Aurora, Colo., shooting victims' families question fundraisingThe father of one of the victims criticized fundraisers for not giving victims a voice in how the money is distributed, even though it was raised using the pictures and names of “our murdered loved ones.”
By: Dan Elliott, Associated Press
AURORA, Colo. — Families of some of the 12 people killed in the Colorado theater shooting are upset with the way the millions of dollars raised since the tragedy are being distributed.
At an emotional news conference today in Aurora, group spokesman Tom Teves, whose son was killed, criticized fundraisers for not giving victims a voice in how the money is distributed, even though it was raised using the pictures and names of “our murdered loved ones.”
So far, just over $5 million has been raised and $450,000 distributed. Of that, $350,000 went to the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance in order to provide $5,000 each going to the families of 70 victims to meet their immediate financial needs. The other $100,000 has gone to 10 nonprofit groups, according to the Community First Foundation website.
With victims and their families crowded on the platform behind him, Teves accused fundraising groups of being unresponsive and unsympathetic to victims’ needs and also questioned the commitment of Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to helping the victims, noting that the governor had attended the funerals of those who died in the shooting.
“You pledged 12 times, ‘We will remember.’ Are you a man of your words? Or were they just words?”
Hickenlooper was not immediately available for comment.
Some dabbed their eyes as Teves spoke. One man was using a cane with a splint up to his knee.
Teves said anyone in the theater or in the suspect's apartment building who was affected by the “coward's acts” should be eligible to receive help.
The suspect in the July 20 shooting, 24-year-old James Eagan Holmes, is charged with murder and attempted murder and two other counts.
Only a handful of family members of the slain victims have spoken publicly, and most of their comments came in the first few days after the shooting.
A spokeswoman for the Aurora Victim Relief Fund, Kim Stuart said the group expects to identify who will lead the group in the near future and determine how the money will be spent.
Marla J. Williams, president and CEO of the Community First Foundation, charged by Hickenlooper to operate relief fund, told KUSA-TV that the nonprofit organization had problems contacting victims and the committee plans to add a representative of the victims’ families. She said police secrecy and a court order sealing documents hampered efforts to help the families.
“In this case, there were some challenges in communication because of the gag order,” Williams said.
She didn't immediately return a telephone call.
Police said Holmes was heavily armed and wearing body armor and a gas mask when he opened fire on the audience in a packed theater in the Denver suburb of Aurora during a showing of the latest Batman movie.
In addition to the 12 killed, 58 were injured.
Holmes is being held without bail and has not entered a plea. Defense lawyers have said he is mentally ill.
Holmes was a first-year Ph.D. student in a neuroscience program at the University of Colorado, Denver. He told university officials about six weeks before the shootings that he was withdrawing.
Prosecutors have said Holmes failed an oral board exam June 7, at about the same time he began buying weapons and ammunition.
Prosecutors are seeking the university's records on Holmes and also want to see a notebook that Holmes reportedly sent to university psychiatrist Lynne Fenton. Fenton is expected to testify at a hearing Thursday.
Defense lawyers are fighting prosecution attempts to see the material.
Investigators, attorneys on both sides and the university have said little about the case outside court hearings, citing a gag order imposed by Arapahoe County District Judge William Sylvester.
Many court documents have been kept secret as well.