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Colorado shooter 'posted attack plans'
James Holmes mailed notebook detailing his plans to psychiatrist at his university before attack that left 12 dead.
Last Modified: 26 Jul 2012 07:22
Barack Obama has pledged to tackle gun violence in the wake of the Colorado killing [AFP]

The man accused in the Colorado movie theatre killings mailed a notebook detailing his plans to a psychiatrist at his university before the attack, local media reported as the first funeral was held for one of the 12 people killed.

The university would not confirm the report but 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 July 12 and was not found until Monday.

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

"The anonymous Fox News source that the package was received on July 12 and sat on a loading dock is inaccurate," Jacque Montgomery, a university spokesperson, said in the statement.

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

A spokesperson for the FBI's Denver office said the bureau could not speak about any aspect of the investigation because the judge in the case had issued a protective order on Tuesday that strictly limits what attorneys, law enforcement and court staff can say publicly about the case.

Wednesday's Fox News report said police and FBI agents were called to the University of Colorado Anschutz medical campus in Aurora on Monday morning after a psychiatrist who is a professor at the school reported receiving a package believed to be from the 24-year-old suspect.

Although that package turned out to be from someone else and harmless, a search of the Campus Services' mail room turned up another parcel sent to the psychiatrist with Holmes' name in the return address, the source told Fox News.

After obtaining a search warrant, police took the package away and discovered its contents.

Fox News did not identify the psychiatrist. Holmes was a doctoral student in neuroscience at the Anschutz campus until filing paperwork to drop out in June.

Police say Holmes, wearing tactical body armour and a gas mask and toting three firearms, opened fire on a crowded midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" in the Denver suburb of Aurora, killing 12 people and wounding 58 others.

Holmes, who was arrested behind the theatre immediately after the attack, made his first appearance in court on Monday, appearing sleepy and disoriented. Authorities plan to formally charge him on July 30.

First funeral

Hundreds gathered on Wednesday at the nondenominational Pathways Church in Denver for the first funeral for a victim of the July 20 massacre.

Gordon Cowden, at 51 the oldest victim of the shooting, was a real estate appraiser who had taken his teenage daughters to the movie theatre where he was killed. His daughters escaped unharmed.

An excerpt from the funeral programme attributed to his daughter Brooke read: "I will never forget that in such disorientation and confusion of that night what was certain were your yells, declarations of 'I love you' to both of us. Forever, with love, Brooke."

Joyce Zounis, who knew Cowden through a single parents group at her Aurora church, said Brooke Cowden gave an emotional speech during the service in which she recounted dancing with her father at an outdoor concert in June.

"Little did she know, this would be her last dance with her dad," Zounis, 50, said.

Doug Newman, a friend of Cowden, said the grief inside the church was "pretty intense."

"I'm in absolute shock," Newman said. "I haven't been myself for a few days."

Services for Cowden came as 19 of those injured in the shooting remained hospitalised, seven in critical condition.

Obama takes position
 
Barack Obama, the US president, pledged on Wednesday to work with leaders of all political stripes to "arrive at a consensus" on how to reduce gun violence across the US after the Colorado shootings highlighted the issue in an election year.

Closing out a multiday trip that began in Aurora, Colorado, where he met families and victims of the movie theatre killings there, Obama told the audience that such tragedies are replayed on a smaller scale in cities throughout the country on a daily basis.

"Every day and a half the number of young people we lose to violence is about the same as the number of people we lost in that movie theatre," Obama said in remarks to the National Urban League, a group that works to promote civil rights and economic improvement for African-Americans.

"I'm going to continue to work with members of both parties and with religious groups and with civic organisations to arrive at a consensus around violence reduction."

Discussing or even touching on the issue of gun control during an election year is risky, and Obama has been careful to avoid making proposals that could offend gun owners and rally his Republican opponents.

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The president made a point of emphasising his support for the US constitution's Second Amendment, which covers the right to bear arms.

"We recognise the traditions of gun ownership that passed on from generation to generation, that hunting and shooting are part of a cherished national heritage," Obama said.

"But I also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals. That they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities."

Firearms sales surged after the massacre. In Colorado, gun sales jumped in the three days that followed the murders, according to reports released on Wednesday.

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