On Monday 22nd March, 21 year-old Ahmad Alissa entered a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado and began shooting indiscriminately and killed at least 10 people, one of whom was a police officer, but news has just begun to surface that he was actually a BJJ competitor. Eagle-eyed readers will likely have recognized the NAGA gold medals around his neck in a photo that was used by several media outlets reporting on the devastating events. Some news outlets even began to make reference to his now-deleted Facebook account which made reference to some of his interests, including Wrestling and MMA.
1) BREAKING: #BoulderColorado shooting suspect Ahmad Alissa 21 being charged w 10 counts 1st degree murder. No mention of it being investigated as terror. On social media, Alissa says he was born in Syria & came to US in 2002; studying comp sci & interested in wrestling/MMA. pic.twitter.com/YoaSBgqszW
— Rita Katz (@Rita_Katz) March 23, 2021
Alissa was born in Syria originally but did not spend much of his life there as he moved to the US in 2002, with images on his social media accounts indicating that he had a background in wrestling at one point. Smoothcomp records all competitors entering a tournament hosted on it’s site, which includes all editions of NAGA events and as such, Alissa has a profile on the site that shows exactly where and when those medals were won.
Alissa appears to have won gold twice in the BJJ white belt and no gi novice categories at NAGA Colorado Grappling Championship, almost two years before he became the shooting suspect that the world now knows him as. That same profile also shows that he represented Carlson Gracie team when competing at the tournament and logically would have spent some time training there in order to do so.
The news in itself is devastating, as is any incidence of needless violence, and of course nobody would want the BJJ community to be associated with it. Normally, grappling is situated firmly on the opposite side of the spectrum as an art form that has been shown to improve officer outcomes when they train in it. This wouldn’t be the first time that practitioners of the martial art have shown that training in it doesn’t make you any less likely to be involved in criminal activity, but hopefully this can be one of the last.