Young, depressed, angry, paranoid and just narcissistic enough to believe that others are to blame for their problems. Could this profile fit James Eagan Holmes, the man accused of killing 12 people and injuring nearly 60 more in the Aurora, Colorado, theater shooting?
Why Did James Holmes Do It?
The big question on everyone's mind is 'why?' Why did this young man with a bright future dye his hair bright red, dress up in body armor and take four high-powered guns to a theater? Why did he use those guns to kill innocent people, many of them children, after disorienting the crowd with smoky gas canisters? So far, the accused is tight-lipped, unwilling to talk, but there are things police already know about him, and it seems Holmes may fit the classic profile of a mass murderer.
A social recluse who didn't acknowledge people when they said hello to him, he began buying his guns as early as May of this year. James Holmes was also in the process of dropping out of his PhD program. His neighbors in California said that he was raised in a good family that was well-liked, and although he was quiet, he never seemed the violent type.
Holmes was also a fan of Batman character The Joker, and although the character's hair was green and wore bright colors, he had dyed his hair red and identified himself to police as Batman's nemesis.
Christine Mai and her father, Tom, were neighbors. Neither of them ever saw him with a girl or going to parties. He was studious, she said, and cleaned the car and cut the grass like a normal guy. Julie Adams, whose son played soccer with Holmes in high school told reporters, "I could tell you a lot about every single kid on that team except for him. He was more aloof."
Are these necessarily signs of a mass murderer in the making? Of course not. A quiet demeanor with social awkwardness doesn't automatically make one a suspect for a future mass killing spree. If it were, the vast majority of regular Reddit users would be put in that category.
So, what makes someone snap? Does it happen overnight, or is it a gradual thing? Certainly, Holmes didn't just wake up one morning and say to himself, "I think I'll shoot up a theater tonight." He clearly planned it, from the purchase of four guns over a two month period to the sophisticated home made booby traps he set up in his apartment.
He had left one song blaring, on automatic repeat, before leaving in the hopes that a neighbor would call the police, open the door and die in the explosion that would have ensued had his plan worked out. The plan was to distract the police long enough so he could carry out his attack on the theater attendees.
What Defines a Mass Murderer?
In 2009, Security InfoWatch published a Q&A with renown forensic psychiatrist Dr. Park Dietz, who said it isn't always easy to read the signs of a potential mass murderer. But there are almost always similar warning signs, and if people pay attention, they might be able to stop tragedy before it starts.
He said that perpetrators are often both "sad and depressed enough to be willing to die, and also angry or paranoid enough that they are blaming other people for their suffering and misfortune." The person might have created a very long list of perceived injustices against them, and because they have few, if any friends, they have no one to vent their anger to.
Holmes was in the process of withdrawing from his PhD program. Could that have been a reason for his apparent psychotic break?
Holmes falls into the typical category of previous mass murderers: 95 percent male, 98 percent black or white and are driven by a cold, seemingly emotionless desire to assert their superiority over their victims. Whereas a serial killer derives sexual pleasure in leading authorities on and in the killings themselves, the mass murderer plans to attack multiple people at once. Time magazine wrote in 2007, after the Virginia Tech shooting:
"...what they describe about the killer's mien as the shooting is taking place sounds nothing like a person who's thrilled by Â— or even much enjoying Â— what he's doing. There is, survivors report, a cold joylessness to the proceedings."
A cold joylessness. A simmering hatred of humanity, but where does it come from? The world may never know, unless James Eagan Holmes decides to tell his story.
Â©2012 Reno Berkeley for Gather News