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Americans still struggling to understand Aurora killings

Published Jul 24, 2012 10:27am


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James E Holmes during his appearance at Arapahoe County District Court.—Reuters Photo
James E Holmes during his appearance at Arapahoe County District Court.—Reuters Photo

WASHINGTON: “Words are always inadequate in these kinds of situations,” US President Barack Obama told the grieving relatives and friends of the 12 victims shot dead by a 24-year old PhD student.

Although police told a court in Colorado on Monday that the killing “was a deliberative process by a very intelligent man who wanted to do this,” most Americans are still struggling to understand why it happened.

Police also said that the largest mass shooting in US history — 12 killed, 50 wounded — could have been much worse, had the alleged assailant's gun not jammed. But why, is what most Americans want to know.

Even religious leaders are unable to provide an answer.

“It's not possible to understand how God could allow such a tragedy to happen,” Pastor Jeff Noble of Aurora's New Life Community Church told mourners.

Thousands have been gathering every day at the site of the shooting in Aurora, Colorado, since July 20 when James E Holmes entered a cinema complex in Aurora, wearing a Batman mask, and started shooting randomly at the audience.

“The question we all probably struggle with: Why did God allow this?

My response is: I don’t know,” said the pastor.

President Obama, instead of trying to say why it happened, offered comfort to the families of the victims and to the city of Aurora.

"It reminds you that even in the darkest of days, life continues and people are strong," he said. "Out of this darkness a brighter day is going to come."

The US media are focusing on the suspect’s life, trying to find clues that could help them understand why this happened. So far they have not been very successful.

The information unearthed by the media show that James Holmes, born on Dec 13, 1987, is the son of mathematician and a registered nurse.

His father, a senior scientist, has degrees from Stanford, UCLA and Berkeley.

James Holmes was raised in San Diego, California, in a middle class neighbourhood. He graduated from Westview High School, San Diego, in 2006, and was always a good student. He played soccer and ran cross-country, so he was not a loner.

James obtained an undergraduate degree with the highest of honour in neuroscience from the University of California, Riverside in 2010. He was a member of several honour societies, including Phi Beta Kappa and Golden Key. The university’s chancellor described him as “at the top of the top.”

In 2008, he worked as a counsellor at a Jewish summer camp, helping children. He enrolled as a PhD student in neuroscience at the University of Colorado Medical Campus in Aurora on a federal grant.

Initial media reports said that in 2012, his academic performance declined but the university is now refusing to confirm it. The only official statement that came from the university was they were not planning to expel him.

This obviously is not the profile of a mass murderer. So various media outlets are now trying to dig deeper.

On Monday, The Los Angeles Times reported that the earlier media image of James Holmes as “an incredibly smart, hopelessly shy young man who barely spoke — a loner isolated in a brilliant mind,” was perhaps incorrect.

Witnesses told the newspaper that James had circles of friends with whom he joked around and socialised.

A senior student describes him as “stubborn” but others disagreed, saying that they did not “recall pronounced stubbornness at all.”

One student who was in his lab group in 2008 said James was “really into superheroes and Batman was one of them.”

This caused some to speculate that he was probably aping the Batman or one of the villains Batman tackles in his movies, when he went berserk. But others rejected this, saying this type of behaviour could be expected from a high school student, not from someone doing a PhD in neuroscience.

One solid explanation of why this happened came from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg who blamed America’s gun laws for the tragedy, pointing out that inadequate legal restrictions allow people like James to obtain guns and kill innocent people.

He reminded American voters that President Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney had both pledged earlier to tighten gun controls and they should now persuade them to fulfil their pledges.

But Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, believes it’s unlikely to happen because of the influence the gun organisations have.

“They pour a lot of money in” elections campaigns “and some people lost office after they voted for [gun control] legislation before,” she told Fox News.

And while Americans struggle to understand why this tragedy struck an otherwise peaceful community, Mayor Steve Hogan of Aurora pledged to “reclaim our city in the name of goodness, kindness and compassion.”

But one of the suspect’s neighbours does not believe it was James’ kindness that saved him.

“I am counting my lucky stars,” he said.


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Comments (25) Closed

The Joker Jul 24, 2012 02:34pm
Funny how this is not considered an act of terrorism. Goes to show the bias of the American people.
AHA Jul 24, 2012 04:10pm
Bull's eye.
Normarsmith Jul 24, 2012 01:56pm
Jesus has nothing to do with this.Guns, which are readily available to mentally disturbed individuals does,why are'nt we more bothered about these facts!This is a very tragic result of human error at it's worst.And paybacks?, well,that is God's area.
NASAH (USA) Jul 24, 2012 01:42pm
Gun control, Gun control, Gun Control.
JohnQ Jul 26, 2012 12:03pm
In this case stricter gun laws might have prevented these people from being shot. There is no evidence that this man would have tried to obtain weapons illegally. It is important not to lump in all crimes committed with guns into this case. Many criminals will still get their hands on guns even if we were to ban them all. However, this is not relevant here. Even if guns weren't involved there is still evidence that he made homemade grenades and that surely could have done significant damage. A simple fire in a crowded theater could have injured more. What happened here is a failure in our society. Somewhere in the timeline we failed to help someone that clearly needed help. Perhaps it was lack of access to proper counseling or a failure in mental health system as a whole. I worry that perhaps because there is no doctor patient confidentiality in regards to harm that maybe he felt he couldn't seek help. What is most important here is that dialogue is good and everything is on the table. Gun control, violence, mental health, everything. Now is the right time to talk so that we can learn from this as a mature and civilized society.
Zero Jul 26, 2012 12:00pm
Another attention seeker, with his foot in his mouth!
Thomas Jul 24, 2012 01:16pm
I think blaming the culture for this guy's behavior is only the tip of the iceberg. You could talk the immense amount of pressure youth and adolescence put on themselves to perform. Perhaps it was that pressure aligned with a predisposed psychological illness that persuaded him to move into the dark side. Much like people have outer body experiences when the body is under immense pain, maybe this self inflicted psychological anguish pushed him to fully embrace his creature or villainous side. Also, gun control has nothing to do with this situation. This person’s credentials demonstrate intelligence and responsibility. If this person shouldn’t have a gun on paper than who should? Another shameless political plug.
popculture Jul 24, 2012 12:41pm
What goes around, comes around. payback is always painfull.
Jose Miguel Jul 24, 2012 12:38pm
God allows the man should be free. Life belong to God. We gotta prepare are life to live fot the eternity believing in Jesus. Jesus is not a religion. He is a person. He is God.
JoeP Jul 24, 2012 12:36pm
Look guys. This whole "why did God allow this" stuff... there is an answer. God loves people enough to give them freedom of will. No doubt, several people will respond to this by saying, "where's the love in allowing 12 people to die?" Without understanding God's loving nature, it's never going to make sense to people.
John Jul 24, 2012 12:31pm
If a few good god fearing men where in there, with a peace make on their sides,he may of only been able to throw the gas canister into the crowd. Then he would have went to meet his maker !!!! But thanks to gun laws it's hard to protect your self and loved ones. My heart goes out to all the family's.
@ghormax Jul 24, 2012 12:30pm
and add to this easy access to weapons, you have a potentially deadly mix!
Abdus Salam Khan Jul 24, 2012 11:57am
Let us face the fact that human mind is like a computer: garbage in, garbage out. When we fail to instill the sanctity of human life into the psyche of our chidlren and let, Hollywood, Tv and video games all combine to make violence an acceptable form of behavior, we must be ready for such behaviour from our progeny
Sajid Jul 24, 2012 12:19pm
Mass shootings are the dark side of America. It is easy to say 'guns don't kill, people do". However, USA is not Switzerland, where more people die from suicide rather than homicide.
55goravens Jul 24, 2012 04:34pm
guess what if this was done by a US born pakistani....emotions and story would have been different.
oakville1958 Jul 24, 2012 06:45pm
It is so easy to point fingers at someone and blame them for what is wrong with our society - instead of looking at the route cause of this. Greed - and my friend, we all, at one time or another, have fallen for it. Just because we haven't been caught, does not make us honest and honorable! What about the big economic meltdown in the U.S. in 2008, where all these corporate executives were caught with white collar crime. We can continue to find scapegoats and blame Hollywood, TV, video games, but i tell you one thing - no one is pointing a gun at you and asking you to watch it. For whatever reasons, parents are encouraging children to watch these shows - or at least, are not showing any resentment. I think if parents take responsibility for their children and become a role model for them, every minute of the day, I think the children can definitely have a much brighter future. And for adults, God has given us common sense and we can distinguish right from wrong. How much effort does it require for us to do the right thing. This world can be a lot better, if each of us does our share and stop blaming society for all that is wrong.
Cyrus Howell Jul 24, 2012 10:57pm
Gun control only works with law abiding people. Criminal gangs have no problem obtaining and selling guns. One source is they steal them from railroad freight cars. What will be, will be.
Rajinder Jul 25, 2012 04:43am
It is a shame that something this tragic could happen to innocent people
Amrit Jul 25, 2012 04:45am
It is a shame something this tragic could happen
ijazwali Jul 25, 2012 07:56am
well i think this shows the lack of security or the most importantly the control of weapons by the us Govt. and they should take some actions against the responsible departments.They talk about the others come on they even,nt save their own people .Alaas MAy God bless those victims ....
Zeeshan Shamsi Jul 25, 2012 08:16am
Thank you for pushing your religious beliefs in Online news comments. I don't agree with you that God is a person (Jesus being a person, and God).
Zero Jul 26, 2012 12:07am
I agree .. however, given the number of people who are murdered daily in Karachi, gang rape of women, pedophilia, etc., we are also guilty of the same set of circumstances. There is lesson to be learned here!
Zero Jul 26, 2012 12:08am
This guy bought guns and ammunition legally.
Zero Jul 26, 2012 12:14am
Not to condone this guy's acts, imagine and be ashamed of the hundreds of thousands of innocent people that are killed by needless subjugation and wars.
Habib Jul 26, 2012 08:34am
Can we ignore racism in this case, I was visiting Reuters website yesterday and there was this slide show on this this horrible incident all the mourners appeared to be Mexican origin or primitive Indians and all offering condolences are White people. In my opinion their media has matured enough not to give air the racism horrors in the wake of this event otherwise the controlling law & order could be extremely difficult. Further the guy is Jew, they usually indulge in such mass killings due to some faith or sect issues, history proves it as well but the media never does, we are still afraid if his links are traced to Haqqaini Group on North Wazirstan.