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Boulder shooting suspect makes first court appearance, defense requests mental health evaluation

Boulder shooting King Soopers
Posted at 7:55 AM, Mar 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-25 12:21:56-04

DENVER — In a short first appearance Thursday morning, lawyers for the suspect in the mass shooting in Boulder Monday said they would need to assess his mental health before another hearing takes place.

Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, the 21-year-old suspect in the shooting, made his first appearance Thursday in Boulder County District Court. He was pushed into the court in a wheelchair. He was wearing a white mask over his beard and looked around the courtroom throughout the hearing.

Judge Thomas Mulvahill presided over the hearing, which began at 8:15 a.m. local time. He started by advising the suspect of his rights as a defendant. When asked if he understood his rights, the suspect said "yes" — the only words he stated during the hearing.

Mulvahill said 11 charges were filed against the suspect — 10 counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder. District Attorney Michael Dougherty confirmed the suspect had been formally charged while speaking with reporters after the hearing and noted the attempted murder charge stemmed from an alleged attempt to kill a police officer who had responded to the scene.

The suspect's attorney, Colorado Public Defender Kathryn Herold, asked for a status conference before the proof evident, presumption great hearing and preliminary hearing to evaluate the suspect's mental health.

"We cannot begin to assess the nature and depths of Mr. Alissa's mental illness until we have the discovery from the government," she said.

District Attorney Michael Dougherty did not object but added that he expects to file additional charges in the next few weeks. He didn't expand on that statement but said he'd provide more information once the crime scene processing was complete, which would likely be in the coming days.

Mulvahill said the status conference would be set in the next 60 to 90 days.

After the hearing, Dougherty added that it's too early to comment on an insanity defense or if the suspect is unfit to stand trial.

He said the suspect is being held without bond and without the possibility of release.

He said the defense has asked for a status conference, which will be the next step in the case.

Following that, the suspect would be entitled to a proof evident, presumption great hearing to determine that the case should move forward and that the suspect should be held without bond, which will be conducted unless it is waived, Dougherty said.

"I will say, as in other mass shootings and tragedies in Colorado, the response has been incredible," he said. "Federal, state and local agencies are partnering together and the teamwork is exactly what it should be. And that’s why I’m confident that we will be able to secure the right result in this case."

Dougherty said Tuesday there is a top-level team of investigators, including those from federal agencies, working on the shooting and said prosecutors would be extremely thorough in the case in order to bring justice to the victims.

“The group is very focused on the work that is going to be done,” Dougherty said. “We recognize the trauma that’s been inflicted on the victims’ families and also upon our community, and that is going to drive us to do everything we need to do to see this case to the right result.”

According to an affidavit for the suspect’s arrest, he started shooting around 2:40 p.m. local time on Monday and was taken into custody at 3:28 p.m. Officers recovered a tactical vest, a rifle that the affidavit says was a “possible AR-15”, a semiautomatic handgun, a pair of jeans and a long-sleeve shirt.

The suspect had also bought a Ruger AR-556 pistol on March 16, just six days before the shooting, according to the affidavit.

If the suspect is formally charged with first-degree murder, as expected, he would face a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole if he is convicted, as Colorado repealed the state’s death penalty last year.

Read more about the 10 victims and their lives here.

This story was originally published by Blair Miller on KMGH in Denver.