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Colo. Shooting Suspect Was Withdrawing From School


Throughout the day, details have been emerging about the suspected shooter, James Holmes. He's lived recently in both Southern California and Colorado. An official at the University of Colorado, Denver described Holmes as a loner. Kirk Siegler of member station KUNC has been gathering more information.

KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: Twenty-four-year-old James Holmes graduated from the University of California Riverside with a bachelor's degree in neuroscience in 2010. He earned highest honors. And more recently, he had been working toward a graduate degree in the same field at the University of Colorado medical school in Aurora until last month.

According to university officials, Holmes was in the process of withdrawing from that program. His family, who lives in San Diego, sent a statement to police saying they're fully cooperating with authorities in California and Colorado during their investigation. It was read by San Diego police lieutenant Andrea Brown outside their home.

LIEUTENANT ANDREA BROWN: The family is asking for respect for their privacy as well as that of the rest of the neighborhood at this point. There's quite a crowd out here and quite a bit of activity in the (unintelligible) neighborhood here.

SIEGLER: One of the Holmes' families next door neighbors, 16-year-old Anthony Mai(ph), recalled James as a nice guy, if a little bit reserved.

ANTHONY MAI: He doesn't seem like a person that would do that, you know. Like, I've known him my whole life - I mean, I don't know him that well, but I mean, he just felt like a normal guy and I don't think he would be going around with guns and shooting people.

SIEGLER: Here in Aurora, Holmes lived just a couple of miles north of the movie theater where the shooting spree took place and just a couple of blocks away from the University of Colorado Hospital and its sprawling Anschutz Medical School campus. The diverse neighborhood where Holmes lives is a mix of low income houses and weathered brick apartment buildings. Some of the surrounding buildings were evacuated as authorities cordoned off the area amid concerns about explosives in his apartment.

I'm standing about 100 feet from the suspect's apartment building watching two firemen up on a ladder breaking the glass of the window on his third-floor apartment. There's glass breaking everywhere. They're peering inside right now.

DANIEL OATES: He lives on the third floor in the back. His apartment is apparently booby-trapped.

SIEGLER: The city of Aurora's police chief Daniel Oates described Holmes' booby-trap almost like a scene out of a movie, tripwires across the floor and plastic bottles with a liquid substance scattered about.

OATES: We are trying to determine how to disarm the flammable or explosive material that's in there. So that's why we're here. We could be here for hours, we could be here for days.

SIEGLER: Many of Holmes' neighbors who stood behind police barricades say they'd never seen or heard of him. And The Denver Post has learned that in a rental application he submitted last year, Holmes described himself as a student who was, quote, "quiet and easy-going." Two of his neighbors, Leilana White(ph) and Antoinette Marshall(ph) were evacuated from their apartments early this morning.

LEILANA WHITE: Normally, it's quiet. I mean, it does have, you know, it's a neighborhood.


WHITE: Yeah. But I mean, normally it's quiet. I woke up to this and this scares me. I have two kids. I have a two-year-old and a three-month-old and this is really scary to know that this dude lived right here next to us.

SIEGLER: It's unclear when White and her neighbors will be allowed back into their apartments. This afternoon, police were sending a bomb diffusing robot into Holmes' apartment. Authorities are also concerned about the chemicals he had in there and any health threats they may pose. For NPR News, I'm Kirk Siegler in Aurora, Colorado. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kirk Siegler reports for NPR, based out of NPR West in California.
Kirk Siegler
As a correspondent on NPR's national desk, Kirk Siegler covers rural life, culture and politics from his base in Boise, Idaho.