BOULDER, Colo. – As shots rang out inside the King Soopers off Table Mesa Drive in Boulder Monday afternoon, staff inside the grocery store were directing customers to the back and telling them to exit as safely as possible.
One of those customers was Andrew Hummel.
“I heard a loud bang and then everybody kind of sprinted toward the back of the store,” Hummel told Denver7’s Adi Guajardo near the store, as police continued to work an active shooter situation which was first reported at around 2:45 p.m. Monday. “I didn’t see anything; I could just hear… and I just ran – I just wanted to get out of there. There was so much going on in such a compact area.”
Hummel said as soon as he got out, he immediately called his parents and his friend and roommate Mason, who works at the store.
“It was a truly horrifying experience,” Hummel said, recalling the chaos inside the grocery store.
Hummel said his first priority was making sure Mason got out safe. He would later learn Mason was hiding in a storage room with other customers.
“One of the biggest scary texts he sent, he just said, ‘I love you guys. Thank you for everything in case things go bad.’ That was a really hard text, especially me being in this situation,” Hummel said. “That was something I would never want to hear from any of my friends. It was horrifying. It was truly horrifying.”
For Neven and Qinlyn Sloan, who were also inside at the time the shooting started, a normal day at the store ended with loud bangs.
“I just heard a big bang and I was like, ‘That’s kind of weird.’ Like, I didn’t know if it was like, a gunshot or whatever, but it was probably three seconds before we heard another just like, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang and I immediately sprinted over to her and was like, ‘Hey, we gotta get outta here’ and like, pushed out the emergency door,’” said Neven, who added that while he never saw the shooter, he did talk to someone at the front who saw someone go down.
Neven told Denver7’s Sloan Dickey he and another man named Michael helped people get away from the scene.
The newly married couple told Denver7 they stayed at the scene to pray for those affected by the shooting.
Sarah Moonshadow, who told Denver7’s Adi Guajardo she lives about a mile away from the store, said she heard about four shots while she was standing in the checkout lane before she told her 21-year-old son to start running.
“I said, ‘Just run, don’t look! Just run!'” Moonshadow said, recalling the chaotic moment inside the King Soopers. “The person that was shooting was definitely coming in our direction and he shot close enough to us that we could feel the concussions. … I just looked at (my son) and just kept running. I didn’t want to see anything but his face. I just wanted to be sure that he got out OK.”
Moonshadow said she and her son got out of the King Soopers location safely, but as they made their way out of the store, both encountered a man laying out on the street.
“I started running toward him to try to help him and my son grabbed me by my coat and said, ‘No, we can’t help him. We gotta go,’” Moonshadow said, adding she and her son kept running and hid in a stone barrier as the shooting unfolded.
“I wanted to try to help that guy in the road and I couldn't because he was just too close and we had to get away,” Moonshadow said through tears in her eyes.
James Graham, who works at NOAA, was checking out at the self-checkout on the south side of the store when all of a sudden, he started hearing shots.
“I probably heard 30 shots. It was just pop, pop, pop, pop, pop!” Graham told Denver7’s Adi Guajardo. “It was the most terrifying event I’ve ever been through. I mean, I’ve been through an active shooter drill, but you know, you prepare yourself for that.”
When asked if that training prepared him for what unfolded inside the King Soopers on Monday, Graham said, “No. No. This happened so fast, and it was so loud that… no. Yeah, it was… I’m still in shock over it.”
Graham told Denver7 it felt like he was being shot at and said the shooting must have happened very close to him because he recalled smelling the gunpowder from the shots as he ran out of the store.
“Why somebody would do this, I don’t know. It’s just …. I don’t know. Especially in this kind of neighborhood; I mean, this is kind of a nice neighborhood where this happens, it’s just unbelievable.”
For Andy Arellano, an employee at that King Soopers location, the first thing that came to mind was his family.
"I was just hearing (the gun shots) and I was just thinking of my family," he told Denver7's Gary Brode. “My heart was racing. I’ve never had this kind of like, situation before, you know?"
Arenallo recalled thinking the gunfire was construction taking place before suddenly realizing what was really happening as dozens of people started running toward his location.
Speaking from outside the store, Arellano said he and others left the store through one of the back doors near the bakery section, thanks to a co-worker who sounded the alarm and showed them where to go.
Outside the store and out of harm's way, Arellano had only one thought in mind.
"I'm more concerned for my co-workers; if they're alive, you know? I'm trying to look for them. I'm trying to get a hold of them," he said.
Arellano also recalled how one of his managers helped an elderly man find safety, but the images of what happened Monday afternoon, he said, will stay with him forever.
“It’s going to probably be in my head for a long time no matter what. Just hearing the shots, it’s just gonna like, bring it back," Arellano said. "It’s not gonna go away, though. It’s always going to stay there.”
Denver7 reporters Adi Guajardo, Sloan Dickey and Gary Brode contributed to this report.