Susan Holmes files civil action against CSU over transparency dispute

Julia Trowbridge

Susan Holmes, the mother of Jeremy Holmes who was shot by Colorado State University Police in 2017, has filed a civil action against CSU for not releasing unredacted video footage of her son’s shooting, according to the court documents filed in the official suit on Dec. 8, 2018.

In addition to this, Susan Holmes is also running for the District 2 councilmember position in City Council, on a platform of police reform aimed to end police violence in Fort Collins.

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“Police are sanitizing our community in order to make it look nice, green and happy here … The use of force policy needs to be changed to de-escalation, we need to stop officer created jeopardy,” Holmes said. “I can make the changes no one else is doing here.”

Dell Rae Ciaravola, CSUPD’s public relations officer, wrote in an email to The Collegian that the University has already allowed Susan Holmes to inspect the footage “that she purports to be seeking.” CSUPD does not comment on pending court matters, Ciaravola wrote.

Timeline of the Case

On July 1, 2017, Jeremy Holmes, a 19-year-old student at Front Range Community College, left Susan Holmes’ home with a knife and suggested that he might kill his brother Alec Lutzke, who lived on CSU’s campus. According to court documents obtained by The Collegian, Jeremy Holmes was having a psychotic reaction to THC in marijuana.

After not being able to contact Lutzke or his wife, Susan Holmes called Fort Collins Police Services in order to warn Lutzke to not open his apartment. Because Lutzke lived on CSU’s campus, FCPS referred the call to CSUPD. Susan Holmes told the FCPS officer that Jeremy Holmes had a knife and was mentally ill, which was noted as important so that the officers could respond appropriately

Police are sanitizing our community in order to make it look nice, green and happy here … the use of force policy needs to be changed to de-escalation, we need to stop officer created jeopardy … I can make the changes, no one else is doing here.” – Susan Holmes at a candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters

While Lutzke spoke with CSUPD Officer Katie Aron, CSUPD Officer Phillip Morris shot Jeremy Holmes nearby. Ten days after the shooting, the Larimer County Coroner’s Office ruled Jeremy Holmes’ death a homicide. 

District Attorney Clifford Riedel ruled that the use of lethal force by the officers was justified July 18, 2017. According to the Coloradoan, the district attorney said the officers showed “amazing restraint” before using lethal force. In Riedel’s letter detailing the ruling, he noted that the officer asked Jeremy Holmes to drop his weapon 36 times and tried to use his taser instead.

After the district attorney reviewed the case, Susan Holmes reached out to CSUPD July 20, 2017, requesting body camera footage, which was denied.

Susan Holmes submitted two more requests, one Aug. 2, 2017, which was denied because FCPS and CSUPD were still conducting internal investigations, and one Nov. 10, 2017, after which she was able to view the footage.

According to court documents, Holmes said she felt that her ability to replay the video was limited, so she could not engage in a comprehensive review of the footage.

CSU made a redacted version of the footage public Nov. 21, 2017. Susan Holmes submitted a records request to CSU Nov. 27, 2017, asking for a copy of the unredacted body camera footage.

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On Dec. 1 of that year, Susan Holmes was informed that CSUPD would not release the footage because it was extremely graphic and it served no public interest to release the footage. The University also cited that releasing the footage could jeopardize the safety of CSUPD police officers.

Susan Holmes submitted another records request Feb. 14, 2018, but the request was denied March 5. Susan Holmes said she submitted a significantly more detailed and broader records request Sept. 18, 2018, but each section was denied Sept. 24, 2018.

Present-day actions, City Council campaign 

woman standing with sign at MLK march
Susan Holmes addresses the crowd at the 2018 MLK march. At this time, Susan Holmes had not met with CSU President Tony Frank about her sons’ death. (Julia Trowbridge | Collegian)

Because of the classification of recordings and records that pertain to police activity as “other criminal justice records,” the release of these records are up to the discretion of CSUPD under the Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act.

Under that act, CSUPD is required to balance multiple factors when assessing releasing records, including privacy interests of individuals who could be impacted, the agency’s interest in keeping information confidential, potential ongoing investigations and the potential to serve the public.

Since the records requests were denied, Susan Holmes applied for the district court to determine if CSUPD abused its discretion by not releasing the unredacted footage, since it is considered extremely graphic.

Susan Holmes claims that from the moment of her son’s homicide, the police tried to silence her and have tried to create a narrative that the officer was a hero for waiting so long to shoot her son.

Additionally, Susan Holmes claims that some information released to the public had been edited, including the dialogue between Jermey and the officers in the body camera footage and the phone call to the police concerning her sons.

Susan Holmes said the coverup began once Jeremy Holmes died, stating that while she was speaking to the coroner and grieving, she wasn’t aware that some of the detectives in the room were recording her for the investigation.

“There were all these detectives taping me, they said, ‘Can we talk to you?’ and I said, ‘Yeah,’ but I didn’t know I was going to be taped for legal purposes,” Susan Holmes said. “I’m in the middle of handling my son dying, I was in agony, and this is what they were doing to me. That’s how bad it is.”

According to Colorado Revised Statutes, only one person involved or present in a face-to-face conversation must consent to the recording of a conversation. Any person not involved or present for the conversation must seek consent from one person in the conversation to run.

Additionally, Susan Holmes claims CSU is doing whatever they can to prevent her from getting unredacted body camera footage. She claims CSU has put off filing an answer to her civil action, and when the judge asked CSU for a response Jan. 22, the judge was changed Feb. 8.

Susan Holmes said because of this alleged corruption, she is running for the District 2 councilmember position on the platform of reforming police violence and reengineering community policing.

At a candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters, Susan Holmes introduced her campaign by sharing her experience, including the civil action and other efforts to have her story heard.

“I am the only person up here, including the City Council, that has the expertise to actually change the police policies that have to do with brutality and are involved with how we deal with the use of force in this community,” Susan Holmes said. “We have a big problem in this town and no one is talking about it.”

Julia Trowbridge can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @chapin_jules.