CENTENNIAL – The former graduate student accused in a deadly mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater had failed a key exam six weeks before the rampage, made threats and was banned from his college, prosecutors said Thursday.
University of Colorado Denver spokeswoman Jacque Montgomery later disputed that James Holmes was banned from campus, but confirmed that a criminal background check was done on him before the July 20 attack.
She said a court gag order prevented her from discussing who requested the check, who performed it and who saw the results.
Montgomery’s statement was believed to be the first explicit public confirmation that a check had been done on Holmes’ background before the shootings.
Montgomery did say that campus Police Chief Doug Abraham was referring to that background check when he said at a July 23 news conference that Holmes had only a minor infraction on his record.
She said Holmes’ access to restricted areas on campus was canceled because he left his program in June, not because of threats.
Prosecutors made their new claims Thursday against Holmes in their effort to persuade a judge to allow them access to 100 pages of education records subpoenaed from the university, where Holmes had been a neuroscience doctoral candidate.
The university turned over the documents last week, but Holmes’ lawyers moved to keep them sealed.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Pearson told the judge that Holmes was stockpiling ammunition, body armor and explosives at his apartment and at the university while he was flunking out.
Gaining access to the records, she argued, would establish motive by showing what Holmes hoped to accomplish at CU and the “dissatisfaction with what occurred in his life that led to this.”
The judge said he would rule in time for the next hearing in the case, scheduled for Aug. 30.
Holmes is charged with killing 12 people and wounding 58 in the shooting during a midnight showing of the latest Batman movie.
He has not issued a plea and remains held without bail.
The prosecutors’ account presented a sharply different picture of Holmes’ departure from CU from that provided by university officials in the days after the shooting.
Pearson did not elaborate on the nature of the threats during the hearing, nor did she disclose the source of the information. But she said that professors had urged Holmes to get into another profession and that his research had been deteriorating.
Prosecutors are seeking Holmes’ university application, his grades, course schedules, emails concerning Holmes, and anything concerning his termination or withdrawal from the school in June.
“What’s going on in the defendant’s life at the time is extremely relevant to this case,” Pearson said.
Defense lawyer Daniel King objected to the release of the records, calling the prosecution’s request a “fishing expedition that needs to be stopped.”
Holmes appeared more engaged in the hearing than previous court appearances. His walk was more deliberate when he came into the courtroom. Rather than staring blankly ahead, he looked at the judge for most of the hearing.
Before a gag order was issued, the university had said campus police had no records on Holmes.