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Colorado shootings: University launches independent review

August 03, 2012|By Laura J. Nelson
  • James Holmes, the suspect in the July 20 shooting rampage at a Colorado movie theater, is shown here, at left, in a photo released by the University of Colorado and, at right, in a photo from the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office.
James Holmes, the suspect in the July 20 shooting rampage at a Colorado movie… (University of Colorado;…)

A former U.S. attorney has begun assessing the University of Colorado’s decision-making process regarding James Holmes, a former graduate student at the medical campus who was charged Monday in the death of 12 people in the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting.

Robert Miller, formerly the U.S. attorney for the District of Colorado, began conducting an internal review last week assessing university systems, procedures and actions related to Holmes, the university said in a release Friday.

“We are committed to evaluating every step in the process to ensure it worked properly,” Chancellor Donald M. Elliman Jr. said in a statement. “We want the community -- especially the loved ones of those who lost their lives and the individuals injured in this senseless tragedy -- to know our resolve rests with understanding all the facts so we can assist law enforcement and other authorities in ensuring that justice prevails.”

Holmes dropped out of the graduate neuroscience program June 10. He was arraigned Monday on charges of killing 12 people and injuring 58 others at a July 20 early-morning screening of the new Batman movie.  

As a student, Holmes saw Dr. Lynne Fenton, director of student mental health services at the Anschutz Medical Campus, according to a motion filed by Holmes’ public defenders.

Six weeks before the attack, Fenton telephoned members of a campus behavioral and security committee and tried to discuss Holmes, KMGH-TV reported, citing anonymous sources. The station said it wasn’t known what Fenton had wanted to discuss.

Before the July 20 shooting, Holmes sent Fenton a package that contained a notebook, a motion filed in court said. The package was "immediately investigated and turned over to authorities within hours of delivery," a university statement said — which contradicts reports that the package arrived before the attack but sat unopened.

The university has declined to discuss the media reports, citing a judge’s gag order, but did say Fenton helped found a Behavior Evaluation and Threat Assessment team two years ago. The team includes faculty and staff, including campus police, and was created to address behavioral problems and potential campus security issues.

The assessment is expected to take “some time” and it is not clear what its extent will be. The investigation was requested by Elliman and Lilly Marks, the medical campus executive vice chancellor.


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