Entries in James Holmes (3)


James Holmes Gave No Indication of Violent Delusions

RJ Sangosti-Pool/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Colorado massacre suspect James Holmes gave no outward signs of mental illness or violent delusions, and mental experts said that is common among mass murderers.

Before Friday’s massacre, Holmes had no previous brushes with the law beyond a single traffic violation. Dr. Marisa Randazzo, a psychologist who studies targeted violence, told ABC’s Good Morning America that a clean criminal record is not uncommon for people who commit acts of mass violence.

“In most of these cases, these are not what you would call a psychopath or a sociopath, as hard as it may be to believe,” Randazzo said. “These are often folks who often up onto this point have been functioning fairly normally but went through a series of events, a series of losses, ended up in absolute despair or desperation.”

Other psychologists told ABC News it’s likely that Holmes was living in an alternate reality driven by delusions, which may have fueled him as he bought weapons, 6,000 rounds of ammunition and riot gear in the months before Friday’s attack.

More details will likely come as investigators delve into Holmes’ recent past. But by most estimations so far, nothing about his early life was out of the ordinary. He grew up in San Diego, was a bright student interested in science and enrolled in a neurosciences doctorate program at the University of Colorado at Denver in 2011 before withdrawing in June.

No one who knew him has said he displayed any signs of abnormality. Randazzo told GMA that doesn’t mean he isn’t suffering from mental illness.

“One thing we do know about this age group, he’s 24, is that sometimes major mental illnesses, sometimes involving delusions, will develop in this age group,” she said.

Upon his arrest shortly after the shootings on Friday morning, Holmes allegedly told police that “he was the Joker,” a law enforcement official told ABC News, and he had dyed his hair red.

ABC News reported Sunday on This Week that police also found a Batman poster and Batman mask in Holmes’ apartment.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Family of Colorado Shooting Suspect Faces Difficult Emotional Road

University of Colorado Denver(AURORA, Colo.) -- The family of Aurora, Colo., shooting suspect James Holmes faces a difficult emotional road in the days, weeks and months ahead as they struggle to cope with the enormous reality of his alleged actions, experts told ABC News.

In a statement, the family said their "hearts go out to those who [were] involved in this tragedy and to the families and friends of those involved."  His mother also told ABC News earlier her son was likely the accused gunman.

By acknowledging what happened, they are taking important steps in the healing process.  Mental health professionals who do not know the Holmes family, and are speaking about the aftermath of violence in general, said that the healing process will likely include disbelief, anger, guilt and grief.  How they cope depends on factors such as their individual characteristics.

"Invariably, they need to be as candid as they can and give one or two interviews so everybody knows what they know," said Charles Figley, director of Tulane University's Traumatology Institute.  "They will undoubtedly be hounded."

After that time, however, the family will need some privacy to deal with the wide range of emotions they are likely to experience.

"They are in the disbelief stage right now, but they may go through an anger stage, then maybe a guilt stage," said Catherine Mogil, an assistant clinical professor at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.  "They may also feel shame that they didn't do more, and may ask whether they missed warning signs or whether they should have done more."

Grief is also a common reaction in traumatic situations, she explained.

"They may be grieving for someone they thought was their brother or son, who is no longer the person they knew," she said.

And that loss can be compounded by other losses.

"There can be societal stigma toward family members of individuals who have committed these kinds of crimes," said Dr. Amir Afkhami, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at George Washington University Medical Center.  "There's some degree of thought that they somehow colluded with the killer at some level, or are at least collaterally guilty and created some sort of environment that bred this person."

They may also suffer financially if they have business or economic ties to the community.

"Because of the stigma, they may be threatened with the loss of jobs," he added.

The heavy emotional toll may lead to other serious consequences as well.

"In the long term, this can lead in two directions," Afkhami said. "There is a high risk of developing psychiatric illnesses because of the social pressure -- major depression, generalized anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress have been reported in family members of killers.  In other cases, family members who are resilient may use their experience as a means of engaging in activism."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Aurora Suspect May Be Delusional, Psychologists Say

Univ of Colorado Denver/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As authorities are investigating the shooting rampage at a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises in an Aurora, Col., movie theater, details are emerging about James Holmes, the 24-year-old who allegedly donned riot gear and stalked the aisles with a rifle.

Psychology experts say it's hard to know what Holmes's state of mind was before the shooting, but emerging details suggest he was a deeply disturbed individual.

"He said he was the Joker," one law enforcement official told ABC News, referring to a villain from the Batman series.

Authorities report that 12 people were killed and 59 were injured. Holmes was arrested in the parking lot of the movie theater, looking like "a villain in a movie," a Congressional official briefed on the situation told ABC News. His apartment is filled with explosives and being searched by Hazmat teams.

Kaitlyn Fonzi, who lives directly below Holmes's Aurora apartment, told ABC News that around midnight, she heard very loud music coming from the apartment above her.

The "same techno song that sounded like it included gunshots was playing in a loop for a long time," she said.

Fonzi said the music abruptly stopped at 1 a.m.

ABC News has confirmed that Holmes was a PhD student in the neuroscience department of the University of Colorado at Denver. In a statement, the university said Holmes was in the process of withdrawing from the program after enrolling in June 2011.

It's not clear whether he had a history of violence or psychotic behavior, but Holmes's mother told ABC News that she felt that her son was likely the culprit.

"You have the right person," she said in a phone interview from her San Diego home.

As the investigation continues, psychologists say it's likely that certain parts of Holmes's life and behavior will emerge that point to signs warning of his actions. But those warning signs may not have been necessarily obvious indications of violence.

ABC News spoke with several psychologists, none of whom has direct knowledge of Holmes.

"This is not a person that gets in bar fights and hurts other people," said Dr. Stevan Hobfoll, a professor of behavioral sciences at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. "They're more likely to make statements about how they're going to get people. Those people are going to see they'll know who he is, and they'll be sorry."

"In general, these people tend to be socially inept and alienated from the mainstream," said Dr. Felipe Amunategui, an associate training director for child and adolescent psychiatry at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland.

Psychologists said shooters who go on rampages, targeting random people with no apparent motive, may or may not have a psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia. Rather, Holmes was likely living in a world of an alternate reality, suffering from delusions of threats and making plans to make right things that he perceived were wrong.

"The thing to realize is that within his own thoughts, what he was doing was completely logical. To him, he was accomplishing something worth doing," said Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center in Arlington, Va.

Amunategui said it's likely that Holmes had been obsessively thinking about his plan until some unknown event spurred him to action.

 "There's generally an event or a situation where the individual feels he has to intervene or somehow drastic action is called for. And then you see the horrible event that you saw last night," he said.

Hobfell said the Internet can be an important tool in fueling a person's assurance that their alternate reality is the correct one.

"You can become part of a cult or way of thinking through a chat room and develop a whole mindset with a group of people online. They spur each other on, they develop a common language," he said. "The Internet and games, that becomes the world they are living in."

There is also speculation about whether Holmes may have drawn inspiration from the storyline of the movie itself. His clothing and appearance are similar to the villain in The Dark Knight Rises, Bane, who wears a gas mask, bulletproof vest and carries a gun. Others say it's impossible to know right now what factors drove the shooter.

Currently, nothing is known about whether Holmes had undergone psychiatric treatment or received a diagnosis of a mental health problem. But Torrey said he believes that the increasing numbers of shooting rampages -- Jared Loughner's 2011 attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the shooting at Fort Hood in 2009, the massacre at Virginia Tech in 2007 -- are largely the result of decreasing resources and funding for the mentally ill in state budgets throughout the U.S.

"This is just another tragedy of the many tragedies we're seeing like this. The sad thing is they are preventable if we treat these people," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio