By Colleen Slevin, The Associated Press
A Colorado man charged with killing 10 people at a Boulder supermarket in 2021 is competent to proceed toward a trial, prosecutors said Wednesday.
The district attorney’s office announced that the latest report from experts at the state mental hospital concluded that Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa no longer has a mental or developmental disability that prevents him from helping in his defense and can now participate in the court case against him.
The hospital reports on Alissa are not public under Colorado law and the district attorney’s office did not release any specific details about his condition.
A judge still must accept the hospital’s conclusion in order for criminal proceedings, on hold for over a year and a half, to resume, it said.
Earlier this year, defense lawyers confirmed Alissa has schizophrenia, a mental disorder which causes people to have trouble understanding reality.
Being deemed mentally competent does not mean Alissa has been cured, just that experts think he is able to understand the proceedings and able to consult with his lawyers about his case, helping them defend him.
The March 22, 2021, attack at a King Soopers grocery shocked a state that has seen its share of mass shootings, including the 1999 Columbine High School massacre and the 2012 Aurora movie theater shooting. The mass shooting killed a police officer, shoppers and several store employees at the supermarket in Boulder.
Boulder police Officer Eric Talley, a 51-year-old father of seven, was shot and killed while rushing into the store with an initial team of police officers. In addition, Rikki Olds, Denny Stong, Neven Stanisic, Tralona Bartkowiak, Teri Leiker, Suzanne Fountain, Kevin Mahoney, Lynn Murray and Jody Waters were killed inside and outside the supermarket.
The remodeled King Soopers reopened last year with about half of those who worked there at the time of the shooting choosing to return.
Rikki Olds’ uncle, Robert Olds, who has faithfully attended court hearings in the case, said he and his mother Jeanette Olds, who raised her, learned the news about Alissa on Friday.
“My mom and I are overjoyed that after two-and-a-half years since the senseless murder of Rikki and nine others that there will be movement toward justice,” said Olds, who said he regretted that the death penalty was no longer allowed in Colorado.
The court case has been on hold since December 2021 when a judge first ruled that Alissa was mentally incompetent and sent him to the state hospital for treatment.
Staff at the hospital continued to find he was incompetent but details about exactly why were not made public. District Attorney Michael Dougherty alleged that Alissa was refusing to participate in some of his treatment, including talking about the shooting. After he pressed for a prosecution expert to be able evaluate Alissa, defense attorneys revealed Alissa’s diagnosis in court filings in February and provided the most information about his mental state so far.
One expert found he was “approaching catatonia” before being moved to the state hospital, the defense said. His lawyers also said that he had symptoms that limit his ability to interact with others which were resistant to being treated with medication.
“He speaks in repetitive non-responsive answers and cannot tolerate contact with others for more than a very brief period of time,” they said at the time.
Alissa is being represented by public defenders who do not comment to the media on their cases.
Dougherty’s office said it has asked a judge to rule that Alissa is competent and schedule an evidentiary hearing as soon as possible to determine if the case will proceed to a trial.
“Our office will continue fighting for justice in this case,” Dougherty said.
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Authorities have never disclosed a motive for the shooting and not much is known about what led Alissa to carry out the killings. His family immigrated from Syria, he became a U.S. citizen and they lived in a middle-class neighborhood in a Denver suburb, where the family also had a restaurant.
The only known problems prior to the shooting was an incident in high school in 2018 when he was convicted of assaulting a fellow high school student, according to police documents. A former classmate also told The Associated Press he was kicked off the wrestling team after yelling he would kill everyone following a loss in a practice match.
Screenshots of what was believed to be Alissa’s Facebook page hint of fears that he was secretly being tracked on his phone and reflect his interest in Islamic teachings, immigration and martial arts. The screenshots and dozens of postings were captured by the online extremist tracking firm SITE Intelligence Group.
Alissa is charged with murder and multiple attempted murder counts for also 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.