University of Colorado officials on Wednesday faced questions about whether the suspect in last week’s shooting rampage tried to warn a university psychiatrist about his grisly plan as much as a week before the incident.
The questions came after Fox News reported that the shooting suspect, graduate student James Holmes, had mailed to a university psychiatrist a detailed journal that foreshadowed a gun-blazing massacre — in a package that was not opened before the slayings.
University officials declined to provide details about a package seized from the campus by police investigators Monday, other than to explain that campus mail is delivered promptly and no parcels would sit for a week in the university’s mailroom.
A report Wednesday by the Denver Post quoted an unidentified law-enforcement official as confirming that Holmes had mailed a notebook to the psychiatrist. The official, however, told the paper he did not know what it contained.
University officials and representatives for local and federal law enforcement agencies on Wednesday did not dispute the reports of Holmes’s journal. They emphasized, however, that they could not discuss anything related to the investigation due to a judge’s order barring comment.
“We are not allowed to discuss anything,” said Aurora police spokesman Frank Fania. Bombarded by inquiries on Wednesday, police also sent out a stern tweet: “We would like to remind the media that we are under a COURT ORDER to not discuss the case. Obviously we take this matter very seriously.”
Phone calls to the university psychiatric clinic were directed to university spokeswoman Jacque Montgomery, who declined to discuss the package or the identity of the sender.
The university had confirmed that two buildings on campus had been evacuated Monday in a search involving two suspicious packages. Early Monday, investigators using robots and bomb-sniffing dogs searched the main campus administration building, Building 500, for more than four hours after a package had been discovered slipped under the door of a faculty member. This building houses the medical school, public health school and the outpatient psychiatric clinic.
Later that day, the university said, another suspicious package had arrived through the central mail system at the Campus Services Building, which was then evacuated and searched. In both cases, officials said at the time, the packages posed no threat to safety on campus.
“Because of the events of this past weekend we wanted to be sure of the safety of the campus and make sure that they (the packages) were not a threat,” Montgomery told the Denver Post on Monday. “We brought in local authorities to look at the situation, they did just that, and they viewed it to be no threat.”
But the Fox report said the search yielded Holmes’s journal, which contained sketches of stick-figure attackers carrying guns and mowing down other stick people with a hail of bullets. The sources cited by Fox said the package with the journal had been sent to the mailroom on July 12, eight days before the rampage Holmes is accused of carrying out at the Aurora Century 16 movie theatre. The attack left 12 dead and dozens injured.
The Denver Post quoted university officials as saying one of the suspicious packages investigated on Monday had been delivered to campus by the U.S. Postal Service on the same day.
Holmes’s mother had confided deep concerns about her son’s isolation over the years and sought counseling for him, family friends have told The Washington Post.
The university said in a statement Wednesday that all mail received from the U.S. Postal Service is delivered promptly to the intended recipient once it arrives in the campus mailroom.
“For example, mail delivered on a Friday is delivered on Friday,” the university said. “The University’s mail service is not open on Saturday. Saturday mail is sorted and delivered Monday morning.”
The low-slung brick building on Paris Street where Holmes lived, which officials said he had rigged with explosives with the potential to kill or injure many more victims, remained surrounded by crime scene tape and guarded by Aurora police officers on Wednesday afternoon.
A police spokesman said residents of the building, which sits only blocks from the University of Colorado Hospital complex, could be allowed back later Wednesday night or Thursday.
Sari Horwitz and Alice Crites contributed to this report.