Holmes psychiatrist warned of threat before attack
DENVER (AP) – A psychiatrist who treated James Holmes told campus police a month before the Colorado theater attack that Holmes had homicidal thoughts and was a danger to the public, according to documents released Thursday.
Dr. Lynne Fenton, a psychiatrist at the University of Colorado, Denver, told police in June that Holmes also threatened and intimidated her. It was more than a month before the July 20 attack at a movie theater that killed 12 and injured 70.
In the days after the attack, campus police said they had never had contact with Holmes, who was a graduate student at the university.
But campus police told investigators after the shooting that Fenton had contacted them, following her legal requirement to report specific threats to authorities, according to a search warrant affidavit.
“Dr. Fenton advised that through her contact with James Holmes she was reporting, per her requirement, his danger to the public due to homicidal statements he had made,” the affidavit said.
University police referred calls for comment Thursday to a campus spokeswoman who did not immediately return a message.
The documents previously were sealed, but the new judge overseeing the case ordered them released Thursday after requests from media organizations including The Associated Press.
Holmes last week offered to plead guilty in the attacks. Prosecutors rejected that offer and announced Monday they would seek the death penalty.
Holmes sent Fenton a package in the days before the shooting, including a notebook that the released documents describe as a “journal.” The package wasn’t discovered until four days after the attack.
In court, prosecutors suggested Holmes was angry at the failure of a once promising academic career, and stockpiled weapons, ammunition, tear gas grenades, and body armor as his research deteriorated and professors urged him to get into another profession. Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Pearson said Holmes failed a key oral exam in June, was banned from campus and began to voluntarily withdraw from the school.
The documents – including arrest and search warrant affidavits – were unsealed by the new judge in the case. District Judge Carlos Samour took over the case earlier this week after the previous judge, who had sealed the documents, removed himself. Judge William Sylvester handed off to Samour on Monday, saying prosecutors’ decision to seek the death penalty against Holmes meant the case would take up so much time that he couldn’t carry out his administrative duties as chief judge of a busy four-county district.
Both prosecutors and defense attorneys had raised concerns about releasing the documents. Prosecutors said they were worried about the privacy of victims and witnesses if the records were released. Attorneys for Holmes said they didn’t want to hurt his chances for a fair trial.
Sylvester had said he was reluctant to release the documents before the preliminary hearing, when prosecutors laid out evidence for him to decide whether Holmes could be brought to trial. That hearing was held in January, with investigators giving the names and injuries of every theater victim in graphic detail.
Witnesses testified that Holmes spent weeks amassing an arsenal and planning the attack. They also said he set up an elaborate booby trap in his apartment designed to explode at the same time the theater attack occurred miles away.
Media organizations said there has been a “wealth of information already made public in the proceedings thus far.” They argued there was no basis for the documents to remain sealed.
With the preliminary hearing over, Samour said lawyers failed to show that releasing the records would cause any harm, or that keeping the documents sealed would prevent any harm.
CATHERINE TSAI and DAN ELLIOTT
Associated Press writer Catherine Tsai contributed to this report.
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