World gets first look at 'Batman' suspect

2012-07-23 18:41
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Batman massacre suspect in court

The alleged Batman massacre murderer, James Holmes, has appeared in court. He is accused of killing 12 people when he charged into a cinema and shot movie-goers.

Aurora - Looking dazed and with bright orange hair, the man accused of killing 12 and wounding 58 in a shooting rampage in a Colorado cinema appeared on Monday in court for the first time.

James Holmes, wide-eyed and unshaven, his head bobbing slightly, appeared not to speak during the brief hearing. He will be formally charged next Monday.

Authorities say the 24-year-old former graduate student is refusing to cooperate, and it could take months to learn what prompted one of the worst mass shootings in US history.

A prosecutor said her office is considering pursuing the death penalty. Eighteenth Judicial District Attorney Carol Chambers said a decision will be made in consultation with victims' families, and that could take months.

It likely will be at least a year before Holmes would stand trial, Chambers said.

Holmes has been held in solitary confinement since the shooting. He is being held on suspicion of first-degree murder, and he could face additional counts of aggravated assault and weapons violations.

In response to Holmes' demeanour in the courtroom, Chambers said she has no information on whether he is on medication.

Relatives of the shooting victims leaned forward in their seats to catch their first glimpse of Holmes. Some stared at him the entire hearing. Two women held hands tightly, one shaking her head.

Holmes began buying guns nearly two months before the shooting and recently bought 6 000 rounds of ammunition over the internet, Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said.

During the attack, Holmes allegedly set off gas canisters and used a semi-automatic rifle, a shotgun and a pistol to open fire, Oates said.

The semi-automatic assault rifle jammed during the attack, forcing the gunman 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.

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 have said they found a Batman mask inside the apartment.

Bizarre message

As authorities rushed to piece together Holmes' background, the owner of a gun range told The Associated Press that Holmes applied to join the club last month but never became a member because of his behaviour and a "bizarre" message on his voicemail.

When Lead Valley Range owner Glenn Rotkovich called to invite Holmes to a mandatory orientation, he said he heard a message on Holmes' voicemail that was "guttural, freakish at best".

He told his staff to watch out for Holmes at the orientation and not to accept him into the club, Rotkovich said.

Officials at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus were looking into whether Holmes, a former doctoral student in neuroscience, used his position in a graduate programme to collect hazardous materials.

Holmes' reasons for quitting the doctoral program in June remained a mystery. He recently took an intense, three-part oral exam that marks the end of the first year.

University officials would not say if he passed, citing privacy concerns.

Ritchie Duong, a friend who has known Holmes for more than a decade, told the Los Angeles Times that he last saw Holmes in December and he seemed fine.

Academics came easily to Holmes, Duong said. "I had one college class with him, and he didn't even have to take notes or anything."

The family's pastor 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, who last spoke with Holmes about six years ago.

Sunday was a day for healing and remembrance in Aurora. Several thousand people attended a prayer vigil, and President Barack Obama visited with families of the victims.

Obama said he told the families that "all of America and much of the world is thinking about them".

- AP
Read more on:    james holmes  |  us  |  us cinema attack
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