Weekend Wake Up with Chuck & Julie, George Brauchler, October 11, 2014

Station:   KNUS, 710 AM

Show:     Weekend Wake Up with Chuck & Julie

Guests:   Brauchler

Link:       http://knus-weekend-wakeup.podbean.com/

Date:       October 11, 2014


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HOST JULIE HAYDEN: Your thoughts on the report [Arapahoe High School shooting report]?

ARAPAHOE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY, GEORGE BRAUDCHLER:  Well, I think there’s a couple of things.  One, you know, our role is pretty limited to trying to figure out at the front end what could we do in terms of search warrants and affidavits in support of them to get access to information.  And it’s not obvious.  I think a lot people think, “Hey! The guy killed himself.  Obviously, you’d be able to just go through his computer and the flash drive and the tablet.” That’s just not the way our Constitution works. There’s still rights to be protected, there.  And I think the other part is that we didn’t know at the time, early on, if anyone else had knowledge of this — if anyone else could have been involved.  So, we were very deliberate and I think we generated about 13 different search warrants to cover all this stuff.  After that, a lot of our role was to try to encourage, you know, the school district, the school administration, law enforcement to continue to give up and chase down information so that we could try to figure out the truth of it.  And at the end of the day, having I think gone through the report, you know, the conclusion that I came to was there just wasn’t any criminal liability outside of what Carl Pearson did in that high school.  He — he alone, in my opinion, was the one who possessed criminal liability.  But, I’ve got to tell you, as a father of four whose kids attend school in that very area, you know, I had a different set of questions in my head as to how things went down.  But that was outside my lane, as the District Attorney.  So, my function was really satisfied once we concluded there was no criminal liability for anyone other than the shooter.

HAYDEN:  Let me pursue that a little bit, about the school, because I know —. I read the report , and even at the time we were trying to talk to the school district.  I mean, we had things like the principal deleting text messages and things.  I talked to the security guard who said, you know, there was plenty of warning.  And the report revealed, even,  that the teacher — it wasn’t like, you know, this came out of the blue.  Everybody in that school was worried about this kid. The teacher was trying to get this kid — I mean, he almost considered quitting, he was so worried about the kid, and the school did nothing.  I mean, what — like you said, as a parent, what are some of the questions you’d like answered or your concerns about that?

BRAUCHLER:  Well, my guess is, having gone through the report, Julie, you did the same thing I did.  You got to certain points and said, “I mean, something could have been done right, here.”  Or, “Why wasn’t this done here?”  And that’s  not to suggest that whatever protocols that existed in place weren’t followed, but my goodness, if there are red flags to be had in that report, there are pages coated in them.  You pointed out the fact that the teacher, who was the target of the shooter’s hatred, is so concerned he’s revisiting multiple times the administration’s office to say things like, “Hey, can we pull the video from the parking lot when the shooter announced to his mother, ‘And yes,’ [the shooter said,] ‘I’m going to kill that guy,’ or ‘I’m going to kill him.’”  And it doesn’t happen.  And then he’s so concerned when the shooter comes back to speech and debate practice after he’s been told not to, he goes back to the administration and expressed a significant concern, and said, “You know, I thought about quitting because I didn’t want to be a target.”  I mean, those are pretty big red flags.  And outside my role as a District Attorney, as a parent, I do want to hear answers to questions from people who are decision makers on the ground, “Here’s why we didn’t do this,” or, “Here’s why we did this.”  I mean, we just — we haven’t gotten there yet.

BONNIWELL:  Well, you know, Julie and I had a —  we had animated discussions coming over to the program.  What can be done?  I mean, you know, involuntary civil commitment?  Criminal charges?  I mean, it’s very hard to see exactly what could, should, might be done, when you have somebody —.  I mean, I went to high school and had kind of an acquaintance/friend, who at 18 exhibited schizophrenia and ended up on a roof with a rifle. And so, you know, a lot of people —. You know, mental illness kind of tends to show itself when you get into your — you know—16, 17, 18 years old.  He was committed for the rest of his life, and he is still in an institution.  But it’s — you know, to bring the criminal justice system in, that creates all kinds of problems.  Um, they used to have police officers out in LA had the ability to civilly commit people, and they’d throw their girlfriends in when they’d threaten to talk to their wives and stuff.  What can be done, do you think?

BRAUCHLER:  Well, I think the criminal justice system is a bit emasculated from doing anything in this situation — that the tools that the school district has, or the tools that the school has to say things like, you know, “Don’t come back until this happens or we’re going to provide extra monitoring.”  Or, “We’re going to take pretty significant steps.”  Those are things I just don’t know, Chuck.  But you do point out something that I think the people ought to consider, too. And that is, It’s not like this guy didn’t have a threat assessment.  And it’s not that the shooter didn’t even have exposure to mental health professionals.


BRAUCHLER:  But the mental health professionals are dealing with a guy who in his journal, in his diary, brags about the fact that he is actively misleading them, and that he is withholding information from them.  And I think it does beg the question, how effective can these school psychologists and psychiatrists be, whether it’s at school or anywhere, if the person they are trying to treat is not candid and forthcoming with information?  And so, if someone is intending to do harm, like the shooter here, I think they can put themselves in a position to check every box that the school would want them to check, and yet still be a threat to people inside that school.

BONNIWELL:  How do we solve that?  I mean, here we have someone who was suffering from — I don’t know if he was suffering from mental disease.  But maybe a little off

HAYDEN:  He was clearly off.  Yeah.

BONNIWELL:  Yeah, clearly off, and so forth.  And like i said, the solution — I mean, you can send them all to the psychiatrists they want, if he’s bright enough— or even if he’s not, I mean, you know,  the choices are involuntary civil commitment or criminal commitment.  I mean, it’s one of the two, because otherwise, they can send him to all the psychiatrists they want, he’s not going to do anything about it.

BRAUCHLER:  Well, i don’t want to get to the point where as a society a kid gets upset —even a couple of times, and displays anger verbally, and says something like, “Hey, I want to kill that guy!”  And all of a sudden we’re like, “That’s it! You’re going off to the looney bin”, or, “We’re going to lock you up for a period of time.”  That, in some cases, could have more a negative impact on that child than something else.  Um, but, you know, you can’t look at this situation in the rearview mirror with that clarity — with that 20/20 clarity, and not find things where you say, “If they had only  done this,” or, “ If they had only done that!”  But Chuck, the question is a good one, and that is,  What is that thing?  What is that power we want to give to the school?

BONNIWELL:   Yeah. Exactly.  Exactly.

HAYDEN:  Chuck and I disagree on this, because in my reading of this, and I’ve covered — you know, I mean, I just remember that day, going out there. And I mean, the photographer and I were in the truck and it just — I like literally was — thought I was going to be sick.  Like it was just so reminiscent of Columbine and, you know, you think, I mean, you know, “This isn’t the second school shooting I’ve been at.”  I mean, there has just been so many.  And you think we have to —.  You know, there’s something wrong for not trying to learn from them.  And I think — this is what I took away from this is, here is a kid, when you go through his journals, he had clearly planned this, like Harris and Klebold, for a long time. And what I think is, is there were a lot of signs here.  And I think, just as parents, as teachers, as friends, we just can’t keep ignoring or — I don’t want to say that people blew this off.

BONNIWELL:  But what is the solution?  What do you want them to do?  That’s the hard part.  Okay — .

HAYDEN:  Well, I wanted the school, in this case, to go ahead and suspend him. I wanted the school, in this case —.

BONNIWELL:  Well, that’s great.  But they did that with Holmes.  He was, —“Hey, don’t come back to the school.”  And did that do anything?

HAYDEN:  […]I saw, in here, things that maybe  — and I don’t want to blame parents, and I’m not trying to blame people.  But I’m just saying, there we’re signs here, and in many of these situations, there are signs.  And if people say, “You know what? Maybe, worst case scenario, we need to pay attention to this.”  And I’m not saying, “Lock ’em up!”  I kind of personally think  there should be a way where things can be reported by psychiatrists and counselors without it getting thrown into a criminal  system.  And, for instance, I go back to, there was a case in Westminster about a year ago, — a couple years ago — where it was a young man who was in high school,  he had a fight with his parents, he was troubled, he was seeing a therapist, went to his aunt and uncle’s house, took a gun, and um, was talking about killing people.  They took him to his therapist.  He said, “Yeah, I want to go shoot everybody at Standley Lake [High School] and then shoot the President.”  And in that case, they got him help, but unfortunately he had to be criminally charged.  I mean, do you see a way to maybe work it where it doesn’t have to involve like, criminal charges?

BRAUCHLER:  I think there has to be some tools available for that.  But you brought up the ‘C’ word — you brought up Columbine.  So, and as someone who prosecuted the guy who sold the Tech DC9 handgun to Klebold and Harris, I will tell you —and I reviewed that evidence, too — there are some parallels there that I think are outside of what can the school do, outside of what can the system do.  It’s really, what should parents do?  And, again, I’m not the shooter’s mom, and I know that the mom and dad had recently gone through a divorce and that probably wreaked some havoc on the household, but the bottom line is nosy parents — concerned parents, parents that stay involved — I think there’s far less likelihood that something like this happens. I mean, with the shooter in this particular case, everything that he did comes back to the house.  You know?  He purchases the shotgun from Cabela’s, the receipt is back at the house.  He brings the shotgun back. He’s messing with the gas cans and making the Molotov cocktails at the house. He’s on his computer in the privacy of his house.  He’s got the Columbine book at the house.  I mean, everything comes back to the house. Now, I get it.  I mean,  I [inaudible] is seventeen, and I get the idea that, “Hey, I want to continue to truest them. I want to continue to allow them to flourish, and to become responsible adults.” But in this case, you have a 17 year old who mom has had to go to school multiple times to take away from school.  She has conceded to the school and to psychologists and psychiatrists he has an anger problem, he has a fixation on this particular teacher who he was going to try to kill.  Ultimately, it seems to me that if you’re that parent, don’t turn to the school or  turn to the criminal justice system and say, “Where did you fall down?”  I think you begin to take a more active role with your kids.  And you saw the same thing, Julie, with Eric Harris.

HAYDEN:  Right!

BRAUCHLER: He lived in that basement, in that little apartment they created for him, and they basically just let him run amok.  And if you watch the video that Klebold made in the Harris basement of where they had quote-unquote hidden all the bombs, all the little clocks they disassembled to make the explosives for the cafeteria, the carbine that they used, it was all readily available to any nosy parent.  My mom found the can of chewing tobacco and the Playboy.  I know she would have found anything more than that, had I gone down that road.

HAYDEN:  No. You know, — no, and you’re right.  I mean, I have a daughter who is 28 and we went through this where she would — I would find, when I did laundry, notes in her clothes— right? You know, the girls would write notes back and forth to each other.  And she got mad at me because there was something in the note that concerned me, and I confronted her with it, you know.  And she said, “You shouldn’t be invading my privacy!”  And I’m like, “There — you have no privacy.  I’m your mother. You know, you’ll have privacy when you go off and you get your own apartment, you know, and then you can do what you want.”  But when, I mean my dad used to say, “You’re under my roof.”  You know, “I — your room is my room.”  And I agree with you that parents — and I don’t want to blame this mother  because I’m sure she’s just heart broken and did her best.

BRAUCHLER:  No, [inaudible].

HAYDEN:  But I think you’re right. You know, parents need to be nosy.  I mean, there was—.

BONNIWELL:  But — but what are parents supposed to do?  Are they supposed to go to the DA and turn their child in?  What do you want the parents to do?

HAYDEN:  I think you stay on it.

BONNIWELL:  No, it’s not staying on it.  You could have a schizo— as I said, I had a classmate who was schizophrenic. I mean, he was starting to evidence schizophrenia — just the beginning of it.   What are parents to do?  I mean, you know, what are parents to do?  Everybody says, “Well, they should have done something.” Well, if you have a 17-, 18 year old schizophrenic beginning to show signs of schizophrenia, I mean —Wow!  Wow, it’s not an easy kind of like, “Oh, okay.  They should have — they should have done something.”  What?  And the choices were civil commitment or turn him into criminal authorities. I mean, it’s — they’re not left with these choices.  It’s not just a kid you can [say], “Hey, look.  No more bombs, no more — you know, no more of this, no more of that.”

HAYDEN:  Yeah, but —.

BONNIWELL:  You have to — I don’t know what the tools are.  I don’t know what the tool box is that parents have.

BRAUCHLER:  Okay, Chuck, the conclusion at the end of this is, and i think it’s the one nobody wants to get to but you’re sort of picking at it— it’s the idea that, “Look, are we at a place where there are going to be occasions where there are people that want to do harm to others, that we’re simply not ever going to be able to identify in advance or stop. That’s the scary conclusion.  But it’s the one that you’re pointing to, which is maybe there isn’t anything that [we] can do to address this issue, or that could have derailed this particular outcome.  And maybe that’s true. I mean, I think we try to struggle as a community to look backwards on any horrible event and say, “How could this have been avoided?”  Because if we say it could have been avoided, it means we have some control over the evil that takes place, here.

BONNIWELL:  Right.  Right.

BRAUCHLER:  And you’re saying, “What if we don’t? What if we don’t have control over some of the evil that takes place?”  I — it’s a good question, too.

HAYDEN:  And you’re right.  There are no easy answers here. But I also think that you don’t not try.  I mean, there was this other case — so was that kid in Arvada who shot up the church.  I mean, this kid is getting boxes of ammunition delivered to his house.  And, same thing, the parent had allowed him to make his own little, you know, teen-age man cave, where he had, you know, pictures of— you know, he had colored out people’s eyes I mean, clearly there was something going on with this kid.  And, you know, I just think as a parent — and again, I don’t mean to blame the parents because I know these people are heartbroken and do their best.

BRAUCHLER;  Oh, yeah, of course

HAYDEN:  But, it’s like if my kid, out of the blue, started receiving boxes of ammunition, delivered by FedEx to the house, I think I would go and say, “Hello!”  You know?

BONNIWELL:  What would you do?

HAYDEN:  You know, I guess, I mean, I would take him to Outer Siberia, if I had to.  I would just do — I — you just don’t stop.

BONNIWELL:  There is no Outer Siberia.

HAYDEN:  So, then I would —.

BONNIWELL:  That is the hard part.  I mean, because —I — you know, you grow up with people and everything else, but, you know, the choices are so few for the parent cannot control the child.  And do you throw him into the criminal justice system?  That’s, you know, that’s doesn’t often have good [inaudible— endings?]

HAYDEN:  No, there are mental health issues.  Yeah.

BONNIWELL:  Well, mental health, but do you throw him into involuntary civil commitment? Or is he impossible, you know?  They’ve been throwing people out of the houses. I mean, is it even possible to put somebody into the — involuntary civil commitment?

BRAUCHLER:  Boy, that’s a  — Again, I don’t want to empower the government to make it easier to just reach out and grab  people and throw them into the looney bin.

BONNIWELL:  Yeah.  Yeah.  Yeah, right.

BRAUCHLER As a, you know, prophylactic measure, when they’re like, “Well, we don’t know what’s going on, but if we lock them up, we know it won’t happen.”  I don’t want to be in that world, either.  I don’t know.

HAYDEN:  But George, let me ask you this, though, because you probably— I mean, it’s always hard to prove a negative.  I mean, we don’t know about the cases where there are interventions, where the parents do pay attention, where things do happen so, you know, where you prevent things. […]   But from where you sit, when you see things, and you see the people coming through your office, I mean, what are some of the things that, at least in your opinion, people are doing right—that at least are getting people back on track?

BRAUCHLER:  You know, by the time they get to us, something has failed. I mean, you’re right.  We don’t see a lot of the success stories.   But I can tell you that once a kid enters the juvenile justice system you can pretty much bet how involved the parents are in terms of —not just coming to court, which they’re mandated to — but sort of the interest and enthusiasm with which they take on the responsibility that the court imposed on them, that you can pretty much tell.  There is a group of kids there, that just aren’t going to be back in the system.  And some of it is demographic.  I mean, in Douglas County you just see a far smaller recidivism rate, because you have families that are largely intact, that have a ton of resources, and that have the ability to focus their time and attention on their kids, even when they screw up.  There’s not — that’s not consistent throughout all of Arapahoe county.  There are parts of Denver and Adams County too, where you — it just doesn’t have that same outcome.  So, usually the parental involvement, in my opinion, is the number one thing that you see that turns a kid that could go down a bad road into getting right back on the right road.

HAYDEN:  All right.  George, thank you!  I would agree with that too. And we’ll let you go.  Thank you for your time on this day, today, as always

BONNIWELL:  George, great to have you on as always.

HAYDEN:  Oh, as always — appreciated.