DENVER – Lawyers for a man charged with killing 10 people at a Colorado supermarket in 2021 confirm he has schizophrenia, with one expert finding he was “approaching catatonia" before being moved to the state mental hospital for treatment.
The defense information, contained in a court filing earlier this month, provides the clearest picture to date of 23-year-old Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa’s mental health. District Attorney Michael Dougherty had mentioned last month that Alissa had been showing symptoms of schizophrenia, a mental disorder which causes people to have trouble understanding reality, but would not elaborate.
In their Feb. 16 brief, Alissa's lawyers said that four psychologists have concluded that Alissa has schizophrenia, with an expert selected by prosecutors concluding that Alissa was “approaching catatonia" while he was still in jail. Catatonia can result in people being unable to move or speak at all, they said. That evaluation was done before Alissa was first found mentally incompetent to stand trial in December 2021 and moved to the state mental hospital for treatment. His prosecution has been on hold since then.
Since Alissa was moved, experts have continued to render him incompetent and unfit to proceed because he is unable to understand legal proceedings and participate in his defense, his lawyers said. The lawyers also said Alissa suffers symptoms that are resistant to being treated with medication.
“Mr. Alissa still suffers profoundly from these symptoms and they limit his ability to interact. He speaks in repetitive non-responsive answers and cannot tolerate contact with others for more than a very brief period of time,” they said.
The defense brief was filed in response to the district attorney's request to allow another prosecution expert to conduct a different kind of evaluation of Alissa. Dougherty alleges that Alissa has refused to participate in some of his treatment at the hospital, including talking about the March 22, 2021, shooting and participating in group sessions and sometimes also refusing one-on-one meetings. He wants a forensic neuropsychological evaluation to be done on Alissa to know if his refusals are the result of mental illness or a conscious choice to not participate.
Alissa is accused of opening fire outside and inside a King Soopers store in the college town of Boulder, killing customers, workers and a police officer who rushed in to try to stop the attack. Alissa, who lived in the nearby suburb of Arvada, surrendered after another officer shot and wounded him, authorities said.
Alissa is charged with murder and multiple attempted murder counts for also endangering the lives of 26 other people. He has not been asked yet to enter a plea and his lawyers have not commented about the allegations.
Investigators have not revealed a possible motive. They said Alissa passed a background check to legally buy a Ruger AR-556 pistol six days before the shooting.