BOULDER, Colo. – A judge ruled Friday that a man charged with killing 10 people at a Colorado supermarket last year is still mentally incompetent to stand trial, further delaying court proceedings in the case.
But the judge also said that assessment could change soon.
Experts at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo have said there is a substantial probability that Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 22, can be restored to competency within the “reasonable future” and remain competent by taking medications, Judge Ingrid Bakke said during a brief hearing. It is a prognosis she first mentioned in a March 11 scheduling order.
The prosecution of Alyssa has been on hold since December, when Bakke first ruled that he was mentally incompetent — unable to understand legal proceedings and work with his lawyers to defend himself.
Alissa is being treated at the state mental hospital and was not in court for Friday’s hearing. The judge set a July 21 hearing to again evaluate Alissa’s competency to stand trial.
Bakke's ruling came nearly a month after Boulder, the home of the University of Colorado, marked the first anniversary of the attack that killed workers, customers and a police officer who rushed inside the store.
Few details have been released about Alissa’s condition. Reports on his evaluations are not available to the public, but a court filing discussing one of the evaluations last year said he had been provisionally diagnosed with an unspecified mental health condition that limits his ability to “meaningfully converse with others.”
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 at the time a crime was committed.
After the hearing, District Attorney Michael Dougherty said the average time to restore someone to competency is six months. He declined to speculate on when Alissa, who as been at the state hospital for four months, may be considered competent.
Robert Olds, the uncle of one of the 10 people killed, front-end manager Rikki Olds, said Alissa has more rights than the victims. He remains fairly hopeful Alissa will go on trial but does not want to anticipate what will happen next because the legal process has been moving slowly.
“Eventually it will happen, I hope,” he said of a trial. “There is always that outside chance it won’t happen.”
Investigators have not released any information about why they believe Alissa launched the attack or why he may have targeted the supermarket. He lived in the nearby suburb of Arvada, where authorities say he passed a background check to legally buy the Ruger AR-556 pistol he allegedly used six days before the shooting.
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.
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 to 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 in February, with about half of those who worked there at the time of the shooting choosing to return.