Editor’s note: The article below has been updated to clarify details about the kind of weapons that were found at the scene.
A judge Tuesday ordered a competency evaluation for the man charged in the shooting deaths of 10 people in a mass shooting at a Boulder King Soopers.
The hearing came after the suspect’s public defenders last week filed a sealed motion expressing their doubts about the man’s ability to stand trial.
Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 22, appeared before Twentieth Judicial District Chief Judge Ingrid Bakke on Tuesday. Alissa was initially scheduled for a preliminary hearing to determine if there was enough evidence for the case to move forward and continue to hold him without bond. Bakke vacated the original hearing and replaced it with an advisement hearing.
Bakke said the court couldn’t make a preliminary finding of incompetency, but the court will order a competency evaluation. She said it must be completed within 21 days at the Boulder County Jail.
The Boulder County District Attorney’s Office said late Tuesday that the court added a status conference for competency review at 3 p.m. Sept. 30. This hearing will give the court an opportunity to review and discuss the results of the competency evaluation.
If Alissa is found competent, he will be scheduled for proof evident presumption great and preliminary hearings for 1 p.m. Oct. 19. Competency is defined as a defendant having a rational understanding of the court proceedings and being able to assist in their own defense.
Alissa has been charged in connection with a mass shooting March 22 at the Table Mesa King Soopers that left 10 people, including a Boulder police officer, dead. Alissa faces 10 counts of first-degree murder, 47 counts of attempted first-degree murder, one count of first-degree assault, 10 counts of felony possession of a prohibited large capacity magazine and 47 crime of violence sentence enhancers.
Public defenders early this month said Alissa may be mentally incompetent to participate in the court process, the Denver Post reported. Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty argued that Alissa’s mental state was not a barrier to the previously scheduled preliminary hearing, the Post reported. Dougherty also questioned the timing of the issue being brought before the court by public defenders just six days before the initially scheduled hearing.
In the courtroom Tuesday, roughly two dozen family members of the victims sat on one side of the room. Alissa was led into the courtroom by police Tuesday in an orange and white striped jump suit. He sat beside public defender Daniel King.
King asked that the evaluation take place at the state hospital in Pueblo, because he believed that facility had the capacity for a more thorough exam, but Dougherty asked for it to take place at the Boulder County Jail and that the process be expedited.
During the hearing Tuesday, Dougherty said there were 37 named victims in court or watching the hearing online. He said they had been waiting on the preliminary hearing to take place and that it was tough on them for it to be vacated.
“To say that caused them a great deal of frustration would be an understatement,” Dougherty said.
King said that no disrespect was meant toward the families of the victims.
“We weren’t done with the process and didn’t have an answer,” King said.
King added that he thinks it is “unlikely” that Alissa will be found competent. King said the defense could challenge the results and ask for another evaluation. The results of the evaluation will be shared with both the defense and prosecution. A second evaluation would be permitted under law. The defense has already been processing an evaluation of Alissa’s mental health, but Dougherty said that it wouldn’t count as one of the potentially two mental health evaluations.
In a news conference following the hearing, Dougherty said he met with the families of victims following the court proceeding. He asked for the public to continue to “lift up and honor the victims.”
“This case is going to be a long journey and it’s going to take quite some time,” Dougherty said. “By quite some time, I mean 18 to 24 months.”
According to an affidavit, Boulder police at 2:40 p.m. March 22 received a call reporting an armed man at the King Soopers at 3600 Table Mesa. It was reported that a man had shot someone inside a vehicle in the store’s parking lot and that he was now inside the store.
Officer Eric Talley, the first officer to arrive on scene, was fatally shot. Another Boulder police officer, Richard Steidell, exchanged fire with the suspect, who was later identified as Alissa.
Alissa later surrendered to police. Alissa sustained a “through and through” gunshot wound to the leg and was taken to a hospital before his arrest.
A Ruger AR-556, a handgun and tactical body armor were found at the scene. The Daily Camera reported that an AR-556 is legally classified as a pistol, but would have fallen under Boulder’s assault weapon ban had Alissa tried to buy it in Boulder before the ban was overturned.
The ten people killed in the shooting were Eric Talley, 51; Denny Stong, 20; Neven Stanisic, 23; Rikki Olds, 25; Tralona Bartkowiak, 49;Teri Leiker, 51;Suzanne Fountain, 59; Kevin Mahoney, 61;Lynn Murray, 62; and Jody Waters, 65.
“I want to see the case move forward as quickly as it can,” Dougherty said. “The judge did what she had to do today.”