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Colorado theater shooting: Psychiatrist warned university about James Holmes?

August 1, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
An investigation is raising questions about university officials and whether they could have responded to warning signs from the psychiatrist of the Colorado shooting suspect.

It is not clear exactly what James Holmes, 24, said to his psychiatrist. It's also not clear if what he said will be admissible in court because of doctor-patient confidentiality rules. But whatever he did caused the psychiatrist to worry.

The former doctorate student is accused of opening fire in a movie theater during a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" on July 20. Twelve people were killed and 58 people were injured. Some are wondering if the tragedy could have been prevented by those who knew Holmes at the University of Colorado.

See an outline of events and facts surrounding the Colorado theater shooting

Last week, I asked school officials whether anyone had ever said to them that something was not right with Holmes.

"That's part of the investigation, and I'm not at liberty to talk about it," said University of Colorado Chancellor Don Elliman.

ABC affiliate KMGH-TV in Denver is reporting exclusively that Holmes' psychiatrist at the school, Dr. Lynne Fenton, felt concerns about Holmes weeks before the shooting.

"Something that he said to his psychiatrist caused her to contact the University of Colorado threat assessment team," said John Ferrugia, KMGH-TV's investigative reporter.

Fenton was a key member of that threat assessment team. Documents ABC uncovered show that Fenton actually wrote the university's policy on threat assessment.

Read statements from public officials about the Colorado theater shooting

On June 7, Holmes reportedly failed a final exam and bought an AR-15 assault rifle. On June 10, he suddenly told the university he's quitting the PhD program. Sources told KMGH-TV the larger threat assessment team never had a formal meeting and never intervened.

"The team thought they had no jurisdiction, they had no control over him, so there was nothing that they could do vis-a-vis this concern they had," said Ferrugia.

Some experts say that was the wrong move.

"I think that's a signal that you should intensify efforts, not walk away. Under those circumstances, most well-trained threat assessment teams would have gone into action," said Barry Spodak, a threat assessment expert.

Sources also told KMGH-TV that despite the concern, no one on the threat assessment team ever contacted Aurora police before the shootings.

View photos from the scene of the shooting at an Aurora, Colo. theater


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