Boulder King Soopers shooting: Judge rules medical staff will decide whether alleged shooter gets another psych evaluation

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Flowers, signs and mementos hang along a fence outside a King Supers grocery store in Boulder on Wednesday, March 24, 2021. At least 10 people, including a Boulder Police officer, were killed there Monday in a shooting.

Prosecutors cannot bring in their own neuropsychological expert to evaluate the accused King Soopers mass shooter to determine whether he’s actually mentally ill, a Boulder judge has ruled.

Judge Ingrid Bakke said in a ruling that prosecutors, defense attorneys and even, she, herself, as chief judge in the 20th Judicial District, lack the power to order any treatment or evaluation of the defendant. 

Those decisions, at the moment, lie solely with the staffers at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo, she said.

Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 23, faces more than 100 criminal charges for the March 2021 mass shooting that killed 10 people at the grocery store in south Boulder. He was arrested at the scene.

Later that year, after he sat in jail for several months, Alissa was found mentally incompetent to proceed to assist in his own defense. He was transferred to the state mental health hospital, where he has remained in the care of doctors since early 2022. At the time, experts, along with Bakke, said they eventually expected him to be restored to competency.

But as time has drawn on and prosecutors began receiving regular reports from the state hospital staffers about his condition, they have started to raise concerns that Alissa is voluntarily not participating in his own recovery and that he could be feigning his condition. 

His public defenders say that doctors agree he has schizophrenia and that prosecutors should not be allowed to order around his treatment.

Doctors at the state mental health hospital received a request from prosecutors that Alissa get a neuropsychological evaluation to figure out why or whether he is progressing under the care there. 

The state hospital told prosecutors they didn’t have anyone on staff qualified to do that type of an evaluation. Prosecutors offered to find someone for them. Defense attorneys objected, saying it was a constitutional violation for their client to get evaluated and treated by doctors chosen by prosecutors. They also said it would result in the same outcome because Alissa is severely mentally ill.

The judge agreed it wasn’t within the power of prosecutors to pick and choose treatment of someone hospitalized at the state mental hospital, but she did say that Alissa could undergo such an evaluation if state doctors there thought it would be a good idea.

In a statement, Boulder District Attorney Michael Dougherty said he’s been in contact with the victims about this recent development.

“We will continue to pursue every avenue to move this case forward,” he said.