The Two Sides of James Holmes, the Colorado Shooter


The editorial staff at tried to answer the question: u201CWho is James Holmes?u201D and came up with two distinctly different answers. On one hand, Holmes was a bright young man, having been raised in an upper-middle class neighborhood by his parents. In other words, he was about as normal as hot weather in the summer. On the other hand, he was a plotting, conniving, deliberate individual intent on wreaking as much mayhem as he could during his attack on unsuspecting theater-goers at a midnight showing in Aurora, Colorado.

Carol Leonnig, writing for the Washington Post, said:

He was known as a very quiet young man, introverted but pleasant. Holmes, 24, had shown scholarly promise in the recent past. He'd earned a merit scholarship out of high school in a sunny San Diego suburb. He had graduated from college with honors. From there, he'd gone to graduate school at the University of Colorado at Denver.

He was just one of six students in his class to earn a merit scholarship, graduating at the top of his class at the University of California, Riverside. He won a grant in the amount of $26,000 from the National Institute of Health (NIH) which allowed him to enter the University of Colorado to study neuroscience.

While in high school he enjoyed going to the movies and playing video games with his friends. One of his classmates at Westview High School in San Diego said Holmes was u201Creally smart, kinda nerdy and not too talkative with people he wasn't friends with.” He didn't get involved in sports or other extracurricular activities and while he u201Cdidn't really have any long-term girlfriends … I do remember him having dates to dances.u201D

While attending school in Denver, Holmes signed up for some online dating sites like and AdultFriendFinder. In his profile he said he u201Cdefinitely want[s] kids, drink[s] socially but never smoke[s],u201D and says his politics is u201Cmiddle of the road.u201D He wrote at AdultFriendFinder he said u201C[I] am a nice guy. Well, as nice enough of a guy who does these sorts of shenanigans.u201D

He maintained such a low profile that a search of criminal records reveals nothing more than a speeding ticket back in October, 2011.

If that's all one knew about James Holmes, one would conclude that he was a regular guy, a little shy, nervous about meeting new people, and staying pretty much to himself.

He began to have trouble in school. Following a difficult verbal exam this spring, he had decided to quit school and had already started the process of withdrawing at the time of the Aurora incident.

During this time another side of Holmes appeared: deliberate, devious, plotting, designing, planning, storing, acquiring … all for the purpose of shooting as many people as he could. For four months Holmes began purchasing weapons and ammunition from internet stores as well as local outlets like Bass Pro Shop and Gander Mountain in Thornton, Colorado. He acquired several weapons, including a .40 caliber Glock pistol, a Remington 870 12-gauge shotgun, and a Smith and Wesson M&P15, a semi-automatic rifle chambered for the .223 cartridge. In total, estimates are that he amassed some 6,000 rounds of ammunition in that period.

He also acquired the full regalia of a SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team member, including helmet, gas mask, tactical vest, ballistic leggings, metal shin guards, tactical gloves and armored boots.

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