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March 6, 2015

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Colorado shooting suspect was brilliant science student


Barry Gutierrez / AP

Shamecca Davis hugs her son Isaiah Bow, who was an eye witness to the shooting, outside Gateway High School where witness were brought for questioning Friday, July 20, 2012 in Denver. After leaving the theater Bow went back in to find his girlfriend. ” I didn’t want to leave her in there. But she’s ok now,” Bow said. A gunman wearing a gas mask set off an unknown gas and fired into a crowded movie theater at a midnight opening of the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises,” killing at least 12 people and injuring at least 50 others, authorities said.

Updated Friday, July 20, 2012 | 4:23 p.m.

Batman shooting

An Aurora Police officer talks on his radio outside of the Century 16 theater at Aurora Mall where as many as 14 people were killed and many injured at a shooting at the Century 16 movie theatre in Aurora, Colo., Friday, July 20, 2012. Launch slideshow »

Suspect timeline

Dec. 13, 1987

Born in San Diego County, California.

Parents: Robert Milton Holmes and Arlene Rosemary Holmes.


Graduated from Westview High School, Class of 2006, according to Dr. John Collins, Superintendent of the Poway Unified School District.

2006 - 2010

Attended the University of California, Riverside, graduating with a BS in neuroscience in the Spring of 2010. Chancellor Timothy P. White said Holmes graduated with honors.


Holmes enrolled in the Ph.D. neuroscience program at the University of Colorado-Denver, said spokeswoman Jacque Montgomery.

May 2011

An Address of 1690 Paris Street, Aurora, CO for James Holmes shows up in public records searches.

July 20, 2012

Montgomery said Holmes "was in the process of withdrawing" from graduate school.

July 20, 2012

The suspect identified as Holmes opens fire in a crowded movie theater.

DENVER — James Eagan Holmes came from a well-tended San Diego enclave of two-story homes with red-tiled roofs, where neighbors recall him as a clean-cut, studious young man of sparing words.

Tall and dark-haired, he stared clear-eyed at the camera in a 2004 high school yearbook snapshot, wearing a white junior varsity soccer uniform — No. 16. The son of a nurse, Arlene, and a software company manager, Robert, James Holmes was a brilliant science scholar in college.

The biggest mystery surrounding the 24-year-old doctoral student was why he would have pulled on a gas mask and shot dozens of people early Friday in a suburban Denver movie theater, as police allege.

In the age of widespread social media, no trace of Holmes could be found on Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter or anywhere on the web. Either he never engaged or he scrubbed his trail.

A longtime neighbor in San Diego, where Holmes grew up, remembers only a "shy guy ... a loner" from a churchgoing family. In addition to playing soccer at Westview High School, he ran cross country.

The bookish demeanor concealed an unspooling life. Holmes struggled to find work after graduating with highest honors in the spring of 2010 with a neuroscience degree from the University of California, Riverside, said the neighbor, retired electrical engineer Tom Mai.

Holmes enrolled last year in a neuroscience Ph.D. program at the University of Colorado-Denver but was in the process of withdrawing, said school officials, who didn't provide a reason.

As part of the advanced program in Denver, a James Holmes had been listed as making a presentation in May about Micro DNA Biomarkers in a class named "Biological Basis of Psychiatric and Neurological Disorders."

In academic achievement "he was at the top of the top," recalled Riverside Chancellor Timothy P. White.

Holmes concentrated his study on "how we all behave," White added. "It's ironic and sad."

From a distance, Holmes' life appears unblemished, a young man with unlimited potential. There are no indications he had problems with police.

Somehow, the acclaimed student and quiet neighbor reached a point where he painted his hair red, called himself "The Joker," the green-haired villain from the Batman movies, according to New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who said he had been briefed on the matter.

Holmes headed for the theater in body armor, armed with an assault-style rifle, a shotgun and two Glock handguns, authorities said.

Police said he started his attack by tossing a gas canister into the theater, where he had bought a ticket for the midnight showing of "The Dark Night Rises," the new Batman movie.

A federal law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing probe into the rampage, said Holmes bought each of the four guns from retailers in the last two months.

Holmes bought his first Glock pistol in Aurora, Colo., on May 22. Six days later, he picked up a Remington shotgun in Denver. About two weeks later, he bought a .223 caliber Smith & Wesson rifle in Thornton, Colo., and then a second Glock in Denver on July 6 — 13 days before the shooting, the official said.

A high-volume drum magazine was attached to the rifle, an assault weapon, the official said.

Julie Adams, whose son played junior varsity soccer with Holmes, said her son remembered little about the suspect, which was unusual for the tight-knit team.

"I don't think many of the kids (teammates) knew him. He was kind of a loner," she said.

Jackie Mitchell, a furniture mover who lives several blocks from the suspect's apartment building in Colorado, said he had drinks with Holmes at a local bar on Tuesday night, though he gave no sign of being distressed or violent.

After Holmes approached him "we just talked about football. He had a backpack and geeky glasses and seemed like a real intelligent guy, and I figured he was one of the college students," Mitchell said.

When Mitchell saw Holmes' photo after the shooting, "the hair stood up on my back," he said. "I know this guy."

Holmes is not talking to police and has asked for a lawyer, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing case. Police found jars of chemicals in Holmes' booby-trapped apartment with wires nearby, the law enforcement official said.

When he surrendered meekly in the movie house parking lot, Holmes told authorities what he'd done at his residence in the Denver suburb of Aurora, the third most populous city in Colorado.

"Our hearts go out to those who were involved in this tragedy and to the families and friends of those involved," Holmes' family said in a written statement Friday. "We ask that the media respect our privacy during this difficult time."

San Diego Superior Court spokeswoman Karen Dalton said there were no records found under his name, not even for a traffic ticket. Riverside County prosecutors also have no criminal record for him, said John Hall, a spokesman for the district attorney's office.

On Friday morning, police escorted the suspect's father from the family's San Diego home. The mother stayed inside, receiving visitors who came to offer support.

San Diego police spokeswoman Lt. Andra Brown, spoke to reporters in the driveway of the Holmes' home, on behalf of the family.

"As you can understand, the Holmes family is very upset about all of this," she said. "It's a tragic event and it's taken everyone by surprise."

Blood reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press writers Elliot Spagat and Julie Watson in San Diego; Eileen Sullivan, Alicia A. Caldwell and Pete Yost in Washington; Tom Hays in New York; Amy Taxin in Orange County, Calif.; Colleen Slevin in Denver; and Eric Carvin and AP researcher Judith Ausuebe

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  1. Chunky says:

    Gosh, such a tragic story for the families and what a twisted mind to do something this elaborate. Unfortunately, this psycho becomes yet another another black eye for those of us who are responsible gun owners.

    Too bad someone in the audience wasn't armed to fight back but even if 2-3 people were able to fight back, it would be very difficult against such a well armed, armored and determined adversary.

    Chunky can't imagine the horror the victims, injured or not must have gone through.

    Oddly, most of these types of killers end up being the "quiet, keep to themselves, reclusive types" and this being their first offenses as well.

    Our society no matter what angle you look at it from is such a mess and not just how it relates to guns and crime.

    That's what Chunky thinks!

  2. I am sick of everyone saying that if the audience was armed they would have fought back or prevented it.

    Two words: BODY ARMOR

    The shooter didn't give a rip and was prepared to take down anyone with their CCW.

    Obviously that he was able to obtain body armor so easily does not make carrying a deterent. I was raised with family members who carry and still do today. I have a responsible respect for firearms.

    My heart goes out to the parents of the shooter. He sounds like he has Asperger Syndrome the same neurological autism spectrum disorder as my oldest son. I don't let my child view violent content for the very reasons of what it does to their minds with this disorder. I ensure he has no access to guns. I am absolutely scared to death what I will do if at some time in the future when my son is 24 and starts to go into the schizoid behavior that is known to develop in early mid 20s with this disorder. We have cut mental health programs and you can't make an adult who has not been arrested do anything. I hold my breath, do my best, and pray.

  3. I am saddened for all of the families impacted by this tragedy.

  4. Chunks...

    Too funny!!!
    In a sick, twisted sort of way.
    I'm sure an 'armed to the teeth' Chunkster family would've taken this guy out; BEFORE he committed his mass murderin' spree...

    I know you've heard it a hunnert times, at least, in some form or fashion, but the SCIENCE OF IT is this...

    "In a first-of its-kind study, epidemiologists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that, on average, guns did not protect those who possessed them from being shot in an assault. The study estimated that people with a gun were 4.5 times more likely to be shot in an assault than those not possessing a gun."

  5. gmag, it's an interesting study, but fairly flawed. As noted, 677 cases were chosen at random with 6% of those being armed. That's 40, nowhere near a large enough group to make any statistically significant determinations.

    It will be interesting to see what larger studies show, though I wouldn't be surprised to find results that support the same conclusion. Unfortunately not everyone who is armed is trained or responsible.

  6. Chunky says:

    He's not sure what you mean Mr. Gmag. Chunky doesn't think a legally armed citizen or even two or three armed citizens with good training would have had much chance against this bad guy. He was far too prepared and protected with armor. Fighting back is better than dying and not trying though.

    Chunky has run a lot of tactical scenarios in training but this particular criminal is definitely not your average attacker. It sounds like had the bad guy not peacefully surrendered even the cops would have a tough time taking him down.

    Thank you for your consideration.

    That's what Chunky thinks!

  7. Insanity does not discriminate.

  8. Short Sighted. Mr. Holmes didn't have the ability to see that leaving grad school might just be a time line adjustment or a means to allow him to hone his career choice to what is best for him. "Guidance" counselors and teachers were very short sighted in preaching the value of higher ed but not emphasizing the value of OPTIONS--options to adjust your career choices or to delve into something related but not exactly what one first had in mind. Movie "producers" continue short-sightedness by endlessly foisting cartoons onto us. We are tired of sit-com romance tv series and cartoon movies. Even kids complain about the lack of content in sing-song plots about little boys dominating little girls.

  9. Chunky: Do you thing, maybe, as he progressed, even Mr. Holmes was horrified by the blood and gore? He perhaps had no concept of the harm he planned and executed. Did he think he'd be admired and offered a movie part or idolized as the "Joker"?