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Colorado Shooting Massacre was Avoidable

Posted by Steve Markowitz on August 31, 2012

On July 20, 2012 James Eagan Holmes entered a midnight screening of the new Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises”.  Heavily armed, he opened fire resulting in the deaths of 12 and wounding 58.  According to the New York Times, this murder involved the greatest criminal loss of life in the Country’s history.

After the initial shock, publicity surrounding the Colorado massacre has been muted. However, this past weekend the New York Times published a lengthy article with background and context to the tragedy, Before Gunfire, Hints of ‘Bad News’According to the Times there were signs that should have been warning signals about the potential for violence emanating from Holmes.  The signs included:

  • In a text message to a fellow student two weeks before the massacre, Holmes asked about his self-diagnosed problem, “dysphoric mania.”  That student responded that it was a psychiatric condition relating to bipolar, but could be managed with treatment.  Holmes told that student that she should stay away from him “because I have bad news.”
  • The Times also reported that in the months before the massacre, Holmes was struggling with severe mental illness.
  • Some classmates were informed by Holmes that he experimented with LSD and other drugs.  The combination of mental illness and substance abuse a known dangerous mix.
  • Holmes was reported to be an avid player of video games including violent ones such as Diablo III and World of Warcraft.
  • Holmes, a graduate student at the University of Colorado, was a loaner.  In addition, classmates saw significant changes in his behavior in the first part of 2012.  During this period court papers indicate that Holmes informed fellow students and he wanted to kill people.
  • Holmes was seeing a University psychiatrist Dr. Lynne Fenton who became concerned about his potential for violence.  Fenton alerted Colorado University’s threat assessment team about those concerns.  No further actions were taken.

Further information concerning Holmes and details relating to the tragedy are being hindered by authorities and the University of Colorado.  The court in which he is being prosecuted has imposed a blackout on information relating to the case.  The University has also refused to release any details about Holmes.  This feels like a circle wagons approach to the matter.

According to the New York Times article, Holmes planned the attack for months.  This included huge purchases of firearms, ammunition and body armor.  In addition, he set booby traps around his apartment.

The facts becoming available on the Colorado shooting are troubling.  They indicate a tragedy that may have been avoidable.  They suggest weaknesses in our psychiatric/legal systems and the possible connection between violent video games criminal acts.  These potential relationships and special-interests that could be hurt by further discussions on these issues have likely lead to less scrutiny on the tragedy by the mainstream media.  Even the Left’s often discussed subject of gun control has been muted when it comes to the Colorado tragedy.

The United States has a problem with a small minority of people acting out the most horrific crimes.  An open and honest discussion of the causes is needed.  This should include the subject of guns, the legal system, the psychiatric system, violent media, family issues and institutional responsibility.  Unfortunately, fringes on the Left and Right will try to remove their sacred cows from the discussions.


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