The man accused of gunning down 10 people at a Colorado supermarketfaced a judge Thursday in his first public appearance since the mass shooting in Boulder.
Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 21, wore a purple smock and white face mask and sat in a wheelchair during a three-minute hearing before Judge Thomas Mulvahill, nearly three days after the massacre at a King Soopers grocery store.
“Our position is that we cannot do anything until we are able to fully assess Mr. Alissa’s mental illness,” defense attorney Kathryn Herold told the court.
Also during the brief hearing, Boulder District Attorney Michael Dougherty said that more charges are likely to be filed against Alissa within the next two weeks.
The prosecutor said investigators were still working the crime scene as of Thursday and that his office has not received any police reports that he could share with the defense.
Mulvahill ordered Alissa held without bail and said his next hearing is to be no sooner than in 60 days.
Colorado law allows for a mental illness defense, but it’s a nearly impossible path to acquittal, according to Martin Stuart, chairman of the Colorado Bar Association’s Criminal Law Section.
He cited the case of Aurora movie theater killer, who had documented mental health issues, but was still convicted of all murder charges against him.
“It’s very rare. It’s rare that someone pleads not guilty by reason of insanity and it’s very rare (that it works),” Stuart told NBC News on Thursday. “It is a very difficult defense to prevail upon.”
The last time the public caught a glimpse of Alissa was on Monday afternoon outside the market, when an aerial news video showed police escorting a man in handcuffs, his right leg covered in blood. He wasn’t wearing a shirt or shoes.
While authorities have declined to absolutely link that footage to Alissa, an arrest affidavit described how the suspect surrendered to a SWAT team. That description is consistent with what was in the video.
Boulder police Officer Eric Talley, 51, was gunned down as he responded to reports of the shooting. President Joe Biden hailed the slain officer, a father of seven, as “the definition of an American hero.”
Alissa is also accused of killing 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 Jody Waters, 65.
Colorado residents have become familiar with mass shootings, as two of this generation’s most notorious massacres took place within a short drive from Boulder.
King Soopers is 35 miles north of Columbine High School in Littleton, where 13 people were killed on April 20, 1999, before the two gunmen took their own lives.
And it is 35 miles southeast of the Century 16 Theater in Aurora, where a gunman opened fire on moviegoers on July 20, 2012. Twelve people, who had gathered for a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises,” were killed.
David K. Li
David K. Li is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.