Susan Holmes is considered a wanted woman today, after the Larimer County Sheriff's Office issued a perjury warrant in her name related to the filing of an Extreme Risk Protection Order, or ERPO, under Colorado's controversial new red flag law against Phil Morris, the Colorado State University police corporal who fatally shot her nineteen-year-old son, Jeremy Holmes, near the university's campus on July 1, 2017.
Holmes has not responded to Westword since the LCSO, headed by Sheriff Justin Smith, who dubbed her ERPO a fraud in a recent Facebook post, publicly confirmed the warrant's existence. But in an interview following a judge's rejection of her request on January 16, Holmes made it clear that she doesn't feel she violated the law when she marked a section of the order's form 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. The CSU police officer 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.)
At the conclusion of the brief hearing, Holmes told us that she came face to face with a scrum of reporters who were hoping she'd explain her line of thinking. But she declined. "I can appeal the case — the judge stated that — and based on the possibility of me doing that, I can't discuss any of my positions," she explained. "But I can say I consulted two attorneys about that language before filing the ERPO — and one of them was a law professor. So I actually got legal advice before checking that box."
The journalists, meanwhile, "just kept hammering at me about, 'Do you feel like you perjured yourself?' They wanted me to respond that way. But I don't feel like I perjured myself. I don't."
Eighth Judicial District Chief Judge Stephen E. Howard rejected her theory, as she knew he would. After all, on Jeremy Holmes Justice, a website she created to expose what she sees as the various inequities committed by legal and judicial agencies in her son's case, a section labeled "Public Corruption" includes several entries castigating Howard by name for the way he handled her unsuccessful lawsuit in the case; she took action after authorities refused to share body-camera footage from a second officer on the scene that she sees as a key to proving that the shooting should never have taken place.
Holmes had filed a motion to ask that Howard recuse himself from the ERPO hearing because of what she described as "his enormous prejudice against my open-records case. When I found out he was assigned to this, I immediately knew he needed to be recused if I was to have a fair and impartial hearing."
As for Sheriff Smith, he's a longtime Second Amendment advocate who joined a complaint against Colorado gun-control laws in 2013; it ultimately fell short. Throughout much of last year, he expressed concerns about the red flag law, which creates a framework for temporarily taking guns away from those considered a danger to themselves and others, and after Holmes deployed her ERPO, he declared on Facebook that her actions illustrated the measure's "tremendous procedural deficiencies."
Sheriff Justin Smith Facebook post:
On Colorado’s Red Flag Law:
It turns out that Larimer County has become ground zero for Colorado’s Extreme Risk Protection Order (aka Red Flag) Law within days of its implementation. Within the first week of 2020, we have witnessed two cases in Larimer that demonstrate the two opposite extreme scenarios under this law. I find both of these incidents as classic examples of how this law both be used and abused.
The first involves a criminal suspect, David Galton, incarcerated in our jail facing very serious allegations of making credible threats to carry out a mass shooting. Despite our best efforts, the mental health system has failed to intervene with this individual and last week he went before the court in an effort to have his bond reduced in hopes that he would be released from custody pending trial. Given that Gatton is not a convicted felon and has no other prohibiting factors — if released, he could have walked into any gun store and passed a background check to purchase a firearm. At my direction, an LCSO investigator filed an emergency ERPO petition against Gatton last week. That petition was approved and will soon go to a full hearing.
While there are no firearms to be turned over, this order will flag Gatton in a background check from purchasing a firearm, should he be released pending trial. We obviously continue to oppose his release and we are frustrated by the continued failure of the state’s mental health hold process. I believed it would have been a dereliction of duty if we had not taken all available steps to reduce the possibility of Gatton getting his hands on a firearm at this time.
On the other extreme, we’ve also witnessed another scenario that demonstrates the tremendous procedural deficiencies in the ERPO law — deficiencies I’ve spoken out about many times over the previous year. In that case, Susan Holmes filed a petition against a CSU police officer who was involved in a deadly force encounter with Ms. Holmes adult son in 2017. Evidence in that 2017 case irrefutably supported the actions of both the CSU and another Fort Collins officer. However, under Colorado’s flawed ERPO law, Ms. Holmes was able to file a petition against the CSU officer, despite the facts that Ms. Holmes has no legal standing and the petition on its face has zero merit.
That petition was delivered to my office for service. I have not and will not be serving that petition, not because it’s against a police officer, but because it is a fraud. We are actively investigating this abuse of the system and we will determine what charges may be substantiated against the petitioner, Ms. Holmes. Because this represents an active investigation, I will not be making any additional comments on this case at this time.
It is my hope that these two remarkably timed cases will serve to promote productive conversation on this issue. In my mind, they demonstrate a need to address dangerous and oftentimes mentally ill persons and their potential to carry out violent acts, while at the same time, exposing the tremendous potential for abuse of ill drafted, politically motivated laws, like Colorado’s Red Flag law.