AURORA, Colo. – University of Colorado officials were looking Sunday into whether James Holmes used his role in a graduate program there to amass an arsenal used in a theater shooting rampage, but school officials aren’t saying whether they had any clue that he was anything more than a hardworking student.
Holmes, 24, was not cooperating with officials as he was being held in solitary confinement at a Denver-area county detention facility, Aurora police Chief Dan Oates said.
“He lawyered up. He’s not talking to us,” the chief said. It could be months before they learn the motive behind the shootings that left 12 dead and 58 injured, with authorities working with FBI behavioral analysts and looking into Holmes’ relationships.
Holmes is scheduled for an initial hearing today at 9:30 a.m. MDT and has been assigned a public defender.
The University of Colorado disclosed that it was cooperating with police in the case.
The university said Holmes gave no reason for quitting the program in June, just a year into the five- to seven-year program.
Holmes recently took an intense, three-part oral exam that marks the end of the first year of the program. Those who do well continue with their studies and shift to full-time research, while those who don’t do well meet with advisers and discuss their options, including retaking the exam. University officials would not say if he passed, citing privacy concerns.
During the attack early Friday, Holmes’ semiautomatic assault rifle jammed, forcing him to switch to another gun with less firepower, a federal law enforcement official told the Associated Press. That malfunction and weapons switch during the shooting rampage might have saved some lives.
Amid the continuing investigation, Sunday was a day for healing and remembrance in Aurora, with President Barack Obama arriving to visit with families of the victims.
Obama said he told the families of the victims of Friday’s massacre that “all of America and much of the world is thinking about them.” He met with them at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, which treated 23 of the people injured in the mass shooting; 10 remain there, seven hurt critically.
Behind closed doors, Obama visited one by one with hurting families gathered at a hospital and patients recovering in intensive care. He emerged before the TV cameras and kept his focus on the lives and dreams of the fallen and the survivors, not the shooting suspect or his “evil act.”
“I come to them not so much as president as I do as a father and as a husband,” Obama told reporters after his visits. “The reason stories like this have such an impact on us is because we could all understand what it would be to have somebody we love taken from us in this fashion.”
Sunday’s trip was Obama’s second to Colorado in less than a month. He made a quick visit in late June to Colorado Springs, where hundreds of homes were destroyed in the most devastating wildfire in the state’s history.
Congregations across Colorado prayed for the shooting victims and their relatives Sunday. Churches sent out social-media appeals for neighbors who wanted to join in remembrance.
Meanwhile, the owner of a gun range told the AP that Holmes applied to join the club last month but never became a member because of his behavior and a “bizarre” message on his voice mail.
He emailed an application to join the Lead Valley Range in Byers on June 25 in which he said he was not a user of illegal drugs or a convicted felon, owner Glenn Rotkovich said. When Rotkovich called to invite him to a mandatory orientation the following week, he said he heard a message on Holmes’ voice mail that was “bizarre – guttural, freakish at best.”
He left two other messages but eventually told his staff to watch out for Holmes at the July 1 orientation and not to accept him into the club, Rotkovich said.
The suspect’s 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, senior pastor of Penasquitos Lutheran Church in San Diego. Borgie said he never saw Holmes mingle with others his age at church.
Investigators found a Batman mask inside Holmes’ apartment after they finished clearing the home of booby traps and ammunition, a law enforcement official said Sunday on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
Police have finished collecting evidence from the apartment, but residents are still not allowed back into the building because of chemical hazards.
Across the street from the movie theater, a man who placed 15 crosses near Columbine High School after a 1999 massacre returned to Colorado with 12 crosses for the victims of Friday’s shooting.