The widow of one of the victims of the Aurora, Colo., movie theater killings has sued the psychiatrist of alleged shooter James Holmes for failing to ask authorities to detain him after she recognized the threat he posed.
University of Colorado Denver psychiatrist Dr. Lynne Fenton treated Holmes when he was a neuroscience graduate student and, as has been reported, became alarmed after he told her about his violent fantasies. She reached out to the university's police force to warn them about his erratic behavior weeks before the Aurora shooting.
However, a civil lawsuit filed this week in Denver on behalf Chantel Blunk, the widow of Jonathan Blunk, 26, faults Fenton for rejecting the campus police's offer to have Holmes placed on a 72-hour "psychiatric hold."
"Defendant Fenton knew that James Holmes was dangerous," the suit reads. "Defendant Fenton had a duty to use reasonable care to protect the public at large from James Holmes. Defendant Fenton was presented with the opportunity to use such reasonable care when the Colorado University Police offered to apprehend James Holmes on a psychiatric hold. Defendant Fenton breached her duty to use reasonable care."
Weeks after Fenton became alarmed, Holmes opened fire in a crowded midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises," killing 12 people and wounding dozens. He faces 166 charges, including murder, and his killing spree has inspired a lawsuit on behalf of several of the victims' families against the theater chain that screened the film for failing to provide adequate security. Prosecutors have said that Holmes tried to call Fenton, but failed to reach her, before he opened fire that night.
Fenton's employer, the University of Colorado Denver, is also named as a defendant.
In a statement to TheWrap, a University spokeswoman said, "The University of Colorado Denver has nothing but sympathy for the victims of the Aurora Theater Shooting and their families, but in our initial review of this case, the University believes this lawsuit is not well-founded legally or factually."
Fenton's attorney Richard Murray declined to comment.
Blunk, who has two young sons, is seeking at least $75,000 in damages.
"As a direct and proximate result of Defendant Fenton’s negligence and through the doctrine of respondeat superior, Colorado University’s negligence, the Plaintiffs will suffer loss of companionship, emotional and psychological distress, economic damages, extreme mental and emotional pain and suffering and fear," the suit reads.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report