After spending the weekend held in isolation in the Arapahoe County Jail, James Holmes, the suspected gunman in the Batman movie shootings, is about to start his long journey towards justice.
He is scheduled to make a brief first appearance Monday for arraignment in a courtroom not far from the theatre where chaos erupted Friday, when he allegedly shot 70 people, killing 12, just after the midnight opening of The Dark Knight Rises.
With President Barack Obama sweeping in to the city Sunday to visit the families of the victims, the investigation into the worst mass murder in Colorado since Columbine continued.
Police worked around the clock over the weekend to clear the suspect’s apartment of about 30 bombs and an array of booby traps. As the mourning continued, and residents held another prayer vigil, a partial picture of the suspect began to emerge. He is portrayed as a brilliant student who won a top research grant and suddenly dyed his hair orange.
The suspect reportedly ordered thousands of rounds of ammunition through the mail and had a phone message so bizarre that a gun club operator red-flagged him as just being too “weird” to be allowed on to the shooting range.
Police, who arrested Mr. Holmes behind the theatre as hundreds of other officers were racing his bleeding victims to hospital, say he gave up without a struggle. Seized from him were a Remington 12-gauge shotgun, a Smith & Wesson M&P15 assault rifle, a Glock .40-Caliber pistol and the tactical vest and ballistic helmet he was wearing.
Dressed in black, with his orange hair, Mr. Holmes, a university student in the process of dropping out of a prestigious neurological science program at the University of Colorado, reportedly told police he was the Joker.
On a dry, dusty hill near the mall where the shootings took place, residents of this shaken community on Sunday added flowers, candles and notes of condolence to an ever-growing makeshift memorial. Lining the hilltop are a dozen white crosses, in memory of each of those who died in the rampage, 58 others were injured, including 11 who remain in critical condition.
In the days since the tragedy, a partial and contradictory picture has emerged of Mr. Holmes.
Police spent the weekend “defusing” his apartment, in a modest brick building near the University of Colorado medical campus. police, which they say was an intricate and crazy web of booby traps and explosive devices. The interior of that apartment may have been as frighteningly wired as Mr. Holmes’s brain.
It was certainly intended to be as deadly, police say. And they think the trap was set to take out the first officers to descend on the building in the wake of the shootings.
Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said the crime appeared to have been planned with great deliberation, but would not discuss what investigators might have learned from questioning Mr. Holmes. Yet it is clear police are trying to figure out what would drive a promising medical student to allegedly execute such a terrible crime.
“The FBI behavioural analysis unit are very much plugged in … to try and find out his motivation was,” he said.
That might not be easy, given the apparently complex nature of his personality.
Police have seized a laptop from his apartment, which could hold clues, and they noted the presence of a Batman poster on a wall.
Glenn Rotkovich, of the Lead Valley Range, in Byers, Colorado, told reporters Sunday that Mr. Holmes had applied for membership – but had been turned down because he was considered so “weird.”
Mr. Rotkovich said he got a strange feeling when he phoned Mr. Holmes to question him about his application: “His answering machine message was incoherent, just bizarre … slurring words, but he didn’t sound drunk, just strange.”
He added that there were background noises and laughter that, in hindsight, made him wonder if the answering message was meant to sound like the Joker. “It was like somebody was trying to be as weird as possible,” he said.
Others interviewed by the media provided different descriptions of the quiet, intelligent student who grew up in San Diego and later graduated from the University of California Riverside with honours.
“Academically he was the top of the top,” said U of C Chancellor Timothy White.
Mr. Holmes moved to Colorado last year and was one of only six students to win a prestigious Neuroscience Training Grant at the University of Colorado medical school.
He was studying the physical mechanics of the brain until June, when he withdrew from the program. That was also about the time, according to police, that he began to amass a cache of 6,000 rounds of ammunition and to acquire several weapons. A flurry of packages arrived at both his home, and at the research lab he worked in at university.
Neighbours described Mr. Holmes as aloof – someone who would pass them in the halls without acknowledging them.
But a fellow doctoral student told the Associated Press that describing Mr. Holmes as a “loner” would be unfair. “He has friends. He’s quiet and keeps a low profile, but we’re all like that. We’re PhD students. There’s not a lot of time to do other stuff,” he said.
Ritchie Duong, 24, who attended school with him in California told the Los Angeles Times he last saw him in December and didn’t notice any mood shifts.
“Everything came easy for him,” Mr. Duong said. “He didn’t even have to take notes or anything. He would just show up to class, sit there, and around test time he would always get an ‘A’.”
An old video, aired on Sunday, showed Mr. Holmes at a science camp as a nervous, smiling 18-year-old nerd who said his goals were “to become a researcher and to make scientific discoveries.”
He told his science camp peers that over the summer he’d been “working with atemporal illusion. It’s an illusion that allows you to change the past.”
Mr. Holmes did not have a big online presence, but The Denver Post found postings he’d made on an adult dating website. The AdultFriendFinder.com profile was posted under the name ClassicJimbo on July 5.
On it he says he is looking “for a fling or casual sex gal,” and on another section asks: “Will you visit me in jail?”
At his appearance, Monday, Mr. Holmes will likely be informed of the charges against him and advised of his right to remain silent. He may enter a plea, but his lawyers, two attorneys appointed by the state public defender’s office, could leave that to a later date.
His lawyers are to be given access to the crime scene, the Century 16 movie complex, on Monday. Police say the building should be turned back over to the owners by Wednesday and it is expected to re-open.
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