James Holmes, accused of shooting 71 people, killing 12, at a midnight showing of "Dark Knight Rises" Friday in Aurora, Colo., grew up in San Diego, Calif., in an educated, upper-middle-class family. He's remembered there as shy, but also as intelligent and accomplished.
His father is a mathematician and computer scientist with degrees from Stanford and the University of California, Berkeley. The family's home was assessed at $398,000 in 2000, reports Reuters and USA Today.
Matt Lewis, who graduated from Westview in 2005 and did not know Holmes, described the high school to The Huffington Post as highly competitive and "socially isolating."
"Westview, at the time, was doing alternative schooling," Lewis said. "The grades were less forgiving. There were standards -- or criteria -- for each class that each student was expected to meet. There was a lot of pressure to pass. No one wanted to have to take a class over again."
When Westview opened for its first freshman class and sophomore class in 2002, it was open enrollment, which allowed students from anywhere within Poway Unified School District to choose to attend the school instead of their local high school, district spokeswoman Tina McDowell told HuffPost.
Lewis said that led to the isolating feeling. "You felt on your own, and you'd be walking around the school alone," he said. "Because everyone was from somewhere else, no one grew up together. I wonder if that had some effect" on Holmes.
Brian Williams, who was also a Westview High School graduate, was arrested last year on charges of killing his mother and his sister. Bill Chiment, associate superintendent of Poway Unified, confirmed to HuffPost that Williams is a graduate of Westview.
One of Holmes' high school classmates, Breanna Hath, said he had a small group of friends who played video games and were “a little nerdy. He was really shy, really quiet, but really nice and sweet,” Hath told The New York Times.
Holmes went on from high school to graduate with honors from the University of California, Riverside, with a degree in neuroscience in 2010. A college classmate remembered him as an "impressive" student. "He is a smart guy and a quick learner," Hongxia Wang told HuffPost in an email.
Ritchie Duong, who went to middle school, high school and UC Riverside with Holmes, said that he and Holmes are part of a group of friends who got together in downtown Los Angeles last in December for dinner and to see the new "Mission Impossible" movie, the Los Angeles Times reported. “He didn’t seem to change very much from high school," Duong said. "We knew him as the same guy. We would call him ‘Jimmy James.’ We would laugh all the time about it.”
The Rev. Jerald Borgi, senior pastor of Penasquitos Lutheran Church in San Diego, where Holmes' family has attended for about 10 years, described Holmes as a shy boy who was driven to succeed academically.
And Holmes did appear to be on a successful track. Last year, Holmes was admitted to the selective neuroscience graduate program on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Bloomberg News reported. He was also one of six selected for a $26,000-a-year grant from the National Institutes of Health for “outstanding neuroscientists and academicians who will make significant contributions to neurobiology.”
Still, his supervisor at a prestigious 2006 summer internship at the Salk Institute in La Jolla had less than positive remarks about the young man. John Jacobson told Reuters that Holmes was uncooperative, "really, oddly, stubborn" and "extremely shy."
"It was really hard for him to say anything," Jacobson said. "You had to ask 'yes' or 'no' questions."
In the video above, Holmes can be seen making a presentation on "temporal illusion," which he defines as "an illusion that allows you to change the past" and that which "takes place inside the mind, as opposed to the external world." Jacobson told Reuters he spent an entire day going over that presentation with Holmes and never got the sense that he understood the basic science.
After Holmes was arrested Friday, his father flew to Colorado from the family's San Diego home. Holmes' mother reportedly remained at the family's home. The family released this statement to reporters on Friday:
"Our hearts go out to those who were involved in this tragedy. We ask that the media respect our privacy at this difficult time. ... We are still trying to process this info and appreciate that people respect our privacy."
Police said they are still trying to determine the motive.
Todd McGhee, a former Massachusetts state trooper now managing partner of Protecting the Homeland Innovations, a security training firm in Braintree, Mass, provided some analysis to USA Today.
"Lone-wolf terrorists are extremely intelligent and often come from very good socio-economic backgrounds," McGhee said. "But they become despondent. They become isolated from family members. Then they grab on to an ideology. Some people find religion. Some people find anti-government."
Holmes made his first court appearance Monday. Pictured above, he appeared with hair dyed bright orange hair and seemed sleepy or dazed and often shut his eyes.
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