AURORA, Colorado – Alleged Colorado shooter James Holmes reportedly sent a warning package to a psychiatrist at his former university with a notebook and drawings of his plans to massacre people.
Holmes, 24, is accused of shooting 12 people dead and wounding 58 more at a cinema on Friday in Aurora, outside Denver, as young moviegoers packed the first midnight screening of the latest Batman film, “The Dark Knight Rises.”
There were conflicting reports about whether the package was received in time for the massacre to be averted and officials remained tight-lipped on reports that it had lain unopened in a university mailroom for days.
Fox News, quoting an unnamed law enforcement source, said the parcel, with Holmes’ name written in the return address box, arrived at the University of Colorado on July 12 but sat unopened until days after the July 20 massacre.
“Inside the package was a notebook full of details about how he was going to kill people,” the law enforcement source said. “There were drawings of what he was going to do in it — drawings and illustrations of the massacre.”
Those drawings included some of gun-wielding stick figures shooting other stick figures, the report said.
However, a second law enforcement source quoted by Fox News said the authorities had been unable to confirm that the package had arrived before the killings occurred. The Denver Post, meanwhile, cited university officials as saying it arrived on Monday, days after the shooting.
A police source told NBC News that Holmes had tipped them off to the package and told them to look for his name in the return address.
A report also surfaced that the suspect, who is expected to be charged with 12 murders and 58 attempted murders at his next court appearance on Monday, bought a high-powered rifle hours after failing a key oral exam.
Awarded a special grant by the government for his neuroscience studies, Holmes suddenly dropped out of the program with no explanation three days after failing the June 7 exam, ABC News reported.
Officials are unable to comment publicly on any of these matter because of a strict gag order imposed by the judge overseeing the case.
The first funeral of a massacre victim took place on Wednesday.
Gordon Cowden, 51, was the oldest person killed in the rampage. He had gone to the movie with his teenage children, who escaped unharmed.
The gunman emerged from a fire exit shortly after the film began and threw two canisters of noxious gas into the auditorium, witnesses said.
After firing one round directly into the air with a pump-action shotgun, he began shooting people at random with a military-style assault rifle capable of dispatching 50 to 60 rounds a minute.
Authorities say Holmes — who had painted his hair reddish orange — claimed he was the Joker, Batman’s sworn enemy in the comic book series that inspired director Christopher Nolan’s film trilogy, which features British-born actor Christian Bale as “the caped crusader”.
The suspect gave himself up outside the cinema, still clad in the body armor witnesses described the gunman wearing.
Police said Sunday they had found Holmes’s computer inside his booby-trapped apartment — rigged to kill anyone who entered — which could provide crucial details about how he planned and executed the attack.
Holmes is being held in solitary confinement in the Arapahoe County Detention Center and could face the death penalty if convicted, although Colorado has only executed one person since 1976.
The New York Daily News reported that Holmes had asked a stunned jail worker to tell him how the movie ends.
“Like he had no idea why there was anything wrong with what he was saying. It was sick… I think he’s trying real hard to act crazy,” a witness was quoted as saying.
His eyes glazed and his voice flat, Holmes reportedly asked a jail worker “Did you see the movie?” and then “How does it end?” He repeated the question when the worker ignored him, the report said.
Holmes made a bizarre first appearance in court Monday.
Wearing a maroon prison jumpsuit under his shock of orange hair, he appeared unable to follow proceedings as his head bobbed up and down and he alternated between staring out wild-eyed and closing his eyes as if in a daze. He is yet to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. – Agence France-Presse