A May 9 shooting that left seven dead, including the suspect, appears to have been a domestic violence incident.

The Colorado Springs Police Department is still looking for a motive for Sunday’s deadly shooting in Southeast, where six people were killed at a birthday party by a gunman who took his own life. CSPD had not released the names of the victims or the gunman by Indy’s presstime, but according to CSPD, the suspect, a boyfriend of one of the female victims, entered the residence and began shooting. While still early in the investigation, this incident illustrates the connection between domestic violence and mass shootings, and the increase in shootings and homicides in the Southeast.

The May 9 shooting came less than two months after Ahmad Al Aliwi Al-Issa killed 10 people at a Boulder King Soopers on March 22. “It breaks my heart to learn there’s been another mass shooting today in Southeast Colorado Springs,” said Rep. Tony Exum (D-HD17) in a news release. “At a birthday party on Mother’s Day — a day and time when we all should be celebrating life and love — many people are now mourning this tragic loss of life. My deepest condolences go out to the families, friends and loved ones of the victims.”

While details were sparse on Monday, Mayor John Suthers connected the most recent killings to domestic violence. “We know that this is not a domestic terrorism incident, not an ideologically driven crime; it appears to be domestic violence,” Mayor John Suthers told  KKTV News. “That there was a relationship here that the perpetrator was involved in, and unfortunately we had a lot of bystanders who got killed. When you look around the country at these incidents, about 20 percent of all domestic violence victims are not partners, they’re either law enforcement officers that showed up, or family members, or sometimes bystanders.”

Anne Markley, the CEO of TESSA, an organization dedicated to preventing domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and human trafficking, said in an emailed statement, “With heavy hearts, we struggle to make sense of the shocking violence, and devastating loss that ripped through our community on Sunday morning. While we face the harsh realities of domestic violence on a daily basis, no amount of exposure ever lessens the sheer weight of grief following such senseless tragedy. Our hearts are with those who mourn lost loved ones, and as always, we stand in solidarity with this community as we seek healing. While no amount of progress will ever undo the injuries sustained following this loss, we remain steadfast in our pursuit of a community free of violence where all people can thrive, and we will continue to support recovery in any way we can.” 

According to statistics provided by Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun violence prevention organization, nationally an average of 57 women are killed every month by an intimate partner; women in the U.S. are 21 times more likely to be killed by guns than women in other high-income countries; and “in more than half of mass shootings, the perpetrator shot a current or former intimate partner or family member as part of the rampage.”

Homicide trends in Colorado Springs seem to confirm Everytown’s statistics. Prior to the May 9 mass shooting, CSPD reported nine homicides so far in 2021. Of those, three of the victims were women. On Jan. 23, 35-year-old Ebonyneke Futrell was shot at the Thrive at Elevation Apartments on Monterey Road, and the investigation is ongoing. On Feb. 20, Dermot Blake shot and killed his wife, 30-year-old Tashiana Blake, at their home on Squawbush Ridge Grove. According to a CSPD news release, “The emergency call for service was placed by Dermot Blake who stated that he shot his wife.” Dermot Blake was subsequently charged for murder. On Feb. 27, CSPD officers found the body of 49-year-old Margie Crowe at the 3500 block of South Chelton Loop. Demetrius Martin has been charged with Crowe’s murder.

Sunday’s shooting is also part of a continuing trend of gun violence in Southeast. Data from CSPD showed that the 80910 and 80916 ZIP codes led the city in reports of “shots fired” in 2020. Of the nine reported homicides in 2021 prior to the May 9 shooting, five occurred in Southeast. On April 24, CSPD responded to a shooting that took place between two vehicles driving along South Union Boulevard. 

Colorado legislators have introduced a number of bills this session to address gun violence, including legislation that would create an Office of Gun Violence Prevention and to allow local governments to implement laws around gun ownership that are broader than state statutes. “True gun violence prevention requires that we start thinking bigger and more holistically,” said Sen. Rhonda Fields (D-SD42) in a news release. 

“Making top-down regulations without investing in grassroots education will only limit our policies’ effectiveness,” said Fields, who represents Aurora, which was targeted alongside the Southeast as recipients of $4 million in annual Transforming Safety grant funding for nonprofits that work to reduce gun violence. Funding was reduced by $1 million in 2020 due to COVID-related cuts. “We need to build broad public awareness that empowers communities to take action — protecting their loved ones in moments of crisis and implementing evidence-based initiatives that will interrupt cycles of violence and trauma.” 

Read an update to this story here.

News Reporter

Heidi Beedle is a former soldier, educator, activist, and animal welfare worker. She received a Bachelor’s in English from UCCS. She has worked as a freelance writer covering LGBTQ issues, nuclear disasters, cattle mutilations, and social movements.