A day after James Holmes opened fire in a Colorado movie theater during a screening of Dark Knight Rises, killing 12 people and injuring at least 70, a portrait of the shooter has started to emerge. Obviously, there’s more to come, but early reports indicate that Holmes did not seem violent or crazy or anything else you’d expect a mass murderer to be. A high school acquaintance summed up pretty much everything that has been said to the media so far: Holmes was “super-nice kid,” “kinda quiet,” and “really smart” and “didn’t seem like a troublemaker at all.”
24-year-old Holmes grew up in San Diego, where neighbors called him “Little Jimmy,” with one recalling that he’d always been “very kind” at Christmas parties:
Some described him as “unremarkable.”
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.
After high school, he attended the University of California—Riverside, where he majored in neuroscience. The university’s chancellor, Timothy White, told reporters he had received a merit scholarship and that “he was an honor student, so academically, he was at the top of the top.” One of his professors, Kelly Huffman, said he was “a smart and quiet guy.”
After graduating, he worked for a while at a McDonald’s in San Diego. In June 2011, he entered the University of Colorado to pursue a Ph.D at the school’s Denver Anschutz Medical Campus (according to school officials, he had recently begun the process of withdrawing.) A Colorado neighbor recalled that she often saw him sitting outside on his stoop, and that he “seemed like he was a normal dude,” though he did once make “racially charged” comments about rap music. “He was a little buzzed,” the neighbor explained.
Though witnesses have said that Holmes was remarkably calm during the shooting, his demeanor seems to have changed drastically in the Colorado jail where he’s being held in solitary confinement, apparently for his own protection. He’s also on suicide watch:
“Let’s just say he hasn’t shown any remorse,” a jail employee told the Daily News. “He thinks he’s acting in a movie.”
A released inmate said Holmes’ behavior behind bars was increasingly irrational.
“He was spitting at the door and spitting at the guards,” the inmate told The News. “He’s spitting at everything. Dude was acting crazy.”
He’s due for his first court appearance Monday morning. Meanwhile, his San Diego–based family has issued a statement expressing sympathy for the victims and requesting privacy.