James Holmes was growing volatile well before he put on a gas mask and body armor, strapped on a rifle, shotgun, pistol and ammunition, and slipped into a midnight premiere of the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Co., The Associated Press reports. He was a sought-after neuroscientist-in-training, but he was falling apart. He told a classmate he wanted to kill people. He fell out of favor with professors, who suggested he find a new career. He stopped seeing his psychiatrist, then sent her threatening text messages. Months before Holmes opened fire on July 20, 2012, killing 12 and injuring 70 more in one of the nation’s deadliest mass shootings, the 24-year-old doctoral student was preparing for violence. He stockpiled weapons, ammunition, tear gas grenades and riot gear. He rigged his apartment to become a potentially lethal booby trap, cranking techno music in an apparent attempt to lure someone into opening his door.
One neighbor who came to complain narrowly avoided a fiery explosion by walking away. Many observers hope Holmes’ death penalty trial beginning today will show what twisted a seemingly dedicated scholar into a sadistic killer. Prosecutors have suggested he was angry over his academic decline. Still, anyone looking for a trigger or tipping point with mass killers is usually disappointed, said J. Reid Meloy, a forensic psychiatrist at the University of California, San Diego. “There’s no such thing as someone snapping,” said Meloy, who is not involved in the Holmes case. “What we know now is that even if a person is psychotic, they can still plan and methodically go about the preparations to carry out a mass murder.”