DENVER (AP) - James Eagen 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
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 spring 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 left the program in June, 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
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
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.
Authorities say Holmes arrived at the theater dressed in black,
outfitted in a gas mask, ballistic helmet, vest and leggings, black
tactical gloves and protectors on his throat and groin. He was armed
with an assault-style rifle, a shotgun and Glock handgun.
Police said he started his attack by tossing at least gas canisters 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 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. Police Chief Dan Oates said that a 100-round
drum magazine for the rifle was recovered from the scene.
"I'm told by experts that with that drum magazine, he could have gotten
off 50 to 60 rounds, even if it was semiautomatic, within one minute,"
Oates said at a news conference. "And as far as we know, it was a pretty
rapid pace of fire in that theater."
Julie Adams, whose son played junior varsity soccer with Holmes, said
her son remembered little about the suspect, which was unusual for the
"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
statement Friday. "We ask that the media respect our privacy during this
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