Holmes Trial

Theater victims say donations not reaching them

In an emotional hour-long press conference Tuesday a few blocks from the theater where 12 were killed and 58 injured, survivors of the shooting and relatives of those killed said money has been slow to reach them

AURORA | Victims of last month’s Aurora theater shootings say the more than $5 million raised since the massacre is not reaching the victims and they have been largely shut out of conversations about the fund’s future.

In an emotional hour-long press conference Tuesday a few blocks from the theater where 12 were killed and 58 injured, survivors of the shooting and relatives of those killed said money has been slow to reach them.

  • Victim Presser

    Annie Dalton, Aurora shooting victim Ashley Moser's aunt, holds back tears during a press conference, Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 28 at the Summit Event Center. Families of 11 of the 12 victims at the Century Aurora 16 massacre spoke to the press to voice their concerns with how donations to the victims were being handled. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

  • Victim Presser

    Marlene Knobbe, grandmother of Aurora shooting victim Micayla Medek, tears up during a press conference, Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 28 at the Summit Event Center. Families of 11 of the 12 victims at the Century Aurora 16 massacre spoke to the press to voice their concerns with how donations to the victims were being handled. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

  • Victim Presser

    Tom Teves, father of Aurora shooting victim Alex Teves, speaks to the media during a press conference, Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 28 at the Summit Event Center. Families of 11 of the 12 victims at the Century Aurora 16 massacre spoke to the press to voice their concerns with how donations to the victims were being handled. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

  • Victim Presser

    Tom Teves, father of Aurora shooting victim Alex Teves, comforts his wife during a press conference, Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 28 at the Summit Event Center. Families of 11 of the 12 victims at the Century Aurora 16 massacre spoke to the press to voice their concerns with how donations to the victims were being handled. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Tom Teves, whose son Alex was killed in the theater, said that even though the victims’ names and faces have been used to raise money for the Aurora Victim Relief Fund, that money isn’t reaching the families.

Teves said the group making decisions about how the money will be distributed has been made up of officials from the Community First Foundation, nonprofit leaders and local lawmakers.

“Victims, however, still have no voice in the disbursement process,” he said.

Teves said it’s particularly important that victims be represented on the board that will decide how the money is distributed.

The victims have a unique perspective and, Teves said, and they were the people donors had in mind when the gave money to the fund.

That means victims and their relatives should make up a “robust” segment of any board, and not just have a small percentage of votes on that board.

“We need people who were in the theater together with those who have lost loved ones driving these decisions,” he said.

Teves said he and others are using an “extremely inclusive definition” of who a victim is, which includes everyone in the theater who was hurt physically or emotionally, as well as anyone who lived in the apartment complex where accused shooter James Holmes lived. Police said Holmes booby-trapped the apartment, forcing nearby residents to flee while investigators disarmed the traps.

Teves said the definition should also include people like his son’s girlfriend, who has not been able to return to work since the shooting.

“She is broken inside,” he said.

Rich Audsley, a special adviser to the committee who previously helped distribute victims funds after the Columbine High School and Virginia Tech shootings, said victims will be consulted throughout the process.

“It was always our intent to have input for the victims into the process,” he said.

Audsley said the group just established an executive committee last week that will make many of those decisions.

“We really needed to have that group constituted before we could have those conversations,” he said.

The executive committee does not have any victims on it, but Audsley said victims will be consulted throughout the process. The executive group as well as the 7/20 Recovery Committee as a whole will change based on the group’s needs, he said.

“We want to go through a thoughtful process to make sure that the victim input is integrated, but we don’t think that the victims should be making the decisions themselves on what that distribution would look like,” he said.

The process will include determining just how big the pool of victims that qualify for help will be and trying to dole the money out in a fair manner, he said. That means some challenging questions when it comes to victims who will suffer life-long disabilities and others who were emotionally traumatized by the shootings.

“There are just a lot of moving factors in this so we want to make sure that we have a thoughtful process because we only get a chance to do this once and we want to get it right,” he said.

Teves said there have been several conversations with the officials in charge of the fund, but still, victims are not getting the funding donors hoped they would.

“I’m not saying they don’t care about the victims, but I haven’t seen any evidence yet,” he said of the officials behind the relief fund.

Victims at Tuesday’s press conference said that after weeks of complaints to Giving First, the group cut $5,000 checks to 70 victims, but that’s it.

Some victims said the group has declined to provide them with money for plane tickets to come to Colorado for the accused shooter’s court hearings. Others said they need cash now because in the aftermath of the shooting, they have been unable to work because the bulk of their time is spent caring for the injured.

With victims and their families crowded on the platform behind him, Teves accused fundraising groups of being unresponsive and unsympathetic to victims’ needs and also questioned the commitment of Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to helping the victims, noting that the governor had attended the funerals of those who died in the shooting.

“You pledged 12 times, ‘We will remember.’ Are you a man of your words? Or were they just words?”

Eric Brown, a spokesman for Hickenlooper, said in an email Tuesday afternoon that the governor understands the families are frustrated.

“That’s why we have been advocating for them to have a greater voice in the process. We have also actively supported the 7/20 Recovery Committee to improve communication and the ongoing distribution of assistance,” he said.

The families are scheduled to meet with the committee Friday, he said.

In the days after the shooting, Hickenlooper pointed donors toward Giving First, saying it was a safe place to donate.

Since then, officials have said the fund has raised more than $5 million for the victims.  So far, just over $450,000 has been distributed. Of that, $350,000 went to the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance in order to provide $5,000 each going to the families of 70 victims to meet their immediate financial needs. The other $100,000 has gone to 10 nonprofit groups, according to the Community First Foundation website.

Officials have said decisions about how the money will be doled out will be made in the near future.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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  • Not Suprised

    what a suprise, a non profit profitting off other peoples tragedies

  • Gofastgo

    This sounds like more people expecting to be paid for tradegy. ‘Where’s mine?” ‘They didn’t send me money for a plane ticket’ They didn’t pay for my coiffure.
    I thought the state picked up the hospital bills? The ambulance charges.
    Was this horrendous, yes? Is weeping over funds not being paid any less?

  • Casual observer

    Gag order really, the city attorney, Charlie Ricardson, seems to have a firmer grip on control than reality. The critical thinking skills that enable Aurora’s City Attorney to extend a gag order designed to protect the right of the accused shooter of the ” Aurora movie massacre” to an organization that is collecting funds for victims is the same kind of logic that would put a freight train on a dirt road.

  • cammy38

    Sad that people now expect to be compensated thru the generosity of others when tragedy occurs. . . I think I read that most if not all medical bills have been paid, some airline expenses were waived. . People donated for future medical expenses which many of the victims will incur. How lucky the injured and families of the deceased are to receive any help. Do they think that ALL people who were in the theatre area or in the apartment building where one unit was booby trapped are eligible for assistance? I don’t.

  • ChardonTragedyFamily

    The point that these people are making is NOT that they need the money to pay for funerals, etc. It’s the principal that these organizations collect money from people who want to help the families in some way, and the money is NOT spent the way the donors intended. As well as the families are completely out of the loop for what the plan even is. We are in the same situation, United Way collected $900,000, there were 6 total victims, 3 passed 3 injured. It was “advertised” that you could donate thru local banks and that 100% of donations were going to the victims families. 2 weeks later they said the money was going to the “community”, the community needs healed. The community can still hug there children and tug them in every night. People don’t just want paid, believe me every single one of those victimes families would give any amount of money to have there loved one back!!!! But like Tom said, they used there loved ones pictures to get the donations that people made, and yet they won’t clue the families in on whats happening with that money. People are profiting off there loved ones death!!!!