School releases records on alleged Colo. gunman
DENVER (AP) – The University of Colorado at Denver on Wednesday released a batch of documents related to the suspect in the Batman movie shooting, but much of the material was redacted.
More than 2,000 records were released after news organizations, including The Associated Press, requested them to learn about James Holmes’ year at the school. But a significant number were entirely redacted by the school.
The university cited federal laws that bar the release of academic or medical information.
Holmes was a graduate student in neuroscience at the school before the July 20 shooting. He is accused of opening fire inside a suburban Aurora theater during a showing of “The Dark Knight Rises.” Twelve people were killed and 58 others were injured.
A few internal emails released Wednesday showed officials at the university feared for their safety after Holmes was identified as the suspect.
In one, the neuroscience department chair wrote that she feared for the safety of students and faculty at the medical school. Police at the time were trying to remove booby-traps they said Holmes had left at his apartment.
In another email, the administrator of the neuroscience program urged students not to post anything to Facebook or Twitter after the shooting. Students and employees were directed to refer all press calls to a campus spokeswoman.
Holmes is charged with multiple first-degree murder and attempted murder counts. He has not entered a plea and won’t do so until after a weeklong preliminary hearing in which prosecutors present evidence supporting the charges. That hearing is scheduled to begin Jan. 7. A motions hearing in the case is set for Monday.
The documents shed little new light on how the school handled Holmes, who, according to his attorneys, suffers from a mental illness.
He allegedly began stockpiling firearms and ammunition while taking classes in the spring. In June, prosecutors say, he made threats to a professor, and he filed withdrawal papers June 10 after failing a year-end final exam. The next day he saw his school psychiatrist, who tried to report him to a campus security committee, according to Holmes’ lawyers.
Four days after the attack, campus police chief Doug Abraham said at a news conference that campus police had no information on Holmes. The school has since declined to answer detailed questions about Holmes’ behavior, citing a gag order that remains in effect and federal privacy laws that limit the amount of medical and academic information it can disclose.
Those laws also limited the number of documents released Wednesday. At the request of defense attorneys, about 100 emails between Holmes and his family and friends were withheld because they are not covered under Colorado’s Open Records Act.
The remaining documents were released only after a lengthy court battle.
In the days after the shooting, the Arapahoe County District Attorney’s office asked Judge William B. Sylvester to bar the university from releasing records requested by numerous media organizations. Prosecutors argued that the information could jeopardize Holmes’ right to a fair trial. Sylvester agreed, but amended his order last month to allow the release after media organizations objected in court.
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