BOULDER, Colo. (KDVR) — A judge has ruled the gunman accused of shooting and killing 10 people at a Boulder King Soopers in March is incompetent to stand trial.
Ahmad Alissa is facing a total of 10 first-degree murder charges, 15 first-degree attempted murder charges, and 11 first-degree attempted murder charges of persons who are law enforcement.
On Friday, 20th Judicial District Attorney Michael Dougherty said the suspect in this case will be treated at a state hospital and re-evaluated.
“I’m confident that he’ll be restored to competency” through treatment and medication, Dougherty said, “to face responsibility for the crimes he committed.”
The suspect’s attorney raised the question about his competency on Sept. 1. Since then, the suspect has been evaluated by four doctors, all of whom found him incompetent to stand trial at this time, Dougherty said.
“So we have determined the best course of action is to have him sent to the state hospital in Pueblo, where he can be medicated and treated and brought back to restoration so that he can stand trial,” Dougherty added.
His progress will be checked every 30 days.
The suspect could potentially face trial at a future date if it is determined he is mentally competent. The next hearing for the case is set to take place on March 15.
What does incompetency mean?
In October, doctors said the suspect was not competent to stand trial because of limits to his “ability to meaningfully converse with others.”
Additionally, doctors cited “superficial responses” to hypothetical legal situations indicate a “passive approach to his defense” and “potential overreliance on his attorneys.”
Dougherty did not disclose why the experts determined that the suspect is not competent. Defense attorney Kathryn Herold said Friday her client has a “serious” mental illness but did not provide more details.
Dougherty said the suspect was evaluated by a defense expert, two doctors from the state hospital and, most recently, a doctor whom prosecutors helped select. He said the doctors are trained to recognize when someone is feigning symptoms of mental illness.
Dougherty also explained that competency is different from when a suspect pleads insanity or a mental health defect. He described competency as whether the suspect “has a rational understanding of the proceedings so he can communicate with his attorneys.”
The suspect’s condition deteriorated during the time he’s been held in jail, and he needs treatment to restore competency to face trial, Dougherty said.
The district attorney said he emphasized that this latest update in the case is a delay, “but this case is not over.”
Reaction from King Soopers employee
Logan Smith was a Starbucks employee inside the Boulder King Soopers. He doesn’t believe the incompetency argument is accurate.
“My ultimate reaction is: I 100% believe that he was competent. He has the knowledge, he knew what he was doing,” Smith said. “The gunman had visited the store about 1 to 2 times a week, for weeks before the shooting. He was getting a view on the store. He was planning it out, I feel like.”
Smith continued, “I won’t wake up one day and realize this was just a dream. It was a reality that happened.”
Competency issue delays another shooting trial
Competency issues have also delayed the prosecution of a man accused of killing three people in a 2015 attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs.
Robert Dear was repeatedly found incompetent to proceed in his state case. Federal prosecutors then charged him in 2019, but the competency issue has continued to delay the case in federal court.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.