Man accused of killing 10 at King Soopers was ‘sane’ on the day of the 2021 Boulder shooting, evaluators say

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
The front windows are smashed at a King Soopers grocery store on Table Mesa Road in Boulder, on Monday, March 22, 2021, after police responded to shooting where 10 people, including a Boulder Police officer, died.

The man who reportedly shot and killed 10 people at a Boulder King Soopers store in March 2021 was found to be sane on the day of the shooting, prosecutors said in court on Tuesday.

The revelation will likely be a key detail at Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa’s upcoming criminal trial. It will be touted by prosecutors, while defense attorneys will try to raise skepticism among jurors about the finding and state evaluators who made the determination. 

The 25-year-old has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. His public defenders said they have hired an expert witness who will testify that the shooting wouldn’t have happened if Alissa didn’t have untreated and severe schizophrenia, which they said included hallucinations and psychosis.

Families of the victims on Tuesday asked the judge to halt further delays of Alissa's trial. 

He was initially found incompetent to stand trial. It took two years for a judge to rule the trial could go forward, in October 2023, and a date was set for August. On Tuesday, defense attorneys asked the judge to move it to March 2025.

“It’s been frustrating to wait for years for this to happen,” said Ellen Mahoney, whose husband, Kevin, was gunned down in the parking lot at the store after loading his car with groceries. “All these delays have had the unfortunate effect of wearing us down. This doesn’t feel good and doesn’t respect our needs. The delays don’t respect our pain.”

On Tuesday, Boulder Judge Ingrid Bakke agreed to a three-week delay — not the eight months the defense team requested. The trial is now set to start Sept. 9, 2024.

“I am trying to get this decision right,” the judge said, acknowledging that the new schedule disrupts a planned vacation for Kathryn Herold, the lead public defender on the case. “I respect you have time off. We all need time off… but your August just opened up.”

At the hearing in a Boulder courtroom, Alissa sat in leg chains and handcuffs in an orange and white striped jumpsuit. 

He leaned over to speak to his attorneys a few times. He seemed alert, drank a cup of water with his handcuffs on, and listened to everyone speaking to the judge, including the victims. 

He has been hospitalized at the Colorado Mental Health Hospital in Pueblo since December 2021 and has been forcibly medicated for schizophrenia and a handful of other mental health conditions. 

A report written by staff doctors at the mental health hospital, and disclosed by attorneys at Tuesday’s hearing, determined that Alissa remained competent to stand trial and assist in his own defense as long as he is medicated. 

They also concluded that he was sane on the day of the shooting. Generally speaking, when doctors make these findings, they gather evidence from family and other sources about his mental health condition on the day of the shooting. Neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys would elaborate on the specific reasoning behind the finding of sanity or what else Alissa’s most recent report said, and his medical records have been sealed from the public.

“To stand trial, both sides have indicated that they’re bringing in outside experts in addition to the doctors from the state hospital to review the finding that he was sane on that day and present the evidence to the jury,” said Boulder District Attorney Michael Dougherty. “So we’ll have to work through the issues and that’s part of us proving that he was sane at the time of the offense.”

Authorities said on March 22, 2021, Alissa brought guns to the South Boulder grocery store and shot people in the parking lot and inside the store. He also fatally shot a Boulder police officer who was the first to respond to the 911 calls.

The trial for Alissa has been delayed by his defense attorneys’ claims that he was incompetent to proceed to trial for years. 

Alissa was shot in the leg by police inside the grocery store and spent time in the Boulder jail awaiting court proceedings where, defense attorneys say, his mental health deteriorated to the point that he couldn’t assist in his own defense.

Erika Mahoney, the daughter of Kevin Mahoney, also spoke to the judge in the courtroom Tuesday. Afterward, she said it was difficult to be in the same room as the alleged shooter, but she was relieved the trial would be concluded before the end of this year.

“There's something that just felt empowering in that moment to get up there and to show my face and to share our side of the story,” she said. “It's been a long time we've been waiting for this.”