Aurora Theater Shooting

Aurora theater shooting families join call for national protocol to streamline donations

Family members of the victims in several mass murders, including Columbine and the Aurora theater shooting, are calling on the federal government to establish a protocol for a "national compassion fund" that would ensure that any money donated in the wake of a tragedy goes directly to the victims. "Our family took a lot of pain just trying to wrestle...for these donated funds," says Scott Larimer, whose son John was killed in Aurora. "I don't want any family to have to deal with this along with the tragedy of losing a loved one in a mass shooting."

In all, 64 people affected by tragedy, including eighteen family members of Aurora theater shooting victims and fifteen family members of students killed at Columbine High School, have signed on to the call for a "national compassion fund" protocol. The other signers include family members of victims of the Oklahoma City bombing, September 11, the Virginia Tech shooting, the Sikh temple shooting and the Sandy Hook shooting.

The idea came about, Larimer says, when the families began talking to each other and realized they shared a common concern -- that the charities soliciting donations "latch on to this money and distribute it to everybody but the victims.

"If this protocol was in place, then the next time a tragedy occurs, the government knows what to do, the American public knows where to donate money to ensure it goes to the victims, and there will be accountability and fraud control," he says.

That's not what happened in the case of the Aurora shooting, Larimer says. More than $5 million in donations was collected through a fund set up by the non-profit Arvada-based Community First Foundation on its website, GivingFirst.org. But the money wasn't immediately given to victims. Instead, some of it was distributed to other non-profits.

In August, about a month after the July 20 shooting, the families of eleven of the twelve people killed held a press conference to express disappointment that victims and their families were not consulted on how to distribute the donations.

Continue reading for more on what the families are requesting.

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Melanie Asmar is a staff writer for Westword. She joined the paper in 2009 and has won awards for her stories about education, immigration and epic legal battles. Got a tip? She'd love to hear it.
Contact: Melanie Asmar

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