BOULDER, Colo. — The youngest victim in the King Soopers shooting wore a Santa hat to school every December and carried a speaker down the halls of his school between classes, according to his former teacher who shared how excited Denny Stong was to land his job at the store.
"It was December of his senior year, after weeks of helping him complete applications, colleagues and I celebrated him being offered a position at King Soopers," said Amy Nelson, who taught Stong for three years. “I wish I could describe to you how excited he was to share the good news to join that role in the community.”
Knowing that he worked at the store when news of the shooting came out, Nelson said her mind went to Stong immediately.
“On Monday night I tweeted, ‘I'm literally terrified to learn the other nine names,’ and my friend and colleague called me Tuesday morning to tell me the news. Denny was one of the names.”
She shared fond memories of Stong from her years of teaching him at Fairview High School in Boulder.
“I thought about the Santa hat he wore every day of December every year I taught him," she said. "The speaker he carried down the halls during passing periods with his old soul or holiday music. I thought about how ornery he was and how he always kept me on my toes."
She recalled how colleagues said their favorite part of visiting the store on Table Mesa Drive was running into Stong.
Isabella Rose attended school with Stong and said he always positive and that everyone knew him.
“He was that person who was friends with everybody,” said Isabella Rose, who attended Fairview High School with 20-year-old Denny Stong. “I feel like everybody knew who he was.”
“When I realized it was him, I was really devastated because I just feel like he did so much,” Rose said. “I’m surprised, but at the same time, I’m not because it happens so frequently.”
Stong listed planes, bikes and motorcycles as some of his interests on his Facebook page, and NBC reports that he updated his Facebook profile to say “I can’t say home, I’m a Grocery Store Worker” in an apparent nod to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was remembering he was a person who was spreading a lot of positivity, every interaction I ever had with him was always really positive,” Rose said.
Ten people died in the mass shooting, including one Boulder Police officer. A suspect is in custody, and police have few details about what – if anything – prompted this tragedy.
Other victims include a member of Colorado’s fashion community, an actress who had performed at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, and the owner of a popular local business.
Back in 2018, Rose said she remembers how Fairview High School staged a walkout for another mass shooting – the one at Parkland High School in Florida.
“It was in protest of gun violence after the big school shooting in Florida happened,” she said. “I was remembering how huge that walkout was, and for something to happen just a few blocks away … that was just really, I don’t know, surreal.”
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