Colorado woman sentenced for filing false "red flag" report

AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File

Back in 2017, 19-year old Jeremy Holmes was shot and killed by a Fort Collins, Colorado police officer and an officer with Colorado State University after he rushed towards an officer while brandishing a knife. Police had been alerted to Holmes thanks to a 911 call from his mother Susan, who told dispatchers that her son had a large knife and was threatening to kill his brother and sister-in-law.

When police spotted Holmes on a street near CSU a short time later, they tried to de-escalate the situation, asking, ordering, and even pleading with the young man to drop the knife. Instead, Holmes, who had earlier told his mother that he planned on charging at police “in order to die,” carried out his threat and was shot and killed.

It was a tragic situation, and it’s impossible (for me, anyway) not to feel for Susan Holmes, who had tried to get help for her son in the weeks before his death.

“He’s got mental health issues that have been growing for the last few months just dramatically. … There’s no reason for him to be doing this,” Susan Holmes said on the call.

Susan Holmes said her son participated in a mental health evaluation with police voluntarily a couple of weeks before the call, and “I’ve been trying to help him, but there’s something wrong with him.”

Jeremy Holmes was carrying an 11.25-inch bayonet knife that he bought at a pawn shop four days earlier, according to District Attorney Cliff Riedel’s letter clearing the officers of wrongdoing related to the shooting.

Susan Holmes said on the call that that her son told her he planned to charge at police “so that he’ll die today.”

“He just said you’re going to lose either two sons today or one,” she told an emergency dispatcher. “I’m just so horrified. I’m just so horrified.”

After her son’s death, Susan Holmes publicly blamed the officers for what happened, accusing them of using excessive force. Like every other officer-involved shooting, Jeremy Holmes’ death was investigated and the officers were cleared of any wrongdoing, but in January of 2020 Susan Holmes to take advantage of the state’s new “red flag” firearms seizure law and initiated a petition against one of the officers involved in the shooting.

The red flag law allows members of law enforcement, a family member or a household member to petition to have a person’s firearms removed if they are deemed by a judge to be a threat to themselves or others.

In the petition filed Jan. 9, 2020, Holmes checked a box saying she is a family or household member of [Cpl. Phillip] Morris — one of two officers involved in the fatal shooting of her son, 19-year-old Jeremy Holmes, on July 1, 2017 — specifically that she has a child in common with Morris.

Holmes was ultimately charged with perjury for lying on the Extreme Risk Protection Order application, and was convicted during a jury trial earlier this year. On Tuesday she was sentenced for her crime, and despite being eligible for up to six years in prison a judge ordered her to spend the next two years on probation instead.

Holmes appeared in court wearing a “Justice for Jeremy Holmes” shirt. She told Jouard she did not want to make a statement “at this time.”

Holmes’ probation sentence will be allowed to transfer to Florida, where she has found stability in living with family, defense attorney Matthew Landers said.

Landers asked for Holmes to be sentenced to unsupervised probation in part so she would not have to pay the $50 monthly probation fee and have an easier time moving on with her new life in Florida. Holmes has very little income, and Landers said it will be hard enough for her to pay other fees associated with her sentence without a monthly probation fee.

Jouard waived the probation supervision fee based on Holmes’ income. She will still have to pay approximately $1,700 to cover the fee to extradite her from New Mexico, where she fled after her first trial ended in a mistrial.

Holmes already spent nearly 180 days in jail throughout this case, and any further jail sentence would be unnecessary, Jouard said.

Holmes has maintained her innocence throughout this case, claiming she did not lie on the red flag petition because she believes that she and Morris do share her son in common because Morris fatally shot him. Immediately after the red flag petition hearing in January 2020, Holmes told reporters outside the courtroom that “I do not feel I’ve perjured myself.”

The phrase “child in common” is not further defined on the form, which is intended to be filled out without the assistance of an attorney.

But Jouard said he believes she knew what she was doing, and it’s not clear if “her judgment is impaired by grief” or “more likely, she doesn’t care about the consequences of her behavior.”

As I said, it’s hard not to feel sympathetic towards Susan Holmes, but that doesn’t excuse the harassment of any of the officers who responded to her son’s threatening behavior.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Robert Axmacher said Holmes’ actions in this case were “clearly influenced by grief and anger” and “motivated by revenge” against the officer responsible for her son’s death.

Holmes has not taken responsibility for any of her actions, Axmacher said.

“At some point here there is a disconnect, and I don’t know how to solve this disconnect,” Axmacher said.

But Landers said he knew how to solve this disconnect Axmacher spoke about: Let Holmes move on from this case.

“This is a wound that will never heal for her,” Landers said of her son’s death, adding that her actions were largely driven by grief and the desire for accountability.

Prison probably isn’t the right place for Susan Holmes, but her case does demonstrate that these “red flag” laws can absolutely be abused, and incarceration may very well be an appropriate sentence for others who file false reports in the future. While I personally think Colorado’s law should be scrapped entirely, I’m glad that there’s at least a mechanism to charge those who lie about individuals in an attempt to have their Second Amendment rights stripped away, even temporarily.

I know that Holmes will never get over the death of her son, and she may very well blame officers (and even herself to some degree) for what happened, but I do hope that she can find some semblance of peace going forward and this is the last time she makes news headlines. One of the conditions for her probation is that she undergo a mental health evaluation of her own, and it would be a good thing if she’s able to get some counseling to help her deal with her grief. It will never disappear, but hopefully she can find a way to carry her son’s memory with her without her anger over his death becoming an impediment to living her own life or trying to ruin the lives of others.