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Colorado shooting suspect makes his 1st court appearance

Mar 25, 2021, 8:53 AM | Updated: 8:56 am
In this March 23, 2021, photo, a makeshift fence stands around the parking lot outside a King Soope...
In this March 23, 2021, photo, a makeshift fence stands around the parking lot outside a King Soopers grocery store where a mass shooting took place in Boulder, Colo. The suspects in the most recent shooting sprees found it relatively easy to get their guns. The suspect in the shooting at a Boulder supermarket was convicted of assaulting a high school classmate but still got a gun. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — Three days after he was led away in handcuffs from a Boulder supermarket where 10 people were fatally shot, the suspect appeared in court Thursday for the first time and his defense lawyer asked for a health assessment “to address his mental illness.”

Kathryn Herold, the lawyer for suspect Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, provided no details about what he might suffer from.

During the brief hearing, Alissa appeared in court wearing a mask. He didn’t speak other than to say “yes” to a question from the judge and was advised of the 10 charges of first-degree murder he faces. He did not enter a plea, which will come later in the judicial process.

Alissa, 21, remains held without bail. A prosecutor said that authorities planned to file more charges.

A law enforcement official briefed on the shooting had previously said the suspect’s family told investigators they believed Alissa was suffering some type of mental illness, including delusions.

Relatives have described times when Alissa told them people were following or chasing him, which they said may have contributed to the violence, the official said. The official was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

It was the first time that Alissa was seen in public since he was arrested inside the King Soopers supermarket in Boulder on Monday and treated at a hospital for a leg wound.

Alissa was last seen handcuffed and being led out of the supermarket by police. He had removed all clothing except his shorts before being taken into custody. A rifle, a green tactical vest and a handgun were recovered inside the grocery store, according to an arrest affidavit.

While most Colorado court proceedings have been conducted with suspects appearing by video during the pandemic, District Judge Thomas Francis Mulvahill ordered Alissa to appear before him in court though the public and the media were not allowed inside.

Dozens of media trucks and reporters stood outside the courthouse on a cold, clear Colorado morning. There was no sign of protesters or victims’ families.

In addition to Boulder police Officer Eric Talley, 51, the victims are Denny Stong, 20; Neven Stanisic, 23; Rikki Olds, 25; Tralona Bartkowiak, 49; Suzanne Fountain, 59; Teri Leiker, 51; Kevin Mahoney, 61; Lynn Murray, 62; and Jodi Waters, 65. Leiker, Olds and Stong worked at the supermarket.

According to the arrest affidavit, the suspect bought a Ruger AR-556 pistol — which resembles an AR-15 rifle with a slightly shorter stock — on March 16, six days before the attack. Authorities have not disclosed where the gun was purchased.

According to two law enforcement officials, Alissa was born in Syria in 1999, emigrated to the U.S. as a toddler and later became a U.S. citizen. He would need to be a citizen to buy a gun. The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.

An AR-15-style gun recovered inside the supermarket was believed to have been used in the attack, said a law enforcement official briefed on the shooting who was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

In addition to Boulder police Officer Eric Talley, 51, the victims are Denny Stong, 20; Neven Stanisic, 23; Rikki Olds, 25; Tralona Bartkowiak, 49; Suzanne Fountain, 59; Teri Leiker, 51; Kevin Mahoney, 61; Lynn Murray, 62; and Jodi Waters, 65. Leiker, Olds and Stong worked at the supermarket.

More than 500 people bundled in winter jackets and wool hats attended a downtown candlelight vigil Wednesday night to mourn the victims and comfort one another. They observed a moment of silence; violins soothed the crowd; a woman sang “Ave Maria” as candle flames flickered in the crisp air. A star-shaped light usually turned on for the holidays glowed on a mountain overlooking the open square.

Michele Weiner-Davis, a Boulder family therapist, offered the community some words of wisdom.

“Whatever you’re feeling, whatever you’re thinking, no matter how uncomfortable, it’s completely natural,” Weiner-Davis said. “Be patient with yourself. Additionally, be just as compassionate with the people in your lives who might also be struggling.”

Earlier Wednesday, hundreds of people paid their respects during a police procession for Talley as his body was taken to a funeral home in the Denver suburb of Aurora.

Police also announced that people whose cars were left in the supermarket parking lot Monday could retrieve them.

—-

Associated Press writers Michael Balsamo and Colleen Long in Washington, Jim Anderson in Denver, Thalia Beaty in New York and AP staff members from around the U.S. contributed to this report. Nieberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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