Judge denies gun seizure of Colorado officer's guns

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FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) — A judge on Thursday denied a petition to seize the guns of a police officer involved in the 2017 fatal shooting of a 19-year-old which was sought by the teen's mother under Colorado's new red flag law.

In her Jan. 9 petition for an extreme risk protection order, Susan Holmes said there was a credible risk of unlawful or reckless use of a firearm by Colorado State University police Officer Phillip Morris because he threatened and killed her son, Jeremy Holmes, and because she said he has shown ongoing violence and aggression.

The law, which took effect Jan. 1, is similar to those adopted in over a dozen other states and intended to allow relatives or household members or law enforcement to seek a court order to confiscate the weapons of people they believe could harm themselves or others.

During Thursday's hearing on her petition, Holmes declined to present evidence after Chief Judge Stephen Howard, with whom she has previously clashed in her pursuit of records on her son's shooting, refused her request to have another judge hear the case.

Morris did not attend the hearing but lawyers from the Colorado Attorney General's Office, representing him as a state employee, presented an affidavit from him stating that he and Holmes do no fit under any definition of “family or household member” as defined by the law.

In the section of the form where Holmes was asked to describe her family or household relationship with Morris, she checked the box for having a child in common with him — a possible reference to her son. On Wednesday, she told The Associated Press the law could be interpreted in different ways. After the hearing, Holmes said she did not think she had made a false claim but wanted to keep her arguments private because she is considering an appeal, the Coloradoan reported.

Morris' actions in the shooting were investigated and deemed justified by the district attorney, who noted that Morris tried to de-escalate the situation.

The denial briefly united critics and supporters of what is formally called the extreme risk protection order law.

“What the hearing today demonstrated is that there are protections in the ERPO law to prevent people from abusing it," said State Attorney General Phil Weiser, who advocated for the law's passage.

Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith, who has been critical of the law, refused to serve Morris with a notice to appear in court because he said Holmes' petition was a fraud and a classic example of how the law can be abused. After the denial, Smith said he was “very pleased with the ruling.”

Despite Smith's concerns about the law, his office has filed an ERPO request against a man being held in jail who has allegedly threatened to carry out a mass shooting upon his release. In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Smith said that while the inmate does not have any guns now, an ERPO order would be flagged during a background check and prevent him from buying firearms in case he is released on bond.

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