‘Dark Knight’ Massacre Suspect Has San Diego Ties [Video]

Neighbors react to news of James Holmes saying, "he was a quiet, normal" young man. Video includes statement from the Holmes family.

Updated at 2:19 p.m. July 20.

The Westview High School graduate suspected of gunning down and killing at least a dozen people in a Colorado movie theater early Friday morning was armed with several weapons and fully outfitted in tactical protective gear, according to authorities.

Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said James Holmes, 24, used an AR-15 assault riffle, a Remington H-70 12-gauge shotgun, and 40 caliber Glock handgun to shoot 71 people who were watching a screening of the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises.

He said another 40 caliber Glock handgun was found in the suspect’s car after he was apprehended.

Oates said about 200 officers responded to the scene after 911 calls began pouring in at about 12:40 a.m. Friday. Aurora is a suburb of Denver.

Dressed in black and suited up in a helmet and body armor, authorities say the alleged shooter used two devices that produced smoke to confused the audience at the Century Aurora 16 movie theater before opening fire.

Oates says 71 people were shot. Ten victims died at the scene, and two at local hospitals. Many of the 59 other victims are in critical condition, he said. One victim was injured by a round that pierced the wall of an adjoining theater.

The Department of Defense issued a statement saying Holmes never served in the military. Military personnel, however, are among the casualties.

“One sailor was injured and one, known to have been at the theatre that evening, is currently unaccounted for,” the statement said. “Two airmen were injured in the incident. The Navy and the Air Force are working with the families of these service members to ensure they have the care and attention they need.” 

Just five miles from the scene of the massacre, investigators found the suspect’s third-story apartment booby-trapped with incendiary devices and trip wires. Oates called the scene a very difficult situation for the detectives.

Residents of the building, as well as five other buildings in the surrounding area, have been evacuated.

Authorities are not looking for any other suspects.

“We are confident he acted alone,” Oates said. The motive is unclear.

Locally, Holmes is being called a nice guy who had been struggling to find a job.

Holmes’ next door neighbor Tom Mai said he was “shocked” to hear about the Aurora shooting, describing the alleged shooter as a “very nice guy.”

“I cannot imagine this happening,” said Mai, 61, who said he has lived here since 1983.

Mai said Holmes was struggling to find a job after studying neuroscience in college, and he went to Colorado to go back to school. The Holmes family was kind, Mai said, inviting his family over for Christmas parties in the 10 years they had been neighbors.

Mai has four children, including 16-year-old Anthony Mai who described James Holmes as a happy guy who walked around smiling.

The teen said he last saw Holmes about a year ago, and while the two were not close, he got the sense Holmes had been picked on.

Still, the teen said he didn’t want people to jump to conclusions about his former neighbor’s possible involvement in the shooting.

With the horrific shooting coming during a violent portion of the latest Batman movie, according to witness reports, Tom Mai wondered what effect movie, TV and video game violence are having on the nation’s youth.

His own children aren’t allowed to consume violent media, Mai said, and parents need to discipline their children more.

“I tell [my] children they have to pray to God, read the Bible and look at people that have high moral standards.”

Mai’s family also said the shooting victims and their families are in their thoughts, and offered condolences.

Other details are emerging that show Holmes to be a young student pursuing an advanced degree in neuroscience who didn’t get into trouble at home in San Diego.

Holmes is a 2006 graduate of Westview High School who holds a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from the University of California, Riverside. He graduated from the school in spring of 2010, according to officials.

The Huffington Post is reporting Holmes was attending the University of Colorado-Denver in pursuit of a Ph.D in neuroscience, but was in the process of withdrawing from the program. University of Colorado Hospital spokeswoman Jacque Montgomery said she didn’t know why he was exiting the program.

A search of San Diego Superior Court shows Holmes has no local record—not even a traffic ticket, said Karen Dalton, a public affairs officer with the court.

A press release from the Poway Unified School District says Dr. John Collins, the district superintendent, was contacted by the San Diego Police Department regarding the alleged shooter.

“On behalf of the Poway Unified School District, Superintendent Collins joins the rest of the nation in offering our deepest condolences to the victims and their families,” the release stated.

The suspected shooter’s family, who live in Rancho Penaquitos, released the following statement:

“Our hearts go out to those who were involved in this tragedy and to the families and friends of those involved. We ask that the media respect our privacy during this difficult time Our family is cooperating with authorities in both San Diego, California, and Aurora, Colorado. We are still trying to process this information and we appreciate that people will respect our privacy.”

The Aurora police department is leading the investigation, with assistance from agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said FBI special agent Darrell Foxworth.

The U.S. Attorney’s office in Colorado is coordinating the federal law enforcement response and working closely with the state District Attorney’s office with respect to any federal, state, or local charges that might be applicable, according to Foxworth.

San Diego police Lt. Andra Brown said officers are at the home only to provide with security.

“The police department is just here to preserve the peace and to make sure the privacy of the family is still respected,” Brown said. “That’s the only reason why the San Diego police department is here.”

Arlene Holmes of San Diego told ABC News that her son is the man accused in this morning’s massacre in Aurora, Colo., nine miles outside Denver.

Around daybreak, San Diego police officers were spotted in and outside of Holmes’ residence in the Rancho Penasquitos area as media crews started to gather outside with video cameras. Police Chief William Lansdowne said the officers were there to provide security to the Holmes family and to assist Aurora police by gathering information for that agency’s investigation.

Shortly before 7:30 a.m., police were spotted escorting a man out of the home and whisking him away in an unmarked police sedan. There was no immediate word on where the man was headed or his possible relation to the alleged shooter, but he was carrying what appeared to be luggage.

The shooting has prompted the Obama campaign to cancel a scheduled visit by the President to Iowa City, according to Iowa City Patch local editor Stephen Schmidt.

The tragedy also scrubbed a trip to Fredricksberg, VA, by first lady Michelle Obama, according to Fredricksberg Patch local editor Dan Telvock.

AMC Theatres also announced a new policy that “face-covering masks or fake weapons” will not be permitted inside their buildings.

Stay with Patch for updates on this story.

—Deanne Goodman, Marlena Medford, Jennifer Vigil, Christine Domingo and City News Service contributed to this report.