Suspect in Mass Killings at Colorado Supermarket Is Mentally Competent, Judge Says

Suspect in Mass Killings at Colorado Supermarket Is Mentally Competent | ltc-a

A judge ruled on Friday that the man charged with fatally shooting 10 people at a supermarket in Boulder, Colo., in 2021 is mentally competent to stand trial, court records show, a reversal of a prior ruling.

Judge Ingrid S. Bakke of the 20th Judicial District of Colorado said in a 13-page court filing that treatment providers and mental health evaluators had found that the defendant, Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 24, was “currently competent to proceed” with a case that had unsettled Americans and once again raised anxieties over mass shootings in commonplace settings like grocery stores.

The ruling reversed one from December 2021, when Judge Bakke found, based on reviews from four doctors, that Mr. Alissa was incompetent to stand trial.

But in her ruling on Friday, Judge Bakke said that state mental health experts had evaluated him in August and determined he was competent, and that psychiatric medication given to Mr. Alissa had helped treat his schizophrenia.

Still, he is likely to “regress if he stops taking his medication,” the judge said.

A lawyer for Mr. Alissa did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment on Friday night.

Mr. Alissa told the court that if he were found to be competent and “is returned to jail that he would stop taking his medication,” the court filing states.

He appeared to bolster that claim after refusing to “take his medication during his brief stay at the Boulder County Jail while awaiting his appearance” for the hearing concerning his mental state, the filing states.

“Even under court order, the defendant has refused to take his medication unless there is the ability for that facility to physically force him to take his medication,” Judge Bakke said. “It is this court’s understanding the Boulder County Jail does not have the qualified staff and equipment to force the defendant to take his medication if he refuses.”

On March 22, Mr. Alissa walked into a King Soopers store with a military-style semiautomatic rifle and a pistol and opened fire, according to the authorities. Ten people were killed as shoppers and employees ran for cover. Mr. Alissa, who lived in Arvada, Colo., a nearby suburb, was charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder, which in Colorado carries a penalty of life imprisonment without parole.

According to the filing on Friday, Mr. Alissa has also “demonstrated a far improved capacity to elucidate his reasoning and decision-making.”

During one evaluation in August, Mr. Alissa was able to explain his “reasoning for purchasing the firearms, stating that he wanted to commit a mass shooting with an intention to ‘commit suicide by cop,’” the filing states.

One mental health expert who evaluated Mr. Alissa testified that the defendant did not have a mental disability or developmental disability that would prevent him from being able “to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding in order to assist in his defense.”

Another reason Mr. Alissa might have been found incompetent to stand trial in 2021 was that his lawyer, who was not identified in the filing, had told Mr. Alissa “not to answer questions” when being evaluated at a state hospital, making it “hard to tell if Defendant could not or simply would not share his reasoning with evaluators.”