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Massacre Suspect James Holmes Appears In Court

Above: Accused movie theater shooter James Holmes (L) makes his first court appearance at the Arapahoe County Courthouse with his public defender Tamara Brady on July 23, 2012 in Centennial, Colorado.

Aired 7/23/12 on KPBS Midday Edition.


David Peters, San Diego marriage and family counselor

Wendy Patrick, SDSU School of Business, lecturer and career trial attorney, co-author of the revised version of the NY Times bestseller Reading People


KPBS Evening Edition

David Peters and Wendy Patrick on Theater Shooting

David Peters, a San Diego marriage and family counselor, and Wendy Patrick, an SDSU School of Business lecturer and career trial attorney, talk to KPBS about James Holmes.

His hair dyed orange-red and a dazed look on his face, the man accused of going on a deadly shooting rampage at the opening of the new Batman movie appeared Monday in court for the first time.

An unshaven, handcuffed James Holmes sat in maroon jailhouse jumpsuit as the judge advised him of the case. Holmes sat motionless, his eyes appearing tired and drooping.

Holmes, 24, has been held in solitary confinement at an Arapahoe County detention facility since Friday. Holmes is being held on suspicion of first-degree murder, and he could also face additional counts of aggravated assault and weapons violations.

Authorities have disclosed that he is refusing to cooperate and that it could take months to learn what prompted the horrific attack on midnight moviegoers at a Batman film premiere.

Eighteenth Judicial District Attorney Carol Chambers said Monday her office is considering pursuing the death penalty against Holmes. She said a decision will be made in consultation with victims' families.

Holmes has been assigned a public defender, and Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said the former doctoral student has "lawyered up" since his arrest early Friday, following the shooting at an Aurora theater that left 12 dead and 58 wounded, some critically.

"He's not talking to us," the chief said.

Holmes has been held without bond at the lockup in Centennial, Colo., south of Denver and about 13 miles from the Aurora theater.

His hearing is at the same complex, and security there was tight early Monday. Uniformed sheriff's deputies were stationed outside, and deputies were positioned on the roofs of both court buildings at the Arapahoe County Justice Center.

Police have said Holmes began buying guns at Denver-area stores nearly two months before Friday's shooting and that he received at least 50 packages in four months at his home and at school.

Holmes' apartment was filled with trip wires, explosive devices and unknown liquids, requiring police, FBI officials and bomb squad technicians to evacuate surrounding buildings while spending most of Saturday disabling the booby traps.

Investigators found a Batman mask inside Holmes' apartment after they finished clearing the home, a law enforcement official close to the investigation said Sunday on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media.

Officials at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus were looking into whether Holmes used his position in a graduate program to collect hazardous materials, but that disclosure was one of the few it has made three days after the massacre. It remained unclear whether Holmes' professors and other students at his 35-student Ph.D. program noticed anything unusual about his behavior.

His reasons for quitting the program in June also remained a mystery. Holmes recently took an intense oral exam that marks the end of the first year. University officials would not say if he passed, citing privacy concerns.

Amid the continuing investigation of Holmes and his background, Sunday was a day for healing and remembrance in Aurora, with the community holding a prayer vigil and President Barack Obama arriving to visit with families of the victims.

Obama said he told the families that "all of America and much of the world is thinking about them." He met with them at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, which treated 23 of the people injured in the mass shooting; 10 remain there, seven hurt critically.

Congregations across Colorado prayed for the shooting victims and their relatives. Elderly churchgoers at an aging Presbyterian church within walking distance near Holmes' apartment joined in prayer, though none had ever met him.

Several thousand gathered for healing at the vigil Sunday night.

"You're not alone, and you will get through it," said the Rev. Kenneth Berve, pastor at Grant Avenue United Methodist Church and a witness to Friday's horrors. "We can't let fear and anger take control of us."

Meanwhile, the owner of a gun range told the AP that Holmes applied to join the club last month but never became a member because of his behavior and a "bizarre" message on his voicemail.

Holmes emailed an application to join the Lead Valley Range in Byers on June 25 in which he said he was not a user of illegal drugs or a convicted felon, said owner Glenn Rotkovich. When Rotkovich called to invite him to a mandatory orientation the following week, Rotkovich said he heard a message on Holmes' voicemail that was "bizarre — guttural, freakish at best."

Rotkovich left two other messages but eventually told his staff to watch out for Holmes at the July 1 orientation and not to accept him into the club, Rotkovich said.

The pastor for the suspect's family recalled a shy boy who was driven to succeed academically.

"He wasn't an extrovert at all. If there was any conversation, it would be because I initiated it, not because he did," said Jerald Borgie, senior pastor of Penasquitos Lutheran Church. Borgie said he never saw the suspect mingle with others his age at church. He last spoke with Holmes about six years ago.

"He had some goals. He wanted to succeed, he wanted to go out, and he wanted to be the best," Borgie said. "He took pride in his academic abilities. A good student. He didn't brag about it."

During the attack early Friday, Holmes allegedly set off gas canisters and used a semiautomatic rifle, a shotgun and a pistol to open fire on theater-goers, Oates said. Holmes had bought the weapons at local gun stores in the past two months. He recently bought 6,000 rounds of ammunition over the Internet, the chief said.

The gunman's semiautomatic assault rifle jammed during the attack, forcing him to switch to another gun with less firepower, a federal law enforcement official told The Associated Press. That malfunction and weapons switch might have saved some lives.

Oates said a 100-round ammunition drum was found in the theater, but he said he didn't know whether it jammed or emptied.

The shooting was the worst in the U.S. since the Nov. 5, 2009, attack at Fort Hood, Texas. An Army psychiatrist was charged with killing 13 soldiers and civilians and wounding more than two dozen others.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | July 23, 2012 at 12:21 p.m. ― 4 years, 8 months ago

I'm surprised they didn't shave his head before letting him appear in court in that ridiculous looking orange hairdoo.

I am all in favor of innocent until convicted in a court of law, but I still think letting this kook show up in orange hair just insults his victims further and let's him make the "statement" he wants.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | July 23, 2012 at 12:24 p.m. ― 4 years, 8 months ago

By the way, let's call this guy what he is (if convicted) - a TERRORIST!

If a Muslim had done exactly what this person did, they would be labeled a terrorist instantly.

Why is nobody calling this guy a terrorist? I can't think of anything more terror ridden than what he did.

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | July 23, 2012 at 2:22 p.m. ― 4 years, 8 months ago

Presumably the absence of a terrorist label stems from the lack of a clear political motive. Has anyone published any of his statements about what he was attempting to accomplish?

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Avatar for user 'krayfun1'

krayfun1 | July 23, 2012 at 2:26 p.m. ― 4 years, 8 months ago

I believe this mass shooting, like so many of the others, points directly to the need of our society to lose the negative stigma of mental illness. Having taught elementary grades for 37 years, now retired, I have vivid memories of students exhibiting behavior of less than normal social interaction, many of them boys. Teachers are limited to address with parents what they observe and hear stated by students, but legally can only suggest parents might CONSIDER seeking help from a medical professional. Serious behavior problems are much easier to adjust at the young age, allowing the child to live a happier life, instead of one filled with the pain of repressed anger. I hope the Affordable Care Act includes mental health services. I personally know the blessings of my therapy 35 years ago, and how it positively changed my life. But I also recall overcoming my own fears of being labelled "crazy".

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Avatar for user 'tybye'

tybye | July 24, 2012 at 1:36 p.m. ― 4 years, 8 months ago

Please watch


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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | July 24, 2012 at 2:44 p.m. ― 4 years, 8 months ago

I agree with Benz. The label terrorists implies a political or religious motivation. At this early stage, it appears the guy had no motivation.

krayfun1, very well said and I agree 100%, except for your reference to Obamacare. You should be citing the Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 instead.

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Avatar for user 'HarryStreet'

HarryStreet | July 25, 2012 at 1:53 p.m. ― 4 years, 8 months ago

Now its reported that gun permits and applications for private ownership have risen in Colorado. The gunmakers of America must be doing cartwheels of joy. If we have another incident like in Aurora soon enough perhaps their gun sales will quadruple!

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