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Report: Psychiatrist warned university about Aurora suspect weeks before massacre

Suspect James Holmes, who seemed dazed and unengaged in court last week, on Monday appeared alert and attentive as a judge told him he faced 142 separate felony charges. NBC's Mike Taibbi reports.

DENVER, Colo. - A psychiatrist who treated the former graduate student accused of killing 12 people in a shooting rampage at a movie theater in Colorado warned her university about him more than a month before the massacre, a published report said on Wednesday.

Dr Lynne Fenton notified a so-called threat-assessment team at the University of Colorado, Denver, in early June that she was alarmed by the behavior of James Eagan Holmes, but no further action was taken, the Denver Post reported, citing an anonymous source. 

Holmes, 24, was charged on Monday with 24 counts of first-degree murder and 116 counts of attempted murder in the shooting at a midnight screening of the latest "Batman" movie in suburban Denver.

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Court papers filed by defense attorneys last week said Holmes, a former neuroscience student at the university's Anschutz Medical Campus, had been a patient of Fenton, who is medical director for student mental health services on campus.

Among the 12 who died early Friday at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. were fathers, mothers, a little girl – even heroes. NBC's Kristen Dahlgren reports.

A university spokeswoman, Jacque Montgomery, declined to comment on the Denver Post report, saying she was bound by a protective or "gag" order issued by the judge in the case and by student confidentiality laws.

"I believe, until it's been demonstrated otherwise, that our people did what they should have done," University Chancellor Don Elliman said in a statement.

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Ted S. Warren / AP

As many as 12 people were killed and 50 injured at a shooting at the Century 16 movie theatre in Aurora, Colo. early Friday during the showing of the latest Batman movie.

Police and prosecutors, who have also been reluctant to comment on the case since the judge issued his gag order, could not be reached by Reuters for comment on Wednesday evening.

The Denver Post reported that Fenton raised her concerns about Holmes with the university's Behavioral Evaluation and Threat Assessment team in early June. Denver's KMGH-TV, also citing unnamed sources, said school officials did not contact Aurora police before the shooting and that no action was taken because Holmes was in the process of dropping out of school.

KMGH added: 

Holmes lost his access to secure areas of the school June 12, according to the CU spokeswoman. ... Sources also say, after the shootings, Aurora police interviewed at least one person that Fenton contacted to discuss her concerns about Holmes.

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Montgomery described the threat assessment team as a resource consisting of representatives from various university offices that provides information to faculty, staff or students who are concerned about a member of the campus community.

The Denver Post added: 

Under a federal rule followed by psychiatrists, Fenton had a duty to take action if Holmes told her of a specific plan to harm others ... Holmes had sent a package with a notebook to Fenton before the attack, according to court papers made public last week.

Police have not offered a motive for the shooting rampage that stunned Aurora and evoked memories of the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School less than 20 miles away. Experts say Holmes' mental state may be a key issue at trial.

The first-degree murder charges mean that Holmes, a California native, is eligible to face the death penalty, but prosecutors have not yet said if they will seek it. He is next due in court on September 27. 

Reuters contributed to this report.

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