Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

When Nightmares Invade Fantasy

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

When Nightmares Invade Fantasy

Article excerpt

We go to the movies to escape. But in a crowded Colorado theater early Friday, there was no escape.

Such is the surreal and tragic irony of America's latest mass murder -- that it took place in the flickering light of a fantasy film about a comic book superhero who tries to protect innocent people from the world's nut jobs.

In this case, a real nut job invaded the escapist fantasy of the movies. The gunfire was not a Hollywood-style special effect -- as police said some survivors initially thought.

This was real. And as the killings in the Denver suburb of Aurora remind us, the darkness of a movie theater can't lock out the dark reality of violence that plagues our nation.

This time the killings occurred after midnight, at an opening- night showing of the latest Batman saga, "The Dark Knight Rises." But beyond those facts, this latest chapter in America's history of mass killings has an all-too-familiar plotline.

Once again, police say, the murders seem to be the work of one man, James Holmes. He is 24, unmarried and living alone. He recently left a doctoral program in neuroscience. The smattering of friends who spoke to reporters said he was shy.

Whether these stray facts fit the modern portrait of an alleged mass murderer will obviously take more analysis. But the most disturbing part of his story does not involve his personality but rather his possessions -- notably, the arsenal of lethal devices police say he was able to obtain before his alleged murder spree.

According to police, Holmes had an AR-15 assault rifle on him when he was arrested in the theater's parking lot, along with a 12- gauge shotgun and two semiautomatic pistols. He also had a gas mask, a police ballistics helmet, a thick, military-style bulletproof vest and special protective gear for his legs, groin and throat.

In other words, this guy was outfitted for combat.

Equally disturbing is this fact: According to reports all of the guns used in the killings had been purchased legally.

Didn't anyone notice that this graduate student in neuroscience was collecting enough weaponry and protective gear to join a SWAT team? Didn't anyone find that odd? …

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