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'I felt God compel me to go back': Colorado shooting witnesses recall helping others to safety

Neven Sloan described running back to the doors to help others after getting his wife to safety when a gunman opened fire at a grocery store, killing 10 people.
/ Source: TODAY

A pair of newlyweds and a store employee described how they frantically hid from a gunman and helped others to safety during a shooting at a Colorado grocery store Monday that left 10 people dead.

Logan Smith was working at a Starbucks kiosk and married couple Neven and Quinlyn Sloan were shopping inside the King Soopers grocery store in Boulder Monday afternoon when they heard a gunman open fire.

Smith said he witnessed two friends and coworkers die from the gunfire.

"It's definitely been rough," he told Hoda Kotb on TODAY Tuesday. "Waking up this morning, processing everything, it's definitely been hard. It's harder than it was yesterday just thinking about the friends that I lost. I'm still trying to reach one of my other friends who hasn't responded back, so I don't know their situation, but just taking everything in is hard."

The alleged shooter, identified as a 21-year-old man named Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, is in custody and has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder, NBC News reported. No details have been provided as to a possible motive for the shooting.

Ten people died in the shooting, including Eric Talley, 51, a father of seven and an 11-year veteran of the Boulder police force, Police Chief Maris Herold said in a news conference Monday night. Talley was the first officer to arrive at the store after being dispatched following reports of gunfire, Herold said.

Herold identified the other victims as Denny Strong, 20, Neven Stanisic, 23, Rikki Olds, 25, Tralona Bartkowiak, 49, Suzanne Fountain, 59, Teri Leiker, 51, Kevin Mahoney, 61, Lynn Murray, 62, and Jody Waters, 65.

Officers could be seen leading a man out of the store in handcuffs with blood on his leg, but police are not confirming if he is the suspected shooter.

Smith recounted that at 2:28 p.m. local time a customer ran into the store alerting people that there was an active shooter in the parking lot. Smith heard the shooting outside, called 911 and then helped a coworker hide behind some trash cans before rushing to shield himself.

"I was just trying to find somewhere to protect me," he said. "I ended up deciding to hide behind another trash can. It couldn't really protect me. I was definitely in a life-threatening situation if the shooter came to the kiosk."

Neven and Quinlyn Sloan, who have been married for just over a month, were shopping for groceries when they heard the shots.

"My first thought didn't go to it being a shooter," Quinlyn Sloan said. "So I didn't react right away because it was pretty muffled, the first two, because they were outside, but then it got louder and there was like a bunch of bangs in a row. And then that's when Neven walked up to me, and that's when I was like, OK this is serious."

Neven Sloan helped get his wife to safety outside the store before rushing back to the doors to help others near the exit.

"I just felt God compel me to go back," Neven said. "There was another guy that was sitting by the emergency exit. His name was Michael, he was really sweet and really brave. There were two older women that were trying to get out, I just wanted to go back and help them and help Michael get those two ladies out."

"Once getting behind a building, I started crying because everyone in the crowd is running away and my husband of a month and a half is running toward it," Quinlyn said. "That's totally his heart and he just loves people in that way."

Monday marked the second mass shooting in the country in six days after a gunman killed eight people, six of them Asian women, in a series of shootings at a trio of spas in the Atlanta area last week. It was also the latest mass shooting in Colorado, which has had more mass shootings per capita than all but four states, according to The Denver Post.

"It's always an event that you never want to happen," Smith said. "Because of the events in Colorado's history, it's been in the back of my head. It's not the first time as coworkers or employees that our life has been threatened.

"There's been two other other events, not as severe, but because of those other events it's been in my head that something like this could happen."