Backers of Colorado’s new red flag law aren’t saying much about the first high profile abuse of the Extreme Risk Protection Order process and for good reason. The case of Susan Holmes has revealed that not only will some individuals try to abuse the system, but the state’s mental health system is likely in need of an overhaul as well.
Holmes is the mother of Jeremy Holmes, who was shot and killed by police in 2017 after he charged officers while brandishing a knife (officers had told him to drop the knife more than 40 times before shots were fired). In January of this year, Susan Holmes attempted to file an Extreme Risk Protection Order against one of the officers involved in the shooting and lied on the ERPO application by falsely claiming that the officer was Holmes’ father.
The Latimer County Sheriff arrested Susan Holmes on February 4 on a felony perjury charge, and now Holmes is claiming that she was tortured by deputies and that she’s a political prisoner of Latimer County Sheriff Justin Smith.
Holmes describes her trip to jail like so: “I was face down on the cold cement floor in agony from the injuries I sustained from the FC police and the two sheriff deputies, who threw me down because I couldn’t kneel all the way down so they could take off the cuffs…. I couldn’t move from the floor because of the pain…. I couldn’t lift myself up. I was in that condition from the time they threw me on the floor until they finally came to release me the next day.”
According to her, “I repeatedly requested medical treatment for my injuries. I asked that they call an ambulance, take me to the hospital so that I could have X-rays and have my pain and injuries treated by a doctor. Along with that request, I stated repeatedly: ‘This is Susan Holmes from Fort Collins, I am not a criminal…. I am a political prisoner. I am an American citizen…this is not China. This is the United States of America and I have a right to proper medical treatment for my injuries.’”
Susan Holmes is clearly still grieving the loss of her son, which is understandable. At what point, however, does the normal grieving process turn in to a mental crisis of its own? Here’s Holmes describing what she believes the Latimer County Sheriff’s Office is up to.
They lie, they cover up their criminal behavior, and if you fall into their hands…you will be killed or tortured by them. I was tortured in the sheriff’s department for twenty-something hours by [them] withholding proper medical treatment for the injuries sustained from the brutal treatment by FC police and the sheriff’s department. The sheriff’s department is probably altering and editing all of the tapes as I write this.”
While I agree that Holmes should be facing a perjury charge for lying on her ERPO application, I can’t help but wonder if police shouldn’t avail themselves of the state’s civil commitment laws and refer Holmes to medical officials for a mental health evaluation as well. I don’t say that to be cruel or flippant. I’m genuinely concerned about her mental and emotional state.
Unfortunately, Democrats in control of Colorado’s government have been far more interested in pursuing legislation targeting the state’s gun owners than they’ve been in fixing the state’s broken mental health system, which has left hundreds of thousands of Coloradans to cope with their mental illness by themselves. In fact, one of the benefits of a red flag law, at least for politicians, is that it allows them to claim they “did something,” while allowing them to continue to largely ignore the real mental health crisis and lack of care for those who desperately need it.
I’m not sure how Susan Holmes’ case will be resolved, but I truly hope that one day she is able to find some peace. In the meantime, Holmes should be a reminder for lawmakers that a red flag law is likely to be abused, and is no substitute for real mental health services desperately needed by so many Coloradans.