Colorado's red flag law, which creates a framework for temporarily taking guns away from those considered a danger to themselves and others, was controversial even before it went into effect on January 1 — and the latest use of the measure has just ratcheted up the debate.
Susan Holmes has filed for an Extreme Risk Protection Order, or ERPO, in the name of Colorado State University Police Department Corporal Phil Morris, who fatally shot her nineteen-year-old son, Jeremy Holmes, near the CSU campus on July 1, 2017.
"A violent and incompetent police officer should not have have access to guns," Holmes notes via email. "If this law is to be applied to Colorado citizens, then violent Colorado officers should be subject to the same law."
Not just anyone can ask for an ERPO; the petition form limits its use to law enforcement officers and a "family or household member to the respondent." Holmes isn't related to Morris, but in her ERPO, she checks the box that reads, "I have a child in common with the respondent. (Regardless of marriage or whether you have lived with the respondent at any time.)"
Of course, the child in question is Jeremy, whom Holmes bore and raised and Morris killed. Morris opened fire on Jeremy after the latter moved rapidly in his direction while armed with a knife — an action that his mother believes the police precipitated by badly overreacting.
The incident can be seen in the following video. (Warning: Its content may disturb some viewers.)
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Morris was cleared of wrongdoing by both the police department and the Larimer County District Attorney's Office. However, the CSU police department has refused to release additional body-camera footage from another officer on the scene, despite Susan Holmes's many requests that it be shared. She unsuccessfully sued the university over the issue in 2018, and last year, she wrote what she's dubbed the Jeremy Holmes Act, which states: "Disclosure of body-worn audio and/or video recordings in homicides by police must be released within five days of public request."
Thus far, no state lawmaker has stepped forward to sponsor the bill during the 2020 legislative session. Now, however, Holmes has brought the case back into the spotlight, albeit in a way that has stirred the passions of red flag law supporters and detractors alike.
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After news broke about Holmes's move, Republican Representative Patrick Neville, minority leader of the Colorado House, tweeted: "We predicted this and said a falsely accused person has no recourse other than hoping a DA files charges. No recourse to recoup lost wages or reputation. One example of many about how this bill was so horribly written."
Alan Franklin, political director of ProgressNow Colorado, which energetically backed the bill, responded in a way that defends the concept but offers little support for Holmes. "If she lied under oath, she should face charges for that," Franklin tweeted. "That is not a failure of the law, nor will be the dismissal of the ERPO request if it’s unfounded. Also there is nothing improper with the judge holding an initial ERPO hearing. That’s due process."
At least four ERPOs have been filed since the start of the year; one has been denied.
Click to read the Corporal Phil Morris Extreme Risk Protection Order petition.