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Boulder King Soopers shooting suspect competent to stand trial

Posted: 5:31 PM, Oct 06, 2023
Updated: 2023-10-07 19:14:52-04
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BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. — The suspect in the Boulder King Soopers mass shooting has been deemed competent to stand trial.

In a 13-page court filing signed Friday, Boulder District Court Judge Ingrid S. Bakke ruled the Court “shall resume the criminal proceedings in this matter” after the majority of the evidence presented during the most recent restoration hearing found the suspect had been restored to competency.

The families of the victims of the mass shooting have been waiting for over two-and-a-half years for suspect Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa to go to trial after back-and-forth legal proceedings on whether the suspect was mentally competent.

The 24-year-old is accused of killing 10 people at a Boulder King Soopers supermarket in March 2021. He faces a total of 115 criminal counts, including 10 counts of first-degree murder. In May 2021, eight additional counts of attempted murder were filed in the case.

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Alissa was found mentally competent by experts in late August, but his defense attorney asked for the determination to be debated in court and a judge needed to accept the state's conclusion that the suspect was competent for court proceedings to move forward.

The defense claimed the last eight evaluations, where Alissa was deemed incompetent, should be key in the decision-making process.

A restoration hearing began last week where the suspect was dressed in an orange and white-striped jumpsuit, and glanced around the courtroom consistently throughout the day.

The prosecution called Dr. Julie Gallagher, who worked in state hospital settings, for her expertise surrounding the legal questions involved with a person's mental state during the commission of a crime.

Dr. Gallagher was contacted by the Boulder County DA's office after the defendant was found incompetent to stand trial and had been in the Colorado Mental Health Hospital in Pueblo.

In evaluating the suspect's competency evaluations and medical records, Dr. Gallagher found evidence that supported the claim that the defendant suffered schizophrenia. Medications taken at the state mental hospital caused side effects to the defendant and a new medication was recommended in October 2022.

While on those meds, Alissa reportedly showed improvement but it was still not enough for him to be considered mentally competent. When the suspected shooter refused those medications earlier this year, his mental health reportedly began a decline but a court order in March allowed the hospital to give a new round of medications. His condition then began to improve, Dr. Gallagher said, adding this was a "significant turning point" in his treatment.

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In Friday's ruling, the court added: "though Defendant is currently competent to proceed, all of his treatment providers and evaluators agree that his competency remains tenuous and that he is likely to rapidly decompensate and regress if he stops taking his medication. The Court takes particular note of the fact that, in June 2023, Defendant specifically said that if he were found to be competent and is returned to jail that he would stop taking his medication."

The court also noted that Alissa, while at the Boulder County Jail for the restoration hearings, refused to take the medications. Concerned with the fact that "the Boulder County Jail does not have the qualified staff and equipment to force the Defendant to take his medication if he refuses," the judge urged the suspect be housed at the Colorado Mental Health Hospital in Pueblo, but acknowledged it didn't have the authority to do so.

"Given the gravity of this case and the looming prediction made by Dr. Gallagher, that ultimately the Defendant may not be restorable if he bounces back and forth between CMHIP and the jail—such a result would be an injustice to everyone who has been impacted by this case," the court ruling read.

Following the court's decision, Denver7 spoke with former King Soopers employee, Chelsea Krasawski, who was working in the deli the day of the shooting.

"There aren't enough words for how complicated it all is," said Krasawski. "This whole court thing has made me so frustrated because it it feels never-ending."

Krasawski said she's unsure of what justice will look like.

Boulder King Soopers shooting suspect competent to stand trial

"I'm not entirely sure, really. I guess what outcome in terms of sentencing and things what that would look like, because I do feel that he needs to be able to be treated," she said.

She said the tragic memories of that day and the loss of her friends is still impacting her nearly three years later.

"It's still something that comes up every day," she said. "I hope that as things move forward, that the families who were directly affected find closure."

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Nov. 14 at 9 a.m.

The remodeled King Soopers reopened last year. About half of those who worked there previously chose to return.

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