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Doctor asked police about cinema shooter

08 August 2012, 10:29

 Denver — A psychiatrist who was treating the suspected Colorado cinema gunman asked University of Colorado police for a background check on the student six weeks before the 20 July shootings, raising questions about concerns she may have had about his behaviour, a Denver television station reported on Tuesday.

KMGH-TV reported that the university psychiatrist, Dr Lynne Fenton, called the University of Colorado police department in early June to ask for a background check on James Holmes. The station cited unidentified sources it said were familiar with the investigation into the shootings.

Fenton was told Holmes, then a graduate student at the university, did not have a criminal record, the station reported.

KMGH previously reported that in early June, Fenton expressed concerns about Holmes to members of a university behavioural and threat assessment team, but the team did not act because Holmes decided to withdraw from the university.

Holmes was enrolled in a PhD neuroscience programme at the university's Anschutz Medical Campus but told school officials he was withdrawing. He left the programme on 10 June.

Holmes is charged with killing 12 people and injuring 58 at a cinema in the Denver suburb of Aurora during a midnight showing of the latest Batman movie. He faces 142 counts, including first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder. He has not entered a plea.

Gag order

Neither Fenton's attorneys, retained by the university to represent her, nor Aurora police immediately returned telephone calls from The Associated Press seeking comment on Tuesday.

Doug Abraham, chief of the University of Colorado, Denver Police, and university spokesperson Jacque Montgomery said they couldn't comment on Tuesday, citing a judge's gag order prohibiting university officials from speaking publicly about the case.

University officials previously insisted campus police had no contact with Holmes, who enrolled there in June 2011.

Before the gag order was issued on 23 July, the university issued a statement saying police "on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus had no contact with Mr Holmes".

At a 23 July news conference, Abraham told reporters, "I don't have any information on [Holmes] at all. We've had no contact with him on any matter."

At that same news conference, Don Elliman, chancellor of CU-Denver, defended the school's interactions with Holmes.

Private attorney retained

"To the best of our knowledge at this point, we think we did everything that we should have done," he said.

ABC News reported that Fenton told a University of Colorado police officer she had concerns about Holmes, and that police in Aurora had interviewed the university officer about that conversation. ABC News cited sources it did not identify as the basis for its report.

In addition to retaining private attorneys to represent Fenton, the university has retained an attorney for the campus officer, The Denver Post reported.

"When university employees are involved in a legal process, we regularly retain counsel for them even when their actions are entirely appropriate so that they can have independent legal advice," CU attorney Patrick O'Rourke told the newspaper.

Police said Holmes had been methodically stockpiling guns, ammunition and material for explosives for months and that he had received shipments at both the university and his nearby apartment.

- AP


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