Right up until the shooting started on Friday morning, July 20 at 12:38 am., at the Century 16 Theater at Town Center in Aurora, Colorado, the alleged gunman, James Eagan Holmes, had little in his background to explain the rampage that killed 12 and injured 58.
Born on December 13, 1987 to a registered nurse and a scientist, Holmes was raised in Castroville, California, where he was well liked by everyone and a trouble to no one. A classmate, Chris Elkins, remembered him as being extremely intelligent and a good athlete: "He was friends with everybody."
His family moved to the upscale Torrey Highlands community near San Diego where Holmes attended Westview High School, graduating with honors in 2006. He played soccer, ran cross-country, and attended a local Lutheran church regularly.
His church pastor reiterated his impression of Holmes, saying, "James always had goals. He was going to succeed?"
Following graduation, he took a summer job as an intern at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and then entered the University of California, Riverside. In the summer of 2008, Holmes worked as a camp counselor in Glendale at a camp that focused on needy children, taking on the responsibility for 10 children.
In 2010, he graduated with a degree in neuroscience with highest honors. He was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa and Golden Key honor societies.
Holmes applied for and received a $21,600 grant from the National Institutes of Health to attend the University of Colorado's Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colorado, for the doctoral program in neuroscience starting the fall of 2011. He also received a stipend of $5,000 from the university. Until May 2012, Holmes appeared to be on his way to accomplishing his goal: a Ph.D. in neuroscience from a prestigious university.
Wacko in Waiting
In retrospect, however, inconsistencies and anomalies began to appear as far back as 2006 during his summer job at Salk. John Jacobson, supervisor of the neurobiology lab, recalled Holmes as being impressive on paper but not very good at following directions. Asked to develop some online demonstrations of the lab's work on temporal perceptions, Holmes resisted Jacobson's repeated suggestions on how to prepare them. Jacobson said that Holmes was "really, oddly, stubborn ... an unusually bad intern. He was very undistinguished."
By May 2012, his performance at Anschutz began to deteriorate significantly, and when he failed an oral exam miserably in early June, he dropped out of school without explanation. During this period Holmes came under the care of Dr. Lynn Fenton, a psychiatrist at Anschutz, and he sent her a journal of notes a few days before the shooting, apparently related to his plans to attack moviegoers in July.
At about the same time, on June 25, he e-mailed a membership application to Glenn Rotkovich, owner of the Lead Valley Range gun club, but when Rotkovich tried to follow up by phone with Holmes, what he heard on Holmes' voicemail was "bizarre--guttural, freakish at best ... spoken with a deep voice, incoherent and rambling."
On May 22, Holmes made his first purchase in preparing for the attack: a .40-caliber Glock 22, from the Gander Mountain store in Aurora. He passed the background check, and six days later he purchased a Remington Model 870 shot-gun at a Bass Pro Shop in Denver, again passing the background check.
On June 7, just hours after failing his oral exam at Anschutz, Holmes made two more purchases uneventfully: a Smith & Wesson M&P (Military and Police) Model 15 semi-automatic rifle, and another Glock 22.
Holmes began purchasing online the ammunition he would need: 3,000 rounds of .40-caliber handgun ammunition; 3,000 rounds for his Smith & Wesson rifle; and 350 shotgun shells for his Remington. On July 2 he …