BOULDER, Colo (KDVR) — Looking at Denny Stong’s senior photos, you will notice a seemingly rough exterior. But friends say behind the motorcycle and leather jacket, he was one of the sweetest young men you will ever meet.
“I think behind the leather jacket and the roughness, was really, a really sweet young man,” said Rose Lupinacci, an assistant principal at Fairview High School, where Stong graduated in 2019.
Stong worked at the King Soopers supermarket in Boulder and was frequently seen in the self-checkout line.
“He would always make a point to say hi,” said Lupinacci. “A lot of times, students may not want to see their assistant principal outside of school, but Denny made a point to say hi.”
According to witnesses, Stong was inside the store when a gunman entered Monday and started shooting.
“I believe he had a knife that he had on him to cut the assailant, and that’s why he was bleeding,” said his friend Logan Smith. “He’s a hero.”
An affidavit also said the suspect, Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, had been struck by a bullet that passed through his leg.
Lupinacci said reports of Stong trying to stop the gunman are exactly what she’d expect from him.
“Denny would be the kid that would go… he wouldn’t run away from shots. He’d go toward them. And he’d try to take out the guy, or God, yes, he would try to help people,” Lupinacci said.
Lisa Siciliano, who took his senior photos, said she was at the King Soopers when the shooting happened and immediately thought of Stong, hoping he wasn’t hurt.
“I heard the shots because I was in the parking lot,” she said. “The very first face that came to my mind was his face, and I was like, ‘Oh God, no, I really hope it’s not him.’”
The 20-year-old Stong was the youngest of 10 people killed in the shooting.
An avid model plane builder and an active member of the Boulder Aeromodeling Society, Stong’s ultimate goal was to become a pilot, according to friends.
“We at the club are shocked and deeply saddened to learn of his passing as well as all of the innocent individuals who perished yesterday,” BAS President Aidan Sesnic said. “It’s shocking to see events like this so close to home.”