Published: 20 July 2012 09:28 AM
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The man police say opened fire in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater early Friday, July 20, was a graduate of UC Riverside, where he was an honors student on a merit scholarship.
James Eagan Holmes, 24, also worked as a lab assistant and camp counselor between 2006 and 2009, while he was living in Southern California, according to a resume posted online.
Students and staff at UC Riverside were in shock over the news that Holmes allegedly planned and carried out a shooting rampage at an opening-night showing of “The Dark Knight Rises.” Twelve people were killed and 58 injured in the incident.
Holmes enrolled at UCR in December 2006 and graduated in 2010, according to school records. He lived in an on-campus dorm for about a year and then moved to an apartment at the corner of Iowa and University avenues until he graduated with honors with a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience.
The resume, which was still posted Friday at Monster.com, showed Holmes was a student intern at the Salk Institute in La Jolla during the summer of 2006, and he worked as a lab assistant at UCR in the departments of chemistry and cellular biology and neuroscience.
Jessica Cade, who lived across the hall from Holmes in the UCR dorm and was in a science study group with him, said he was quiet and a little strange, but not in a threatening way.
“This was someone I knew and saw at least a few times a week,” said Cade, 23, of Riverside. “I couldn’t believe he would do this and (that) someone could commit such a heinous act.”
Cade said when news of the shooting began to spread, she didn’t realize the suspect was the young man she’d studied with. When she finally saw his picture, she nearly fainted, she said.
“I don’t even know what to say. I’ve been in mental paralysis all morning,” Cade said. “I think back to what I know about him and nothing seemed strange to me. There were 71 people shot and I can’t even fathom it.”
The resume also listed a stint as a counselor at Camp Max Straus from June to August 2008, where he “provided leadership and guidance to underprivileged children” and “took an active stance as a positive role model.”
The camp, a nonsectarian program run by Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles, offers activities such as archery, horseback riding and photography for children ages 7 to 12, according to its website. Officials with Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters could not be reached late Friday.
Holmes was a dean’s fellow, regent’s scholar and a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, an academic honor society, his resume said. He was seeking a job as a lab technician.
Cade said Holmes would spend hours playing video games like Guitar Hero and Mario Kart between their study groups.
“He was weird, but it didn’t faze me, because as honor students we’re all a little weird,” Cade said.
Holmes would come along when the study group went out together, but he wouldn’t say much, she said. In pictures, “It looks like we’re all having fun, but he’s always in the back.”
View Suspected shooter’s Riverside connections in a larger map
After Holmes completed his undergraduate studies, he moved to the Denver area, where University of Colorado officials have confirmed he was attending a graduate neuroscience program at the school’s Denver campus. However, Colorado officials said he had recently dropped out.
UCR officials said certain information about Holmes cannot be released under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
At a news conference Friday, UC Riverside Chancellor Timothy White expressed the school’s sadness over the shootings but downplayed Holmes’ local ties.
“On a campus like ours, a community like ours … we stick together in good times and bad,” White said. “Our campus is embracing the friends and family of those who were killed in Colorado, who were injured in Colorado, and that is the (UCR) community speaking loudly and clearly about that.”
White said on learning of Holmes’ connection to UCR, his first thoughts were of the victims and their families.
“The fact he was a student at (UC) Riverside, I think, is a collateral fact but is not germane to what happened in Colorado.”
Campus in Shock
Counselors will remain on campus to assist any students or faculty who may have known Holmes, White said. He said the campus was “abuzz” and in shock, but it had not been determined if any of the staff have any useful information about Holmes.
Kelly Huffman, an assistant professor of psychology at UC Riverside, said Holmes did well in her Drugs and Behavior class in 2010, the Los Angeles Times reported.
She described him as “a smart and quiet guy” and said the teaching assistant who led the course’s smaller discussion section that Holmes attended didn’t recall the shooting suspect, the Times reported. “So that probably means he (Holmes) was pretty quiet,” Huffman said.
UCR is cooperating with federal law enforcement and Colorado authorities in their investigation.
In an earlier written statement, White said, “On behalf of the entire UCR community, I extend our deepest sympathy to the victims, their families, and all of those impacted by this tragedy.”
Christopher Nolan, director of “The Dark Knight Rises,” told The Associated Press he was jolted by the Colorado slayings and declared the scene a “senseless tragedy.”
In the statement, Nolan said watching movies should be joyful, and he called the act of violence at the Aurora theater “devastating.”
The thoughts and prayers of the movie’s cast and crew are with the victims and their families, Nolan said.
Holmes is originally from San Diego and graduated from Westview High School there in 2006. Records show that he lived at three Riverside addresses, two on campus and one off campus.
The off-campus address is an apartment that appeared to be vacant. Neighbors there said they did not know Holmes.
Internet searches did not show any criminal or court activity for Holmes in the Inland area during that period.
At midmorning Friday, everything appeared to be normal at UCR, with school guides leading new students on fall orientation tours. There was no mention, and likely no knowledge that an accused shooter in one of the nation’s worst mass-shootings had walked the campus and attended classes there five years ago.
It’s unclear what changed for Holmes in Colorado, where he was doing poorly in school and potentially faced remedial classes, as reported by the Washington Post.
Chancellor White said based on Holmes’ performance at UC Riverside, “He obviously academically had the capability to do just about anything he wanted.”
Staff writers Fielding Buck, firstname.lastname@example.org, and Kimberly Pierceall, email@example.com, also contributed to this report.
~ What was the motivation of this shooting? Where are the Shylock Holmes’s of our day? Two incidents back to back both involving Jews. Ladies and gentlemen, are you getting the message yet? You can keep a few Jews around if you want, but you’re going to have to go with them. These people are just bad news folks. And I mean bad to the bone evil. They are all bombs waiting to go off. It’s why they were ALL kicked out of our countries. They didn’t keep one around for the news. You have to be masochist to look for one of these people for truth over your own. Your own aren’t even allowed to speak, yet these Jews STILL have shows all over the internet. You’ve got to be complete FOOLS to listen to any one of them. Of course that is just my honest opinion.
This guy hasn’t been called a Nazi yet like Loughner was, he hasn’t even been called “white” yet like Zimmerman. It’s going to be right in your face along with the tree’s telling you “it’s the Jews stupid” before you even snap out of it.