Could the Aurora Shooting Have Been Prevented?

Lawyers for the suspect in Colorado movie theater shooting claimed in court he is mentally ill.
3:00 | 08/10/12

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Transcript for Could the Aurora Shooting Have Been Prevented?
Today the accused gunman in the tragic colorado movie theater massacre appeared in court where for the first time his lawyers disclosed that they believe he is mentally ill. It was only three weeks ago that police say james holmes killed 12 people and shot 58 more. And with the discovery that holmes' psychiatrist voiced serious concerns weeks before the spree, could all this heartbreak have been averted? Here is abc's mark greenblat. Reporter: Today james holmes sat in court his hair still bright orange. His attorney said several times he was mentally ill when he allegedly killed 12 people and wounded 58 others at a batman movie premiere. Outside court his victims reacted with anger. Sitting next to my girlfriend. Didn't seem too crazy when he ordered all the ammunition, months in advance, booby trapped his apartment didn't seem crazy to me. Reporter: The biggest question for his victims whether it could have been prevented. I think if someone could have said six weeks beforehand "this man is a danger," maybe me and a lot of others could still have our loved ones. Reporter: She lost her boyfriend in the shooting. He sacrificed his own life to shield her from the bullets. I would not be here to talk to you right now if john had nod saved my life. Reporter: She was outraged to hear the psychiatrist reported warning signs of his behavior nearly six weeks before the shooting but it appears the university never acted on it. I think that they messed up, you know. Because then they could have stopped somebody. They could have had the ssibility of saving lives. Reporter: Jennifer seager came face to face with holmes that night. Reporter: You saw blood everywhere? Yeah. Yes everywhere. It was on me. Was on the ground. It was in front of me. It was on people dying that were dead. Reporter: Much of the attention turned to dr. Lynn fenton, who actually wrote the university's policy on threat assessment. Sources say in early june she reached out to the same threat assessment team with concerns about holmes' behavior. And abc news learned that fenton contacted a university police officer going so far to break doctor/patient confidentiality. In a case where there is danger of imminent harm to another person there is a mandatory requirement the report be made. Reporter: On june 10th, holmes announce hed he intended to QUIT THE Ph.D. PROGRAM. Under those circumstances, threat assessment teams would have gone into acts. It is hard to imagine why they wouldn't go into action when they get those kind of reports. Reporter: The university admits tonight that holmes was still enrolled when the shooting occurred, but sources tell us that with the paperwork for withdrawal unmotion, the university's threat assessment team never had a formal meeting and never intervened. Colorado statute says, report tight law enforcement, report it in a way that something could be done about it they suggest involuntary commitment of the dangerous person, simply reporting it and you know wringing hands and saying "there is nothing we can do about it because it is no longer a problem for the university of colorado" I think, falls short of what the responsibility was. Reporter: The university of colorado isn't the first school to get into trouble for missing warning signs. Jared loughner who shot congresswoman gabrielle giffords and 18 others in an arizona parking lot had been a pima community college student. Loughner had several run ins with faculty members and students. School officials told him to get a mental health evaluation or not return. The student behind the massacre of 32 people at virginia tech was also known to university authorities after multiple people reported his disturbing behavior. The university settled lawsuits with the families of the victims. Now in colorado, another set of families, another set of young victims, jansen young told us she is having trouble understanding how the charged with killing her boyfriend was able to go so far without any one stopping him. Even if it was ant bon't about him being the university's problem it is still a problem they should be involved in. Because he was the entire city of aurora's problem now it is the world's problem. All I think about how much i miss him. I miss him so much. I would give anything just have one more day with him, you know? Even just an hour. Reporter: For "nightline," i am mark greenblat in aurora,

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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