Theater Shooter’s Mother Speaks Out

It may seem cliche to discuss the Aurora, Colorado shooter on the day of his first court appearance, but it has quickly gained so much press and national attention that I feel it is worth mentioning the implications of the surrounding statements by parties who are closely related to the incident.  On the morning after the incident, a Huffington Post article discusses a very controversial statement made by Robert Holmes’ mother.  “You have the right person,” she said. “I need to call the police… I need to fly out to Colorado.”  From this statement, it seems as though his mother is admitting his guilt, and it further seems as though she is not surprised by his behavior.  From a public relations perspective, this is a complete disaster as it could have implications on the way her son’s actions are perceived.  Additionally, she made this comment without having full knowledge of the allegations, so she should not have said anything at all which would elude to an admission of guilt or innocence as the words can be used against her and her son at a later time.

Based on the ever-evolving details and information acquired from news sources, it appears that Holmes will attempt to plead insanity or that he is mentally ill, as can be further determined from his appearing in court with orange hair and a sad demeanor.  If one evaluates the statement by the mother, it could seem that a plea of insanity would be unbelievable as based on the statement, she did not sound shocked or taken aback, rather it seemed as though she expected this type of behavior from her son which would indicate that he did not act in a moment of insanity which is uncharacteristic of him as a person.  Further information shows that the act was premeditated as Holmes had stockpiled weapons and ammunition over the past several months.

Today, July 23rd, a press conference was held in San Diego to give a statement by the Holmes family.  Lisa Damiani, a lawyer for the Holmes family,  explained that the news conference was called to clarify statements that Arlene Holmes, James’ mother, made to ABC in the hours immediately following the massacre.

In reference to the statement Arlene Holmes had made at 5:45am to ABC where she said, “You have the right person…”, Damiani read, “I was referring to myself. I asked him to tell me why he was calling and he told me about a shooting in Aurora. He asked for a comment. I told him I could not comment because I did not know if the person he was talking about was my son.”

As a student of Communication, these statements cause me to be especially concerned for the family, as with the seriousness of the allegations and the amount of proof readily available that he was the killer and had planned the crime beforehand, the last thing the prosecutor needs is further details which will directly link Holmes to his crime, and these implications by his mother are simply a terrible addition to the case.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/20/robert-holmes-james-holmes-father-arrives-colorado_n_1690807.html?utm_hp_ref=denver

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/23/james-holmes-family_n_1695585.html

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5 Responses to Theater Shooter’s Mother Speaks Out

  1. jsutterf says:

    This event was such a tragedy. My heart goes out to everyone affected by this tragedy. I have trouble with sensationalizing the conversation with the alleged shooter’s family. The mother of the alleged shooter is in no way responsible. It is a tragedy for her as well, with her son facing the most serious charges. I am a lot more inclined to believe the alleged shooter’s mother’s version of the story. It seems more plausible. I am not sure what is in the public’s interest with bringing the mother into the story.

    • swall says:

      It is an awful tragedy, and it is very unfortunate that the family is a part of the discussion at all. However, since she chose to speak to the media, I think the mother opens her words to scrutiny and analysis, even though she obviously is under a lot of emotional stress and hardships at this time.

  2. kopec says:

    I can’t imagine what this poor woman must have been experiencing when she received this phone call informing her that her son was the prime suspect in a mass murder. I am quite sure that ‘spin control’ was not on her mind. I think it’s unfortunate that the families initial reactions have become fodder for speculation in the media.

    I think our time as communications students would be better spent examining the comments made by the theatre banning costumes, while not making any comments about the gun control debate; or perhaps the implications of the news debacle rushing to report that the suspected shooter was a member of the Tea Party when this was not the case. These people are communications professionals and should be evaluated, families involved in a tragedy should probably be left alone.

    I would also like to mention (and this is just a personal opinion) that I always think it’s a shame when the media puts forward images of (alleged) killers. It is hard to imagine they have the wrong man in this case, and I’ve seen this image too many times already. If this was this monsters desperate attempt to show he could have an impact on the world, then the media should not help him achieve any ounce of fame. I really wish that when I accessed the blog to read about marketing insights, that I hadn’t had to see his picture yet again.

  3. SJafaria says:

    I was in shock when I read the news of the Colorado shootings earlier this week. I am always curious to know what drives a person to do such evil acts, and when Holmes’ mother made her statement, I felt resentment towards her; I thought to myself if she said, ‘You have the right person,’ she must have known he was capable of hurting and killing so many people, she should have taken measures to prevent it. Until I read your post, I thought that’s what she meant by her statement, but it seems she was referring to herself. It is crucial in situations like this, a personal crisis, to ensure what is shared with the media is shared in the right context and tone.

  4. smcknigh says:

    Swall, thanks for bringing some light to the comment of the alleged shooter’s mother. I had the same initial sentiments that SJafaria mentioned until I read your post. Beyond that though, your post also helped me to consider the implications of this situation has to our studies of communication. It is unfortunate that media cares so much about ratings with a lack of regard to the big picture. I completely agree that verbal images such as the comment of the mother referenced in your post could be completely damaging to the case. This event was a tragedy and could do without further complications. I am led to wonder what would be an optimal communication strategy for mass media. How can they balance their desire for ratings (and the revenue it creates) with handling delicate situations as such?