Accused Colorado gunman's psychiatrist alerted police before rampage: ABC

DENVER Tue Aug 7, 2012 5:46pm EDT

1 of 2. Colorado shooting suspect James Eagan Holmes (L) sits with public defender Tamara Brady during his first court appearance in Aurora, Colorado, July 23, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/RJ Sangosti/Pool

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DENVER (Reuters) - The psychiatrist who treated suspected movie-theater shooter James Holmes contacted a University of Colorado police officer to express concerns about Holmes' behavior several weeks before his alleged rampage, ABC News reported, citing unnamed sources.

The sources did not know what the officer approached by Dr. Lynne Fenton did with the information she passed along, ABC said in a report late on Monday on its website.

They said, however, that the officer was recently interviewed, with an attorney present, by the Aurora, Colorado, Police Department as a part of the investigation of the July 20 shooting that left 12 people dead and 58 wounded.

The sources said Fenton would have had to have serious concerns to break confidentiality with her patient to contact the police officer or others, the network said.

Holmes, 24, was a doctoral student of neuroscience at the University of Colorado's Anschutz Medical Campus before turning in paperwork to drop out in June, the month before the shooting in an Aurora theater.

Under Colorado law, a psychiatrist can legally breach a pledge of confidentiality with a patient if he or she becomes aware of a serious and imminent threat that the patient might cause harm to others, ABC said. Psychiatrists can also breach confidentiality if a court has ordered them to do so.

University spokeswoman Jacque Montgomery declined to comment to either Reuters or ABC on what, if anything, the university police officer might have done with information provided by Fenton.

She cited a court-issued gag order preventing her from confirming or denying any information related to Fenton or the shooting investigation.

In a written statement to ABC News, the university said campus police officers were frequently involved in meetings of the university's Behavioral Evaluation and Threat Assessment team.

The statement went on to say that police involvement with threat assessment "could include security matters, badge access, background checks, wellness checks, criminal investigations and referrals and outreach to other law enforcement agencies."

Fenton is medical director for student mental health services on campus and was "instrumental" in establishing the behavioral threat-assessment team, according to the school.

She did not respond to e-mailed requests for comment on Tuesday, nor could she be reached by telephone.

Holmes was charged with 24 counts of first-degree murder and 116 counts of attempted murder in the shooting at a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" movie in suburban Denver.

ABC News and affiliate KMGH-TV in Denver reported last week that Fenton had contacted other members of the university's threat-assessment team about her concerns.

Aurora police referred inquiries related to the shooting to the district attorney's office. Prosecutors declined to comment, citing a court order not to discuss the case.

The University of Colorado said last week it had hired a former federal prosecutor to conduct an internal review of the Denver-based campus' dealings with Holmes.

Holmes is being held without bail in solitary confinement to protect him from other inmates. Prosecutors have not yet decided whether they will seek the death penalty against Holmes.

(Additional reporting by Ian Simpson, Alex Dobuzinskis and Mary Slosson; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Cynthia Osterman)

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Comments (3)
dwilliams3 wrote:
This is such an important article! I wonder why the campus police did nothing about the psychiatrist’s report. One could wonder, too, how it was that Holmes was in school at all. Apparently, he was not a well person. What’s the point in having a “threat-assessment team” if it does nothing?

Aug 07, 2012 12:40pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Psychologist wrote:
The leading case for breaking confidentiality is Tarasoff. It seems that
Dr. Fenton’s concerns were well founded, and James Holmes should have received a disciplinary hearing followed by expulsion from the campus.

Aug 07, 2012 1:11pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Dr. Fenton had the responsibility to have her patient admitted or committed to a mental health facility to be evaluated and treated. In FL it’s caller a Baker Act. She apparently never followed through on this and he was never arrested. It was her judgment and diagnosis that would drive the police. It doesn’t sound like she took any additional action.

Aug 09, 2012 7:02pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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