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Grandfather recalls waiting as family hid in closet during Colorado shooting

Steven McHugh opens up about the deadly event and emphatically says, “This should not be happening.”
/ Source: TODAY

While shoppers and employees were desperate to flee the scene of a mass shooting at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, Monday, one man raced to get to the King Soopers location after being notified that his granddaughters and son-in-law were inside.

Steven McHugh waited outside the store where 10 people, including one police officer, were killed. Thankfully for McHugh, his family members weren’t among the dead. But as he explained during a Tuesday morning visit to the 3rd hour of TODAY, “The shock of it is still fresh."

“Everybody’s glad to be alive,” he said of his 13 and 14-year-old grandchildren and their father, Paul. “Meighan, my daughter, had received a text from Paul when this all started, and she texted me. I was just on my way right over there.”

As he got there, his daughter continued a lengthy text chain that revealed to him “just how terrifying” the ordeal was inside the store.

“Paul was in there for his COVID shot, and then they were going to go food shopping,” McHugh said of what was meant to be a routine outing. “He was the third person in line, he said, when the gunshots started. The woman who was in the front of that line went down, was shot.”

At first, McHugh’s loved ones ducked down to hide out among the items that surrounded them.

“Then Paul, very smartly, took the two girls upstairs,” he recalled. “There was a staff area, and they went and hid in the coat closet for 45 minutes while all the shooting was going on downstairs.”

The girls described hearing eight shots, but in the texts, their father mentioned that there were “maybe 50 or 60 shots altogether.” And each time they heard anyone come upstairs, they were unsure if it was someone who could help them or if it was the shooter. A 21-year-old man named Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder.

It was a trauma that McHugh said, “Nobody should be subjected to.”

During the interview, the patriarch noted that his family members were fortunate to be spared serious injuries in the event the state’s governor has called an "unspeakable tragedy.” But that isn’t all they were spared.

When police were finally able to help Paul and the teens escape the building, they led them through what McHugh described as “a circuitous route” in order to keep the girls from having to see the bodies that remained downstairs.

Once it was all over, McHugh finally had a chance to see his family.

“It was incredible,” he said of that moment. “We had a group hug right in the lobby of the police station.”

"Clearly the girls are being strong, but this is a deep trauma for the community, for us," he continued. "The Boulder bubble has been burst."

"This should not be happening," he added about the mass shootings happening across the United States.

Boulder police chief Maris Herold identified the victims in Monday's shooting as police officer Eric Talley, 51, 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.