Aurora theater shooting: Victims' families still concerned about donation disbursement
In August, family members of eleven victims killed in the Aurora theater shooting came together for a joint press conference to express their concern that millions of dollars donated in their loved ones' names were not reaching them.
Jessica Watts, right
Three weeks and three meetings later, some of them say they still lack a strong voice in the process and don't know how the money will ultimately be disbursed.
"We just feel strung along. In the last three meetings, we have accomplished very little," says Jessica Watts, cousin of Jonathan Blunk, 26, who was killed in the July 20 massacre at the Century 16 theater. "These families may not get money for quite some time, weeks or months, and there's an immediate need."
The officials in charge of the funds argue that they are trying to be as efficient as possible, while ensuring that the process is fair.
Sam Levin Chantel Blunk, wife of Aurora shooting victim, Jonathan Blunk, with his cousin Jessica Watts and Amanda Medek
Since the shooting, a little over $5 million has been donated for the victims and their families through a local nonprofit organization called Giving First as well as the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance. So far, seventy families of those killed and injured in the shooting have each received $5,000. That's $350,000 total, leaving millions of dollars that still have to be disbursed.
An entity called the 7/20 Recovery Committee, made up of community representatives and local government leaders, is now charged with distributing the remaining funds.
At this stage, no family members of victims have a voting seat on that committee. That's part of the reason the families decided to call the August press conference, at which they also lamented the overall lack of transparency from the organizations involved.
Since that press conference, Watts tells us, there have been three official meetings involving family members -- one on the Friday after the news conference, another on Tuesday, September 4, and the third this past Saturday.
And there's still no clear plan of action, says Watts, 28, who has gone to every meeting and attended each court date of suspect James Holmes.
"We are still having a hard time getting [the families of the victims] a fair amount of input," she maintains. "We want to be able to have an opinion and a say in what's going on."
She adds: "Basically, their response to us is, 'We need to have more meetings. We need to take all these steps in order to get the money where it needs to go.'"
Repeating a message that was common at the lengthy press conference in August, Watts says: "It's not about us getting rich.... What we are asking for is a robust voice in this whole matter."
Continue reading for response from a special advisor to the 7/20 Committee.