Psychiatrist warned campus police about Aurora shooter a month before mass murder

posted at 9:21 am on April 5, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

In a revelation that may have Colorado voters rethinking their state’s push on gun control, court documents revealed that the mass shooting in Aurora that killed 12 and injured 70 more could have been prevented by law enforcement.  The psychiatrist for suspect, James Holmes, had warned campus police that Holmes was dangerous and homicidal a month before the shooting took place.  Lynne Fenton even told the police that Holmes had begun to stalk and threaten her, and yet no action was apparently taken:

A University of Colorado psychiatrist told campus police a month before the Aurora movie theater attack that James Holmes had homicidal thoughts and was a public danger, according to records unsealed Thursday.

Lynne Fenton, a psychiatrist at the Denver campus, told police that Holmes had also “threatened and harassed her via email/text messages” in June 2012. He is standing trial for the July 20 shooting rampage that killed 12 and injured 70 during a midnight premiere of the latest Batman movie. …

Soon after the shooting, university police said they had not had any contact with Holmes, a graduate student doing neuroscience research. But a search warrant affidavit released Thursday revealed that an officer had told investigators that Fenton had contacted her to report “his danger to the public due to homicidal statements he had made.”

In releasing the arrest and search warrant affidavits and other documents, District Judge Carlos Samour, the new judge overseeing the case, ruled that neither the prosecution nor defense had convinced him that making the files public would cause harm or that keeping them sealed would prevent harm.

The prosecution had tried to keep these records sealed, and it’s not difficult to see why.  (They can be viewed at KUSA’s website, where they were posted last night.) The narrative from political and law-enforcement leaders in Colorado has been that this could have been anyone with a gun who just flipped out, and a society without gun control cannot hope to stop it.  But Holmes didn’t just flip out shortly before the murder, and police had ample warning of the danger he presented.

Police have testified to having no contact with Holmes before the shooting.  Why exactly was that?  The complaint/warning from Fenton should have prompted police to make sure Holmes wasn’t a threat to Fenton, at the very least.  Had they performed that standard follow-up — and remember, this was a mental health professional telling the police that her patient was both homicidal and threatening her specifically — the police might well have had Holmes in custody long before the shooting.

Instead, this information has remained under seal while Colorado politicians insisted that it was the guns that created the unforeseen danger of mass murder.  The new release destroys that narrative, and poses another question. If police in Colorado can’t be bothered to follow up on information from a psychiatrist that her patient has become homicidal, dangerous to the community, and has threatened her specifically, why bother passing gun laws at all?

Update: Give CBS credit for covering this on their own:

The question on everyone’s minds is “Why?”, as Manuel Bojorquez says at the end — but not just “why did Holmes commit this murder?” We also want to know why the police never bothered to even talk with Holmes after Fenton’s warning.


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