KUSA - This week's release of arrest and warrant documents in the case against James Holmes provided more detail of warnings that the suspect was dangerous prior to the attack on an Aurora movie theater.
The month before the attack, Holmes' psychiatrist Dr. Lynne Fenton reporter to police that he made "homicidal statements," according to court documents.
We don't know much about the nature of the threat in question, but 9NEWS legal analyst Scott Robinson says a threat needs to be pretty serious for a psychiatrist to set aside doctor-patient confidentiality.
"When those threats become specific enough, against a person or a class of people, then the law requires that the psychiatrist report that to the police," Robinson said.
That leads to the natural question-- how specific was the threat?
"Did he talk about going to a movie theater? Did he mention the premiere of the Dark Knight," asked former Denver prosecutor Craig Silverman. "The more specific the threat, the more the obligation on the professional to communicate it to the probable victims so that an atrocity, a massacre, can be avoided."
Regardless of what details they knew, we have no indication yet that CU police shared the threat information.
Around this time, Holmes stopped seeing his psychiatrist Dr. Lynne Fenton and started withdrawing from school.
"It may have seemed to the University of Colorado that James Holmes, no longer being a student, was also no longer their problem," Robinson said.
It's worth noting that the experts in this story are working off of what we know so far. CU police can't speak with us about this issue due to a gag order in the case.
We also don't know whether police tried to talk directly with Holmes.
"They should have contacted James Holmes," Silverman said. "At a minimum that should have occurred. Oftentimes when you confront somebody who's on the edge of committing an atrocity, that is a good way to stop it. Once they know you're on to them and that they may be stopped before they can complete the act."
That doesn't assure in any way that police could have stopped the theater shooting from happening, particularly if Holmes had not admitted to any plot.
"Say [police] were allowed in to his apartment. Say they saw all that ammunition and weaponry. What could they have done about it? I'm sure they would have realized, 'hey- this guy may be serious.' But under Colorado law at the time, what more could they do," asked Silverman.
In the end, there may never be a definitive moment that could have prevented the mass killing, but we should someday be able to tell whether police gave themselves every possible opportunity to do so.