Judge: Colorado Supermarket Shooting Suspect Unfit for Trial

The Associated Press
By The Associated Press
January 28, 2023US News
Judge: Colorado Supermarket Shooting Suspect Unfit for Trial
Tributes cover the temporary fence around the King Soopers grocery store in which 10 people died in a mass shooting in late March in Boulder, Colo., on April 23, 2021. (David Zalubowski/AP Photo)

BOULDER, Colo.—A man charged with killing 10 people at a Colorado supermarket nearly two years ago remains mentally incompetent to stand trial, a judge said Friday.

Court proceedings against Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 23, have been paused for more than a year after Judge Ingrid Bakke first found him to be mentally incompetent in December 2021 and sent him to the state mental hospital for treatment.

Prosecutors revealed Friday that experts at the hospital have found that Alissa is demonstrating symptoms of schizophrenia and the district attorney’s office wants to pick an expert to perform a “forensic neuropsychological assessment.” After the brief hearing in Boulder, District Attorney Michael Dougherty said part of the purpose of the outside assessment would be to determine if Alissa’s symptoms are consistent with a mental health disorder, but he would not elaborate on Alissa’s condition.

Alissa’s attorney, Kathryn Herold, objected to the forensic assessment, so Bakke delayed a decision on whether to allow it for at least a month, giving both sides time to make their arguments in writing.

Bakke said the latest report from the hospital finding Alissa incompetent also said he has a “reasonable likelihood” of reaching competency, an outlook also expressed in previous reports.

She didn’t elaborate about the report, which, like previous evaluations, is not publicly available.

Concerns about Alissa’s mental health were raised by his defense immediately after the March 2021 shooting.

Court documents responding to one of his evaluations in 2021 said he was provisionally diagnosed with an unspecified mental health condition limiting his ability to “meaningfully converse with others.”

Alissa was not in the courtroom Friday. He is charged with murder and multiple attempted murder counts for endangering the lives of 26 other people. He has not been asked yet to enter a plea and his lawyers have not commented about the allegations.

These brief hearings are held periodically to check in on whether doctors believe Alissa can understand legal proceedings and work with his lawyers to defend himself. Competency is a different legal issue than a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, which involves whether someone’s mental health prevented them from understanding right from wrong when a crime was committed.

Alissa is accused of opening fire outside and inside a King Soopers store in the college town of Boulder, killing customers, workers, and a police officer who rushed in to try to stop the attack. Alissa, who lived in the nearby suburb of Arvada, surrendered after another officer shot and wounded him, authorities said.

Investigators have not revealed a possible motive.