Cheat Sheet

James Holmes: 6 Reported Facts About the Alleged Aurora Shooter

What we know about Colorado’s shooting suspect.

From left: Getty Images; AP Photo

He Had an Unremarkable Upbringing

Raised in quiet neighborhood in suburban San Diego, James Holmes seemed like a normal, yet quiet, kid. His mother, Arlene, worked as a nurse and was a regular attendee and volunteer at a nearby church. Robert, James’s father, was a software manager who had authored studies for the Navy and Marine Corps. The Holmes family tree stretches back to the Mayflower. James was an honors student at Westview High School, but for an unknown reason didn’t walk in his graduation ceremony. In 2008 he worked as a camp counselor for underprivileged children during the summer. His quiet demeanor doesn’t mean his family was unaware of his instability. On Friday, when ABC News called Holmes’s mom, who had yet to learn of the shooting, she immediately told reporters, “You have the right person ... I need to call the police.”

He Was ‘Strangely Quiet’

According to a college professor who spoke to The Washington Post, Holmes was a shy guy, “strangely quiet.” A school friend told the Los Angeles Times that Holmes liked to play video games and cards. The two attended college together at University of California, Riverside, where Holmes graduated with top honors and a bachelor’s of science in neuroscience. Another friend described Holmes’s gift for academics after taking a college course with him: “He didn’t even have to take notes or anything. He would just show up to class, sit there, and around test time he would always get an A.” A top student and law-abiding community member, Holmes had only a single traffic violation on his record. His pastor told The Huffington Post that the shy boy he knew “wanted to go out and wanted to be the best,” but he never saw Holmes interacting with kids his age.

He Was Slipping Behind in School

Coming from UC Riverside, where he was “top of the top,” according to the school’s chancellor, Holmes enrolled in a Ph.D. program at the University of Colorado at Denver, at the school’s neuroscience program in Aurora. He had always been academically gifted, but had suddenly begun slipping behind in spring and decided to withdraw from the program in June. Faculty at the university have been instructed not to speak to the media, but one neuroscience professor told The Washington Post that Holmes had done poorly on his comprehensive exam at the end of last semester and the school was considering putting him on academic probation.

He Had an Unusual Online Presence

Holmes does not appear to have Facebook or Twitter accounts, which is unusual for a 24-year-old, but he does appear to have two online dating profiles: one on and the other on, both of which were created just weeks before the shooting. On each of the profiles, a man appearing to be James Holmes posted a disturbingly telling question as a tagline, asking, “Will you visit me in prison?” The introduction sections are similarly foreboding, as the accounts describe “a nice guy. Well, as nice enough of a guy who does these sort of shenanigans.” The picture shows a young man with dyed red hair, which authorities say James Holmes was sporting when arrested.

He Began Preparations Two Months Ago

Holmes began purchasing guns and ammunition from various Colorado and online stores in May, according to a law-enforcement officer who spoke to The Daily Beast. His first purchase was a Glock pistol and then a tactical shotgun, another pistol, and a Smith & Wesson high-powered assault rifle. Online, he purchased 6,000 rounds of ammunition, body armor, and a gas mask. Then, on June 25, Holmes sent in an application for membership in a gun club, the Lead Valley Range. When the owner called to invite him to orientation, he heard an answering machine he described as “bizarre—guttural, freakish at best.” Disturbed, he told his staff not to accept Holmes into the club.

He's Currently in Solitary Confinement

James Holmes awaits his first court appearance at the Arapahoe County detention center, where he is in solitary confinement and on suicide watch. Two recently released inmates told the New York Daily News about the mood inside the prison, saying, “All the inmates were talking about killing him. Everyone was looking for an opportunity.” Another described Holmes as “spitting at the door and spitting at the guards. Dude was acting crazy.” On his first night in jail, the inmates reportedly chanted “kid killer” in reference to the death of 6-year-old audience member Veronica Moser-Sullivan. An employee at the prison claims Holmes “thinks he’s acting in a movie” and has adopted the Joker persona.