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Mental state questioned in slaying

Defense given couple of months to assess in Colorado case by COLLEEN SLEVIN, BERNARD CONDON AND PATTY NIEBERG THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | March 26, 2021 at 4:19 a.m.
Tributes Thursday cover a police cruiser that was driven by slain officer Eric Talley in Boulder, Colo. (AP/David Zalubowski)

BOULDER, Colo. -- The suspect in the Colorado supermarket shooting appeared in court for the first time Thursday, and a defense attorney immediately asked that he receive a mental-health evaluation before the case proceeds.

Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 21, did not speak during the brief hearing except to say "yes" to a question from the judge, who advised him that he is charged with murder in the attack that killed 10 people, including a Boulder police officer. Alissa is also charged with attempted murder for allegedly shooting at another officer who was unhurt.

Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty said authorities planned to file more charges. He did not elaborate.

Alissa did not enter a plea, which will come later in the judicial process. He has been jailed without bail.

He entered court in a wheelchair, presumably because of a leg wound he suffered Monday in a gunbattle with police.

His attorney, public defender Kathryn Herold, provided no details about his health. At Herold's request, Alissa's next hearing will not be scheduled for two to three months to allow the defense to evaluate his mental state and evidence collected by investigators.

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"Our position is we cannot do anything until we are able to fully assess Mr. Alissa's mental illness," Herold said, adding that the defense cannot begin that assessment until it receives evidence from investigators.

A law enforcement official briefed on the shooting previously said the suspect's family told investigators they believed Alissa was suffering some type of mental illness, including delusions.

Relatives have described times when Alissa told them people were following or chasing him, which they said may have contributed to the violence, the official said. The official was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Alissa's legal team includes public defender Daniel King, who represented Colorado theater gunman James Holmes, as well as Robert Dear, who is accused of killing three people in a 2105 attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, two cases in which mental illness was a factor.

Depending on what they learn from investigators about Alissa's mental health, his lawyers could ask the court to order an examination by a psychiatrist or psychologist to determine whether he is competent to stand trial.

If defendants are unable to understand the proceedings and assist their lawyers, proceedings can be delayed to see if treatment, such as medication, can make them ready for trial.

A mentally ill defendant might eventually plead innocent by reason of insanity. It would be up to a jury to decide whether the defendant knew right from wrong at the time of the crime -- the state's legal definition of insanity.

During Thursday's court proceedings, five deputies with black bands of mourning across their badges stood close by. Boulder police tweeted Thursday that they used the handcuffs of the slain officer, Eric Talley, to take the suspect from a hospital to jail earlier this week -- and told him so.

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.

In July 2019, Alissa wrote that his phone was being hacked by "racist islamophobic people." At another point, he wrote that his old high school had probably gotten access to his phone, asking Facebook followers for advice on how to stop it.

Alissa was convicted in 2018 of assaulting a fellow high school student, according to police documents. A former classmate said he was kicked off the wrestling team after yelling he would kill everyone after a loss in a practice match.

Thursday's court appearance was the first time Alissa appeared in public since his arrest Monday in the King Soopers supermarket. He was last seen handcuffed and being led out of the store by police. He had removed all his clothing except his shorts before being taken into custody.

According to two law enforcement officials, Alissa was born in Syria in 1999, emigrated to the U.S. as a toddler and later became a U.S. citizen.

Information for this article was contributed by Bernard Condon, Jim Anderson, Michael Balsamo, Colleen Long and staff members of The Associated Press.

A sign listing mass shootings in Colorado hangs on the temporary fence put up around the parking lot of a King Soopers grocery store Thursday, March 25, 2021, in Boulder, Colo. Ten people were killed in a mass shooting at the supermarket earlier in the week. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
A sign listing mass shootings in Colorado hangs on the temporary fence put up around the parking lot of a King Soopers grocery store Thursday, March 25, 2021, in Boulder, Colo. Ten people were killed in a mass shooting at the supermarket earlier in the week. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
An investigator from the FBI collects evidence near a sports-utility vehicle with a windshield and side window damaged by gunfire sitting in the parking lot of a King Soopers grocery store Thursday, March 25, 2021, in Boulder, Colo. Ten people were killed in a mass shooting at the supermarket on Monday. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
An investigator from the FBI collects evidence near a sports-utility vehicle with a windshield and side window damaged by gunfire sitting in the parking lot of a King Soopers grocery store Thursday, March 25, 2021, in Boulder, Colo. Ten people were killed in a mass shooting at the supermarket on Monday. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Rings inscribed with the names of the victims hang on the temporary fence put up around the parking lot of a King Soopers grocery store Thursday, March 25, 2021, in Boulder, Colo. Ten people were killed in a mass shooting at the supermarket on Monday. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Rings inscribed with the names of the victims hang on the temporary fence put up around the parking lot of a King Soopers grocery store Thursday, March 25, 2021, in Boulder, Colo. Ten people were killed in a mass shooting at the supermarket on Monday. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Mourners walk along the temporary fence put up around the parking lot of a King Soopers grocery store where a mass shooting took place earlier in the week Thursday, March 25, 2021, in Boulder, Colo.  (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Mourners walk along the temporary fence put up around the parking lot of a King Soopers grocery store where a mass shooting took place earlier in the week Thursday, March 25, 2021, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Clint Cooper places a tribute to the victims amid the crosses put up along the temporary fence around the parking lot of a King Soopers grocery store Thursday, March 25, 2021, in Boulder, Colo. Ten people were killed in a mass shooting at the supermarket on Monday. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Clint Cooper places a tribute to the victims amid the crosses put up along the temporary fence around the parking lot of a King Soopers grocery store Thursday, March 25, 2021, in Boulder, Colo. Ten people were killed in a mass shooting at the supermarket on Monday. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Mourners walk along the temporary fence put up around the parking lot of a King Soopers grocery store where a mass shooting took place earlier in the week, in Boulder, Colo., Thursday, March 25, 2021.  (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Mourners walk along the temporary fence put up around the parking lot of a King Soopers grocery store where a mass shooting took place earlier in the week, in Boulder, Colo., Thursday, March 25, 2021. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Amber Van Brocklin looks at the crosses displayed along a temporary fence set up around the parking lot of a King Soopers grocery store where a mass shooting took place earlier in the week, Thursday, March 25, 2021, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Amber Van Brocklin looks at the crosses displayed along a temporary fence set up around the parking lot of a King Soopers grocery store where a mass shooting took place earlier in the week, Thursday, March 25, 2021, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 21, appears before Boulder District Court Judge Thomas Mulvahill at the Boulder County Justice Center in Boulder, Colo. on Thursday, March 25, 2021. Three days after he was led away in handcuffs from a Boulder supermarket where 10 people were fatally shot, Alissa appeared in court for the first time and his defense lawyer asked for a mental health assessment "to address his mental illness."  (Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via AP, Pool)
Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 21, appears before Boulder District Court Judge Thomas Mulvahill at the Boulder County Justice Center in Boulder, Colo. on Thursday, March 25, 2021. Three days after he was led away in handcuffs from a Boulder supermarket where 10 people were fatally shot, Alissa appeared in court for the first time and his defense lawyer asked for a mental health assessment "to address his mental illness." (Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via AP, Pool)
Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 21, appears before Boulder District Court Judge Thomas Mulvahill at the Boulder County Justice Center in Boulder, Colo. on Thursday, March 25, 2021. Three days after he was led away in handcuffs from a Boulder supermarket where 10 people were fatally shot, Alissa appeared in court for the first time and his defense lawyer asked for a mental health assessment "to address his mental illness."  (Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via AP, Pool)
Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 21, appears before Boulder District Court Judge Thomas Mulvahill at the Boulder County Justice Center in Boulder, Colo. on Thursday, March 25, 2021. Three days after he was led away in handcuffs from a Boulder supermarket where 10 people were fatally shot, Alissa appeared in court for the first time and his defense lawyer asked for a mental health assessment "to address his mental illness." (Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via AP, Pool)
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