The Boulder, Colorado, police officer killed while responding to a shooter at a grocery store was hailed as an "American hero" who "was willing to die to protect others," the president and his chief said Tuesday.
Officer Eric Talley, 51, was among the 10 people killed in the shooting at King Soopers in Boulder and the first to respond to the scene, authorities said.
Calls came into the police department around 2:30 p.m. local time Monday about shots in the area and "a possible person with a patrol rifle," Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold said.
Police work was a second career for Talley, and he got into the field because "he felt a higher calling," Herold told reporters Tuesday.
"I can tell that you he's a very kind man and he didn't have to go into policing," said the chief, who lives just three blocks away from the supermarket that was attacked on Monday.
"He loved this community and he's everything that policing deserves and needs. He cared about this community, he cared the Boulder Police Department and he cared about his family and he was willing to die to protect others."
President Joe Biden said Talley's actions were nothing short of heroic.
"When the moment to act came, Officer Talley did not hesitate in his duty, making the ultimate sacrifice in his effort to save lives," Biden said from the White House. "That’s the definition of an American hero."
Talley joined the Boulder Police Department in 2010.
The officer and his family were in Herold's office just two weeks ago to honor one of his sons, the chief revealed on Tuesday.
Another son had swallowed a quarter before his big brother jumped into action.
"Because Officer Talley taught his children CPR, one of his son’s was able to save the little boy’s life," Herold said.
Eric Talley had seven children and the youngest is 7 years old, his father, Homer Talley, said. "He loved his kids and his family more than anything," he said.
Talley's younger sister also paid tribute, describing his death as a "devastating loss."
“My heart is broken. I cannot explain how beautiful he was,” Kirstin Stillwell wrote on Twitter early Tuesday. “Fly high my sweet brother. You always wanted to be a pilot (damn color blindness). Soar.”
The suspected gunman, 21-year-old Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, was shot in the leg and arrested, officials said. A motive for Monday's attack was not immediately known, police said.
Alissa was charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder.
Herold said the investigation was complex but would take no less than five days to complete.
"Our hearts of this community go out to the victims of this horrific incident," Herold said.
Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement that he was grieving along with the entire state. He said Talley lost his life while working to save the lives of others and called the killings senseless.
“He was by all accounts one of the outstanding officers of the Boulder Police Department, and his life was cut far too short,” Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty said.
"These were people going about their day, doing their food shopping, and their lives were cut abruptly and tragically short by the shooter who is now in custody," Dougherty said.
Sen. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., said the state was once again in mourning. There have been several mass shootings in the state, including in 1999 at Columbine High School and in 2012 at an Aurora movie theater.
“Our state grieves tonight as we mourn 10 more Coloradans senselessly killed by gun violence — including police Officer Eric Talley," Hickenlooper said. "Our thoughts are with the victims' loved ones, and we are grateful to the front-line workers and first responders whose bravery saved lives."
CORRECTION (March 22, 2021, 7:27 a.m. ET): A previous version of this article misspelled the last name of the police officer who was killed. He was Eric Talley, not Tally.