James Holmes: No good answers, just more questions in Colorado shootings

What makes someone decide to one day kill as many innocent people as possible, including children? Photo: Young people bring flowers to makeshift memorial across from the movie theater AP

VIENNA, VA July 21, 2012 — There is nothing special to say about James Holmes, the alleged shooter in the Aurora, Colo. tragedy at a movie theater showing the just released movie, “The Dark Knight Rises,” the latest in the Batman series. 

How and why and who could do something as seemingly mindless are perhaps unanswerable.

Who is James Holmes?

Here’s what we know: A seemingly brilliant college student, graduating with highest honors from University of California, and accepted into the University of Colorado at Denver’s Ph.D. program, from which he had recently dropped out for unknown reasons; a nice looking, no criminal record sort of guy, parents who look nice and respectable and yet who instantly thought it might be him.

How strange. 

How did he legally buy all of those firearms?

He’s 24 years old and obviously had planned this murderous rampage well in advance. An AR-15 automatic rifle with a high volume drum magazine that allows a higher number of shells, a Remington 8 gauge 1270 shotgun which he meticulously sat down before picking up one of the handguns, and of course the two 40-caliber Glock handguns, and more than 6000 rounds of ammunition. He came loaded for bear, as we say, and he achieved his  goals fairly well: 12 dead so far, and 59 wounded seriously or partially within the span of 15 minutes.

James Holmes, alleged shooter AP

The media has been careful to say and substantiate with the ever-present experts, that Holmes bought all the weapons and the ammunition legally, both under Colorado and Federal laws.

Again, history has taught us nothing.

Why the attack?

Rather than some onslaught on politics, the law, government, some facet of life or fate, Holmes instead chose to supposedly dressed himself like The Joker in the Batman series, dyed part of his hair pink or red, though how the gas mask was supposed to look like Joker is beyond me. 

Still he took advantage of what is basically a young person’s film, though dark in places, and casually took on the audience of a large multiplex individual theater, shooting so wildly that some bullets penetrated into the theater next door, injuring at least two in the audience there.

What caused this attack?

Do we blame the comic character? Do we blame Hollywood? One casual friend said that Holmes would get excited and angry when rap music was played on a juke box in a bar. So he was mad perhaps at the movie’s musical score? Who knows? What sets off an unstable mind to methodically plan and carry out an event like this? But it does not happen overnight. Whatever drove him to this carnage comes from the past, his past, and by extension, our own.

Do we blame mommy or daddy, an uncaring family or whatever church he attended?  Was he barred from joining some group he fancied? Did his girlfriend or boyfriend turn him down? Did someone criticize or demean his possible life style? Was he fed up with studying but determined to excel somewhere, even if it was this?

What’s Next?

Right now he is being “uncooperative” with the police, which translates into “he lawyered up.”  Surely anyone who plots this well has a raison d’etre  for his actions.  Surely he would like to share it with the rest of the world he appeared out to impress. And he may yet.

Is there a comparison with Columbine?

Comparisons with Columbine High School, also in Colorado, are obvious and yet distinct. While both are in the same state, it seems there is little the two have in common. The Columbine mass shooting was headed by two loners, “Goths,” as it were, who wanted to get attention from their acts they lacked in real life. Holmes was apparently an introspective, quiet young man, and apparently a loner also, but that’s not necessarily a recipe for a murderer.

While the parents of the two high school shooters in Columbine were seemingly unaware of the stockpiling of weaponry, Holmes lived alone. Yet his mother had some reason, perhaps known only to her, to say, “I’d better fly to Colorado,” from her lovely home in San Diego, where her son had grown up.

Why did Holmes’ mother suspect him to be the shooter?

Police helicopters fly over the Century 16 movie theater AP

What did she know and how did she know it? Why of all the young men in America did she think it could be him?

She is a nurse, so like many of those treating the victims, she understands injuries and deaths, as much as anyone can. Dad is a software engineer.

Police wonder what is on their son’s computer, though he was found on no social networks, an anomaly in and of itself. 

What can we personally learn from such tragedies?

Each time one of these events occurs, each rare time we find a booby-trapped apartment with explosives, each time we are faced not only with our own mortality but the snuffed lives of people of all ages, people who simply wanted to see a highly touted movie only to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, the questions begin. Each time we look at each other and deep within ourselves and come up empty-handed as to why it happened.

Maybe that’s the point, just to make us think. If we learn something from it, that might be good, but too often it just carries us along until another similar event takes place. And next time it may be in our own backyard, a place where a movie theater now is as potentially dangerous as an urban bar scene. 

Follow the column on Face Book or LinkedIn at Martha Boltz, and by email it’s MBoltz2846@aol.com Read more of Martha’s columns on The Civil War at the Communities at the Washington Times.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Martha M. Boltz

Martha Boltz is a frequent contributor  to the long running Civil War features in The Washington Times America At War feature in the print and online editions. She has been a regular contributor to the original Civil War Page and its successor page since 1994, and is a civil war buff, historian, and writer. "Someone said that if we don't learn about the past, we are condemned to repeat it," she said, "and there are lessons of all sorts inherent in this bloody four-year period of our country's history."  She is a member of several heritage and lineage groups, as well as the Montgomery County Civil War Round Table. Her standing invitation is, "come on down - check the blog - send me your comments and let's have fun with its history and maybe learn something at the same time."


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