Cinema attack: University mum on notebook

2012-07-26 09:01

Denver - The University of Colorado, Denver would not confirm the contents of a suspicious package it received on campus and turned over to authorities or say whether the sender was a former neuroscience graduate student accused of killing 12 people in the Colorado cinema assault.

The university said on Wednesday that it had received a suspicious package and that the package was immediately investigated and turned over to authorities within hours of its delivery on Monday.

Fox News' website, however, citing unnamed law enforcement sources, reported that shooting suspect James Holmes sent a notebook to the school that sat in a university mailroom unopened since at least 12 July and wasn't found until Monday.

In the statement, the university disputed that it received the package on July 12 but did not elaborate.

Fox said the notebook contained drawings of stick figures being shot and a written description of an upcoming attack.

The package containing it was addressed to a psychiatrist at the school, the website reported. It was unclear if Holmes, aged 24, had had any previous contact with the person. The neuroscience programme that he withdrew from on 10 June included professors of psychiatry.

No confirmation

NBC News, also citing unnamed sources, reported that Holmes told investigators to look for the package and that it described killing people.

The FBI and other law enforcement agencies refused to confirm the reports.

The University of Colorado, Denver, issued a statement saying it could not confirm the reports or discuss any aspects of the investigation, citing a gag order placed on the case by a judge.

It said that packages to the main mailroom of the Anschutz Medical Campus, where Holmes studied, are not tracked unless the US Postal Service requires a signature upon delivery.

Before the gag order was issued, police said Holmes received more than 50 packages at the school and his home that apparently contained ammunition, combat gear and explosive materials that he used in the attack and to booby-trap his Aurora apartment.

Holmes' apartment building remained closed on Wednesday, although his defence team stopped by for a brief visit. They left without answering reporters' questions.

'Bizarre' voicemail message

Holmes was allegedly stockpiling for the attack while he studied at the school's neuroscience programme. He bought a shotgun and pistol in May, authorities say.

On 7 June, the date he took a year-end oral exam, he bought an assault rifle. He filed paperwork to leave the programme three days later and did not provide a reason, the university has said.

On 25 June, he filed an application to join a private gun range in eastern Colorado, but the club's owner, hearing what he described as a "bizarre" outgoing voice mail on Holmes' cell phone recorded in a low voice with heavy-breathing, told his staff to watch out for the man. Holmes never came to the range.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said on Wednesday in an interview with NBC News that many of the guns used in the shooting were obtained illegally and that changing laws won't prevent gun-related tragedies. But the weapons used were obtained legally.

Romney said that "this person shouldn't have had any kinds of weapons and bombs". Romney said it was illegal for Holmes to have "many" of the weapons already.

However, Holmes broke no laws when he purchased an assault-style rifle, a shotgun and Glock handgun, and he passed the required background checks.

Memorial service

Meanwhile, neighbours of the accused Colorado cinema shooter were allowed back home after investigators spent days combing the apartment of James Holmes.

Also on Wednesday, a father who took his teenage children to the new Batman movie and was killed when the gunman opened fire on the cinema was mourned in the first memorial service for a victim of the shootings.

Fifty-one-year-old Gordon Cowden was the oldest of the 12 people killed in the massacre at the Dark Knight Rises. His teenage children escaped unharmed.

Cowden lived in Aurora, the Denver suburb where the cinema is located. A family statement described him as a "true Texas gentleman" who loved the outdoors and owned his own business.

Carrying flowers and passing a large portrait of Cowden, about 150 mourners gathered for the memorial at a Denver church. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper paused at the photo before entering the church. The memorial was also attended by Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan and Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates.

Later this week, families of other victims planned to say their final goodbyes.

Holmes is due in court next Monday, when he will hear the charges against him.