at risk.”
One of the first officers at the site, Eric Talley, was killed.
He is survived by his wife and seven children.
Nine other people killed ranged in age from 20 to 65 and included a King Soopers employee.
A suspect was taken into custody in the store.
“I feel numb,” Boulder’s police chief said Tuesday morning during a press conference where the names of the victims were read. “It’s heartbreaking.”
As Mozeliak watched the news Monday night he thought about how a place he knew for comfort was now going to join the list of locations whose name alone is tied to horror, gun violence, and death. Parkland. Columbine. Sandy Hook. Atlanta. Orlando. Aurora. Now, Boulder. That’s what he meant by “scar.” These names will never completely heal.
As we spoke, I mentioned to Mozeliak what’s been on my mind: that we’re all a lot closer to these tragedies than we want to think about but maybe should – to keep them from blurring and fading as the news cycle moves on. In Colorado alone, one of us could have been at Columbine for a game, saw a movie in Aurora, or picked up donuts at King Soopers on the way to work at the bank in Boulder. We could have in-laws in Newtown, Conn., or know a baseball player who graduated from Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people were killed in February 2018. We’ve walked where lives were lost.
It doesn’t have to be near home to realize it’s happening in our backyard.
“As I was watching, thoughts went running through my head about the times I spent at the grocery store,” Mozeliak said. “This was close to home because it was home.”