Shooting suspect says home is booby-trapped
AURORA -- The 24-year-old accused of shooting 71 people early Friday morning was a former honor student and recent graduate school dropout who apparently booby trapped his apartment and left the stereo blaring non-stop techno music before he headed to the local movie theater where police say he killed 12 people.
James Eagan Holmes of 1690 Paris St. surrendered to police in the parking lot outside the theater "without any significant incident," Aurora police Chief Dan Oates said.
Oates said Holmes made a statement to officers about possible explosives in his home. That prompted police to evacuate five buildings nearby and begin searching his third-floor apartment using a police robot and camera attached to a long pole.
Inside, officers found trip wires attached to 1-liter plastic bottles that contain an unknown substance.
Police Chief Dan Oates said the explosive devices were "pretty sophisticated."
"We could be here for days," he said at midday.
Holmes grew up in San Diego and graduated from Westview High School there in 2006. In 2010, he earned a degree in neuroscience from the University of California Riverside, a spokeswoman for the university said.
Chancellor Timothy White said Holmes distinguished himself academically, graduating with highest honors, but that he did not walk at his commencement ceremony.
"Academically, he was the top of the top," White said.
The Mai family has lived next door to the Holmes family for abut 15 years on a middle-class street in suburban San Diego.
Christine Mai, 17, said she never saw James Holmes act violent or inappropriately. She never knew him or his family to have weapons or any conflicts. He grew up with a younger sister who plays guitar and attends San Diego State University.
Christine Mai said Holmes' father went to Colorado to be with his son and his mother was holed up inside her home and didn't want to have any visitors.
The Holmes had Christmas parties in their front yard and often exchanged gifts with the Mai family, she said. Last year, they shared hot apple cider in the front yard with other neighbors.
"He seemed like a nice guy," she said. "His mother used to tell us he was a good son."
Holmes left home to attend UCR, but returned home after graduation and had a hard time finding work. He took a part-time job at a nearby McDonald's to pay for school, she said.
"He didn't have a job," she said. "I felt bad for him because he studied so hard. My brother said he looked kind of down, he seemed depressed."
Christine Mai and her father, Tom, said they never saw Holmes socializing with friends, partying at his house or with any girlfriends.
"James was nice and quiet," Tom Mai said. "He was studious, he cut the grass, and cleaned the car. He was very bright."
Julie Adams said her son played soccer with Holmes at Westview High. Holmes played his freshman and sophomore year, she said.
While most of the other kids -- her son Taylor included -- played league soccer and continues the sport throughout high school, Holmes wasn't as involved, she said.
"I could tell you a lot about every single kid on that team except for him," Adams said. "He was more aloof."
She was shocked to discover this morning that the helicopters were circling her San Diego neighborhood because Holmes' alleged rampage.
"Taylor remembers playing soccer with him. He said he was quiet, reserved and a respectful kid," Adams said.
According to her son's yearbook, Holmes also ran cross country as a freshman but did not continue the sport. Holmes enrolled in the graduate program in neurosciences at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora in June 2011 but was in the process of withdrawing, university spokeswoman Jacque Montgomery said Friday.
In an e-mail message to members of the campus community, Doug Abraham, Chief of Police for the university, said Holmes left the school in June and his access to campus buildings was terminated while his withdrawal was being processed. He said officials do not believe Holmes had been on campus since then, but authorities evacuated non-essential personnel from the research buildings as a precautionary measure while they wait for bomb-sniffing dogs to do a search of the buildings "to add another level of assurance."
In an apartment rental application he submitted for a different apartment early last year, Holmes described himself as a "quiet and easy-going" student. Other tenants in his building -- which is reserved for students, faculty and staff of the medical campus -- described him as a recluse.
A pharmacy student who also lives in the building told The Post he called 911 around 12:30 a.m. because there was a song blaring from the stereo inside apartment 10, where Holmes lived. The student, who wanted to be identified only as Ben, said he couldn't make out the song but that it seemed to be playing on repeat.
Kaitlyn Fonzi, a 20-year-old biology student at University of Colorado Denver, lives in an apartment below Holmes. Around midnight, Fonzi said she heard techno music blasting from Holmes apartment. She went upstairs and knocked on the door. When no one answered, she put her hand on the door knob and realized the door was unlocked.
Fonzi decided not to go inside the apartment.
The music turned off at almost exactly 1 a.m., Fonzi said.
Police received several reports of the shooting at the Century 16 Movie Theaters at the Aurora Town Center around 12:39 a.m. Witnesses told police that a man entered the dark, packed theater and opened fire after throwing two smoke canisters.
Oates said he was dressed in black and wearing a ballistic helmet and vest, ballistic leggings, throat and groin protector and gas mask and black tactical gloves. He was armed with three weapons.
NBC News said law enforcement officials told them the weapons were bought from local stores of two national chains -- Gander Mountain Guns and Bass Pro Shop -- beginning in May.
His neighbors in Aurora said he kept to himself and wouldn't acknowledge people when they passed in the hall and said hello.
"No one knew him. No one," one man said.
Fonzi said Holmes seemed normal and studious.
The maintenance person at Holmes' last apartment in Riverside remembered Holmes much the same way.
Jose Torres,45, said he didn't remember Holmes having a roommate and said he wasn't social. Torres gasped when he realized Holmes was the accused shooter in Colorado.
"He did not talk too much," Torres said after looking at a photograph of Holmes. "He don't say hi. He was just quiet with no problems."
When told of the booby traps authorities found in Holmes' apartment in Aurora, Torres appeared shocked.
"He didn't destroy this apartment when he left," Torres said. "When he left it was in good condition."
Authorities began searching Holmes' Aurora apartment building around 2 a.m.
A resident of the building who didn't want to give his name said he answered his door to see police with rifles. An officer asked if he had seen a white guy with crazy hair, possibly dyed unnatural colors, the man said. It was unclear if the officer was referring to Holmes.
Wes Bradshaw and his mother Lavonne watched the search of the third-floor apartment from their apartment, they said. The two watched a police robot enter the building right before they heard a small explosion.
The two, along with the rest of the building's tenants, were ordered to evacuate soon after, they said.
Residents of the area were huddled on street corners waiting for news. Police at the scene told them it could be hours before they are allowed to return to their homes.
About 6:30 a.m., three police officers on a fire truck bucket were looking through the window of the third-floor apartment and taking pictures. Using a long pole, responders broke into the window from the basket atop a ladder truck.
Aurora Deputy Fire Chief Chris Henderson said authorities could see several "string-like contraptions" inside.
"We're not sure exactly where they connect to," Henderson said. Jim Yacone, special agent in charge of the Denver FBI, said they were working on "how to disarm the flammable or explosive material."
Neighbors in a fourth-floor apartment one building had a bird's eye view of the suspect's apartment. They said the curtains are usually closed and they never see any movement inside the apartment.
Even at night, there are no lights or anything in that apartment, said Yesenia Lujan, 24, who has lived in her apartment for seven months.
Using a camera with a zoom lens, Lujan's roommate said he could see into the suspect's kitchen, where a poster of Will Farrell in the movie "Anchorman" was hanging on the wall.
Holmes is scheduled to appear in court in Arapahoe County on Monday morning.