A midnight premiere of the latest Batman film was an extraordinary movie night for fans in Colorado – for all the wrong reasons
James Eagan Holmes was a nobody. A maladjusted, socially inept loner, he’d suffered from psychiatric and personality problems for years. When he walked into Aurora, Colorado’s midnight premiere of Batman: The Dark Knight Rises on 20 July 2012, something inside Holmes had snapped. In his own mind he was a nobody, but was determined to become a somebody. Holmes would murder 12 people, injure dozens and blight the lives of Aurora’s citizens. He would again reignite the USA’s gun control debate, having taken full advantage of the gun culture to do it.
Holmes, always maladjusted, had deteriorated considerably in the months before the Aurora massacre. Former co- workers, fellow students, psychiatrists and his few friends all noticed his decline, but little action was taken.
Increasingly anti- social, withdrawn and isolated, he had been at university but dropped out. His girlfriend had recently broken off their relationship. In his own mind Holmes was destined to go nowhere, do nothing and become nobody. Having dropped out of college, though, his money for tuition and living would be put to other, terrible uses. In the months before the massacre Holmes spent thousands of dollars stockpiling a selection of guns and a huge amount of ammunition. All his weapons and ammunition were bought entirely legally. Having no criminal convictions, Holmes had no difficulty buying two pistols, a pump- action shotgun and a semi- automatic rifle. Nor did he have any trouble getting tear gas grenades, bulletproof clothing and a knife.
Holmes didn’t even have to buy his vast amount of ammunition in person. Most Americans buy their guns in person, subject to state and federal restrictions and background checks, but there are no such restrictions or checks on buying or selling ammunition online. Apart from armour- piercing bullets ( which are available only to law enforcement), Americans can buy ammunition online in any quantity. CCTV footage later showed Holmes collecting a package of assorted ammunition weighing over 73 kilograms bought in bulk online.
Other than a desire to be notorious, Holmes had no reason for doing what he did. His need for recognition could never begin to justify his actions. Holmes, increasingly depressed, disillusioned and desperate, just didn’t care. His plan was simple, its execution coldly precise.
Having no criminal convictions, Holmes had no difficulty buying two pistols, a pump- action shotgun and a semi- automatic rifle
above Police and forensic experts descended on the Century 16 cinema in their hundreds. They would still be gathering evidence weeks after the massacre and Holmes’s inexplicably calm surrender