DENVER | The psychiatrist treating accused Aurora theater gunman James Holmes was so concerned about his behavior that she notified other members of the University of Colorado Behavioral Evaluation and Threat Assessment, or BETA, team that he could potentially be a danger to others, sources with knowledge of the investigation told CALL7 Investigators.
Those concerns surfaced in early June — almost six weeks before the shooting, sources told CALL7 Investigator John Ferrugia.
Sources say Dr. Lynne Fenton, who treated Holmes this spring, contacted several members of the BETA team in separate conversations. According to the university website, the BETA team consists of “key” staff members from various CU departments who have specific expertise in dealing with assessing potential threats on campus. And, sources say, officials at the University of Colorado never contacted Aurora police with Fenton’s concerns before the July 20 killings.
ABC News learned Fenton was a key member in setting up BETA in 2010, and she is currently one of the contacts for anyone who has concerns about an on-campus threat. A University of Colorado spokeswoman acknowledged that Fenton is one of several trained CU contacts who can convene the team in consultation with the chairman.
“Fenton made initial phone calls about engaging the BETA team” in “the first 10 days” of June but it “never came together” because in the period Fenton was having conversations with team members, James Holmes began the process of dropping out of school, a source said.
In a news conference last week, CU Anschutz Medical Campus Graduate School Dean Barry Shur said Holmes dropped out of the CU Ph.D Neuroscience program on June 10th. “My understanding he has not been back on campus where the program is since that time,” he said last week.
Holmes lost his access to secure areas of the school June 12, according to the CU spokeswoman.
Sources said when Holmes withdrew, the BETA team “had no control over him.”
Holmes has been charged with the murders of 12 people and shooting of 58 others July 20 in an Aurora movie theater during the premier of the new Batman movie.
Sources did not know what Holmes told Fenton that sparked her concern.
“It takes more than just statements,” said one source, explaining that Holmes would have had to tell Fenton “something specific” before she would have to report it to law enforcement.
“He would have to tell her he had taken steps to make it happen,” said another source.
But an expert in threat assessment told ABC News that the warning signs were there, and CU should likely have done more when Holmes quit the university.
“I think that is the signal that you should intensify your efforts — not walk away,” said Barry Spodak.” Under those circumstances, most well-trained assessment teams would have gone into action.”
One source also told Ferrugia that the team may not have been convened because while Fenton had “serious concerns, there may not have been an immediate threat.”
Sources familiar with the investigation do not know if Fenton stopped treating Holmes after he dropped out of CU. It’s also not known whether Fenton referred Holmes to any other mental health assistance, or if there was further contact with him or about him.
Sources also say, after the shootings, Aurora police interviewed at least one person that Fenton contacted to discuss her concerns about Holmes.
During the period when, sources say, Fenton contacted fellow BETA team members, Holmes did not do well on an oral presentation on June 7. It also unclear whether Holmes could find a mentor to help him as required for continuing in the Ph.D program. On the same day, June 7, Holmes legally purchased an AR-15 rifle, according to ABC News.
James Holmes had no criminal record.
CU Chancellor Don Elliman said at a news conference the school did everything properly. “To the best of our knowledge at this point we did everything that we think we should have done,” he said last week.
Michael Carrigan, chairman of the CU board of regents, told CALL7 Investigators that he did not know if Holmes had ever been discussed by the BETA team.
“It’s the first I’m hearing about this,” he said in a phone interview.
A CU spokeswoman declined comment on Fenton or any BETA team actions, citing a gag order.