The psychiatrist treating James Holmes was alarmed enough by the 24-year-old former student to notify the University of Colorado threat assessment committee. The alert came more than a month before the Colorado shootings that left 12 dead.
However, because Holmes suddenly dropped out of school, the committee never acted nor did it alert authorities of their concerns, reports ABC.
At about the time that Dr. Lynne Fenton warned her colleagues of Holmes, Holmes was busily accumulating guns he would allegedly use in the movie theater massacre.
Dr. Fenton treated Holmes and was also a key member of the university's threat assessment team. The threat assessment team was responsible for protecting the school from potentially violent students. It wasn't reported what Holmes told Fenton to raise her concerns.
The threat assessment team held a formal meeting about Holmes, but never had a chance to intervene, reports ABC. The group reportedly believed that it had no control over Holmes after he dropped out of school. However, many are now criticizing the group for not acting, when it should have been most concerned due to Holmes' abrupt departure from school.
But could the threat assessment team have legally done anything to prevent the shootings? The answer is that it depends. Generally, psychiatrists and patients generally have a doctor-client privilege. The patient holds the privilege and the doctor usually cannot reveal anything that is said during consultations.
However, there may be exceptions to the rule when a specific threat or crime is discussed. So if the psychiatrist knew of a concrete plan to commit a crime, she may be obligated to divulge the information.
While Dr. Lynne Fenton may have been concerned enough about James Holmes to alert the threat assessment team, she may not have had enough to alert the police.
- Psychiatrist Was Alarmed By Aurora Shooting Suspect's Behavior, Media Report (NPR)
- James Holmes' psychiatrist warned 'threat assessment committee' at University of Colorado about suspected Dark Knight killer (New York Daily News)
- James Holmes Faces 142 Charges in CO Theater Shooting (FindLaw's Blotter)