Colorado shooting: Suspect enjoyed video games, movies, school friend says
The alleged gunman in the Colorado theater shootings enjoyed the company of a few high school friends who liked to play cards, video games and watch movies together as teenagers.
One of James Holmes' friends was Ritchie Duong, a 24-year-old student at UC Riverside who had gone to school with the suspected gunman for more than a decade.
The pair went to middle school together, and got to know each other in high school over cards and Wii video games. They also attended UC Riverside together, where they’d see each other at least once a week to watch "Lost".
Holmes, suspected of killing 12 people and injuring scores of others, was part of something akin to a clique, and Duong was a member. Duong said he, Holmes and a few others got together as recently as last December in downtown Los Angeles to grab dinner and see the new "Mission Impossible" movie.
“He didn’t seem to change very much from high school,” Duong said. “We knew him as the same guy. We would call him ‘Jimmy James.’ We would laugh all the time about it.”
That leaves Duong and others close to Holmes trying to understand what happened Friday after midnight in an Aurora, Colo. movie theater.
Carrying an AR-15 assault-style rifle, a shotgun and two Glock pistols, the killer walked into a multiplex theater screening the new Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises," with dyed red hair and saying he was the Joker, according to law enforcement. He wore a gas mask, a ballistics helmet and vest, and groin, throat and leg protectors. He released two smoke- or gas-emitting devices, and then opened fire, shooting at anyone who tried to escape. He was arrested without incident in a nearby parking lot.
Duong said he has thought a lot about what might have made Holmes snap.
Was it pressure from school? Holmes had been pursuing a doctorate in neuroscience at the University of Colorado Denver Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora for a year but had begun the process of withdrawing from the program last month, officials said.
“Everything came easy for him,” Duong said in a telephone interview Saturday. “I had one college class with him, and he didn’t even have to take notes or anything. He would just show up to class, sit there, and around test time he would always get an ‘A.’”
Duong said that he did not believe Holmes was on prescription medication. In fact, he called Holmes a “pretty athletic kid” who frequented the gym. Duong said Holmes had numerous friends and that he had no apparent problem with women.
“He did see girls,” Duong said, adding that Holmes had never introduced him to a girlfriend.
Duong had not heard from Holmes since their last meeting.
When he heard about the shootings, Duong said he read reports online and, at first, he misunderstood. He thought his friend had been shot. Then he read more closely and "it turned out” his friend was the shooter.
“I just don’t know what to consider him anymore,” Duong said. “Is he a friend? Or I don’t know what he is to me. As of now he’s James Holmes -- The Batman Shooter.”
For the record, 10:10 p.m. July 21: A previous version of this post misspelled Ritchie Duong's name as Richie, and the photo was incorrectly described as being from Westfield High rather than Westview High.
-- Matt Stevens
Photo: James Holmes, accused of a mass shooting in a Colorado movie theater, in a Westview High School yearbook photo.