The widow of a victim of the US cinema massacre is suing a psychiatrist for neglect, for failing to have the alleged shooter arrested despite him having “fantasised about killing a lot of people”.
The lawsuit filed by Chantel Blunk, also citing the University of Colorado, alleges that Dr Lynne Fenton advised campus police about her concern regarding James Holmes, after he told her about the fantasy in June last year.
They offered to apprehend him for psychiatric assessment, but she declined. Weeks later, on July 20, he went on a shooting spree in a Colorado cinema, killing 12 people and injuring at least 58 of those watching the new Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises .
Holmes, a neuroscience doctoral student who was in the process of leaving the college, told Fenton “on June 11, last year, that he fantasised about killing a lot of people,” the lawsuit said.
Fenton “knew that James Holmes was dangerous” and “had a duty to use reasonable care to protect the public at large from James Holmes,” said the document, filed by Blunk, whose husband Jonathan died in the shooting in Aurora.
“Defendant Fenton was presented with the opportunity to use such reasonable care when the Colorado University Police offered to apprehend James Holmes on a psychiatric hold,” it said.
But it alleged that Fenton alleged “rejected the idea” and therefore “breached her duty to use reasonable care”.
Holmes, now 25, was ordered last week to stand trial over the massacre, one of the worst ever mass shootings in modern US history, which revived America’s perennial debate over gun control.
In a statement responding to the lawsuit, filed on Monday, the University of Colorado Denver said it “has great sympathy for the victims of the Aurora theatre shooting and their families.
“But in our initial review of this case, the University believes this lawsuit is not well-founded legally or factually.”
On Wednesday President Barack Obama called for the revival of an assault weapons ban and universal background checks for gun buyers, in the wake of last month’s Newtown, Connecticut school shooting.
Obama signed 23 executive actions, using his presidential power in a swift effort to check a rash of gun violence including the killings of 20 young children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.