Email: James Holmes explored being subject for researcher doing brain scans on schizophrenic people

CU releases documents on theater shooting suspect

AURORA, Colo. - Accused Aurora theater shooter James Holmes in 2011 expressed interest in being a test subject for a University of Colorado researcher who was using brain scans to study schizophrenic people.

Yet, within hours Holmes said he couldn't participate in the study, CALL7 Investigator Keli Rabon reports.

The revelation came out of more than 3,000 documents released by CU Wednesday that CALL7 Investigators have being pouring over. The records -- including many emails -- were released in response to public records requests by 7NEWS and other news organizations.

The 24-year-old Holmes is accused of opening fire into the packed Aurora Century 16 Theater early on the morning of July 20, killing 12 people and injuring 58 others.

Holmes had been a neuroscience graduate student at CU's Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora and was in the process of withdrawing from the program at the time of the shooting.

Holmes was also a patient of CU psychiatrist Dr. Lynne Fenton, who reported to campus police she had concerns about Holmes six weeks before the shooting.

On Sept. 18, 2011, Holmes emailed a CU Department of Psychiatry researcher who does functional magnetic resonance imaging -- or fMRI -- research on people with schizophrenia.

"The fmri study sounds interesting and I would like to be a subject if possible. Cheers, James Holmes," he mailed the researcher.

Yet, when the researcher emailed Holmes a list of testing times, Holmes replied, "Ah, I can't make any of those times, best of luck."

[Read some of the emails here]

 

University concerns after the shooting

Another document shows university staffers were concerned amid the FBI investigation into the shooting that Holmes could have received shipments of hazardous materials on campus.

"I realize with the ongoing investigation, some of these issues are delicate," Ethan Carter, director of the Department of Environmental Health and Safety at the Anschutz campus, emailed colleagues just two days after the shooting.

"I believe we know that some shipments for James Holmes were delivered to the University," he adds in the email sent to "UPD" -- the University Police Department -- CU legal staff and others.

Carter wrote that it "would be a very serious matter" if Holmes used university ordering and procurement systems "to purchase materials used for bomb-making and we had no knowledge or tracking in place. The liability and inventory control implications are huge."

Police said Holmes had booby trapped his Aurora apartment with explosive devices and it took bomb squad technicians days to disarm and remove the devices.

Efforts to ensure inventories of materials on campus were secure and accurate should be improved, Carter added.

"Without dithering and handwringing, I want to get it right," he wrote. "We are dusting off the plans for some of the systems we looked at a while ago. I will drive ahead with whatever support, guidance, and resources the Institution provides me."

It's unclear if Holmes did in fact procure the materials through campus.

 

Holmes' access to campus

Fifteen hours after the deadly shooting, CU technology administrators' emails were asking if they should "disable" Holmes' still-active electronic badge account, to prevent the former graduate student's access to campus buildings.

"James Holmes…has an active account. I have Valeria contacting the badging officer. Should we disable it," a campus information technology manager emailed his boss.

"Dont (sic) do anything as of now…administration and Police know. We'll only take action based on Legals direction. :-)" emailed Russell J. Poole, the Assistant Vice Chancellor of Information Technology at the Anschutz campus.

"Ok. His account is still enabled," the IT manager replies to Poole. "Badging knows he potentially had two badges and has acted on that information."

However, CU spokesman Jacque Montgomery on Wednesday reaffirmed information in a previously released document showing that Holmes' employee access badge was turned in and deactivated on Aug. 25, 2011 and his student access badge was turned in and deactivated on June 15, 2012 -- more than a month before the shooting.

By the time of the IT administrators' email exchange, 3:12 p.m. on July 20, Holmes was in police custody, having been arrested early that morning outside the theater.

 

Public relations response

The emails also show a massive effort by the university's public relations team to control faculty, staff, and students in the wake of the theater shooting, telling them not to talk to news organizations.

However, emails reveal that some in the university community strongly felt otherwise, writing that the university should come clean and tell everything it knows.

In an apparent effort to see how the shooting impacted the CU campus' image, documents show the university tracked thousands of worldwide Internet news stories about the theater shooting, from publications in Argentina to Zimbabwe. They compiled several charts to track the number of stories and their countries of origin.

CU used a search engine to track news stories with the key words "James Holmes" and "Anschutz" in English and Spanish. They also rated the stories as "Positive," "Neutral" or "Negative."

One headline that was repeatedly cited in the tracking documents: "Alleged Colorado gunman mailed notebook to psychiatrist detailing plans of massacre."

An "opening text" in news stories that drew CU's attention, "The notebook sat unopened in a mailroom for as long as a week. James Holmes, the accused gunman in last Friday's midnight movie shooting in Colorado."

"Alleged shooter was surrounded by brain experts," was another headline tracked in the CU report.

 

Redacted emails

About one-third of the emails were redacted, due to student privacy and medical privacy reasons. Some emails were also blacked-out because Holmes defense lawyers considered them to be "personal" communications.

Soon after the shooting, Arapahoe County District Court Judge William Sylvester issued a gag order restricting what law enforcement agencies and defense attorneys and other entities could say and what documents they could make public about the case.

Last month, the judge ruled that the university could release documents it deems public under the Colorado Open Records Act.

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