Psychiatrist warned police a month before the Aurora theater shootings

A stunning revelation in the case of James Holmes, who opened fire on a movie theater showing “The Dark Knight Rises” last July, an incident that looms large in current gun control debate:

New questions confronted the University of Colorado, Denver on Friday amid disclosures that a psychiatrist who treated theater shooting suspect James Holmes had warned campus police a month before the deadly assault that Holmes was dangerous and had homicidal thoughts.

Court documents made public Thursday revealed Dr. Lynne Fenton also told a campus police officer in June that the shooting suspect had threatened and intimidated her.

Fenton’s blunt warning came more than a month before the July 20 attack at a movie theater that killed 12 and injured 70. Holmes had been a student in the university’s Ph.D. neuroscience program but withdrew about six weeks before the shootings after failing a key examination.

Campus police officer Lynn Whitten told investigators after the shooting that Fenton had contacted her. Whitten said Fenton was following her legal requirement to report threats to authorities, according one of the documents, a search warrant affidavit.

“Dr. Fenton advised that through her contact with James Holmes she was reporting, per her requirement, his danger to the public due to homicidal statements he had made,” the affidavit said.

USA Today says the newly released documents directly contradict earlier police testimony:

Soon after the shooting, university police said they had not had any contact with Holmes, a graduate student doing neuroscience research. But a search warrant affidavit released Thursday revealed that an officer had told investigators that Fenton had contacted her to report “his danger to the public due to homicidal statements he had made.”

In releasing the arrest and search warrant affidavits and other documents, District Judge Carlos Samour, the new judge overseeing the case, ruled that neither the prosecution nor defense had convinced him that making the files public would cause harm or that keeping them sealed would prevent harm.

Most of the gun control packages introduced in places like Colorado and Connecticut, following the shootings in Aurora and Newtown, have included some provision related to mental health.  But we have once again allowed ourselves to be drawn down the path of restraining law-abiding people with scads of new laws, while ignoring an obvious failure to follow procedures already in place.  Won’t the burden of enforcing these new laws further distract the authorities from following up on warnings like this?