DENVER — Terror transcends distance, and the mass shooting in Buffalo has brought back horrific memories to those who survived last year's mass shooting in Boulder.
"My first thought was all of the similarities — that it was in a grocery store, the number of people killed," said Chelsea Krasawski.
Krawsawki was working in the deli on March 22, 2021, when a gunman opened fire at Boulder's Table Mesa King Soopers.
"You hear one or two loud booms, you think it's a pallet of food being moved ... you hear the sound 12 times and you know what's happening," she said.
The former King Soopers employee can recall all the details of her harrowing escape from the store. She can also tell you how much the ordeal has impacted her life since.
"I still can't really take my son into stores with me, and then I prefer to not even go myself. So our pantry has a tendency to stay a little bare sometimes," Krawsawki said. "I would say there are good days and bad days."
Krawsawki still hasn't revisited the Table Mesa King Soopers and isn't sure when or if she will. She's hoping survivors of the Buffalo mass shooting will take ample time to heal and process the atrocity.
"There was so much support here in Boulder, and I can only hope that there's that same outpouring of love and support for that community," she said.
While many draw parallels between the shootings in Boulder and Buffalo, there are a key differences.
The motive in the Boulder shooting remains unknown, meanwhile the shooting in Buffalo is being investigated as a hate crime and an act of racially-motivated violent extremism.
Krasawki, a white woman, says she acknowledges she doesn't understand the pain of the Black community following the Buffalo incident. However, she does know the survivors will face a long journey ahead.
"The fact that they were singled out specifically for the reason of their race is unfathomable to me," she said through tears.
Intervening on Violent Extremism
"This is so close to what we experienced here with the Boulder County King Soopers shooting," said Dr. Rachel Nielsen. "We had a kid who was on everyone's radar, who was getting services while they were in high school and that couldn't continue after graduation. Within a short period of time, they killed people."
Nielsen is an expert in targeted violence and serves on a team of crisis interventionists and psychological specialists at Nicoletti-Flater Associates. She says it's possible to thwart mass shootings, but it requires early intervention.
"First, they're getting angry and they feel like a victim of some kind. They identify with some sort of a perceived injustice to themselves or a group of people that they associate with," Nielsen said. "So this idea of the "great replacement," even if this person didn't see it happening in their home or in their neighborhood, they could still get worked up with the idea. Then there are things like changes in dress, friends and activities. Family members usually notice that the person is not okay, but they don't have the details."
If loved ones or friends decide to intervene, Nielsen recommends this approach.
"The thing you shouldn't do is confront the belief. If you start arguing with somebody about what they consider to be a big problem, then sometimes they'll shut down and shut you out," she said. "If you can stick with the human element of, "I'm worried about you," then maybe we get some traction early on. If that goes unchecked, they may start to blame other people and think no one's doing anything — so the person may resort to violence ... which is why we really want to catch it early."
Nielsen says of all the extremist ideologies, the ones leading to the most violence are usually anti-government or racist.
The Colorado Resilience Collaborative is one resource for those seeking to make an intervention.
Moving Forward After Tragedy
Krasawski was particularly close to two of the victims from the Boulder shooting — Rikki Olds and Denny Stong.
"Rikki was... she was an incredible human being ... she was such a bright light to everyone," Krasawski said. "And Denny, he was just a kid. He was 19 years old at the time of the shooting."
Six months after the shooting, Krasawski got a tattoo honoring both Olds and Stong
"It's so important for me to live out who they were," she said. "I think of Stong's mother often."
While the grieving process for her continues, Krasawki hopes prosecution will move more swiftly for those impacted by the Buffalo shooting.
Boulder families are still waiting for a trial process to begin. Last month the Boulder shooting suspect was ruled incompetent to stand trial for a third time.
"I want them to have closure beyond the support and help that they will need," Krawsawki said.