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Angry families demand funds over US shooting

30 august 2012, 11:41
Family members of victims of the Century 16 movie theater shootings. ©REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Family members of victims of the Century 16 movie theater shootings. ©REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Families of victims of the Colorado movie theater shooting voiced anger Tuesday over the distribution of funds intended for them, saying they had so far received only a tiny slice, AFP reports.

Relatives of some of the 12 people who died in the July 20 massacre at a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" held a press conference to air their grievances, saying other methods of pressuring authorities had failed.

More than $5 million has been raised in their name so far, but relatives of the 12 moviegoers who died said they have received only $5,000 each, and that only after giving an ultimatum to the committee managing the funds.

"We are here because we want the public to know what's been going on behind the scenes," said Tom Teves, whose son Alex died in the massacre in Aurora, just outside Denver, Colorado.

"We're certain that everyone who has donated their hard-earned wages expected those funds to go directly to the victims," he added.

They singled out Giving First, a non-profit organization which raised money on their behalf and also helps us other charities collect funds, as well as the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance (COVA).

"Giving First used photos of our murdered loved ones to promote the charity, promising the money would go directly to victims. Giving First then informed the victims they would receive no checks," said Teves.

"They informed us this was consistent with Giving First's mission statement. We took exception with that process."

He also criticized Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, who pledged at an emotional memorial after the tragedy that the names of the victims would not be forgotten.

Teves lamented that he had been unable to talk to the governor directly, saying: "Governor, you came and grieved with our families. You pledged 12 times 'We will remember.'

"Are you a man who is true to his words?" he asked.

Hickenlooper's spokesman responded: "Everyone involved is trying to do the right thing in a very difficult situation. We understand the frustration shared today by victims' families.

"That's why we have been advocating for them to have a greater voice in the process," spokesman Eric Brown told AFP, adding: "Families have received money and other services through the great generosity of others.

"They will receive more ... We will continue to listen and do all we can to help ensure families get the support they need."

The alleged gunman, 24-year-old James Holmes, was dressed in full body armor and a gas mask when he burst into the midnight screening, throwing two tear gas-like devices to blind people before opening fire indiscriminately.

Holmes, who has appeared in court with bright orange hair and seems bewildered by the proceedings, is being held in solitary confinement at Arapahoe County Detention Center.

He could face the death penalty if convicted, although Colorado has only executed one person since capital punishment was reinstated in the western US state in 1976.

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