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Colorado shooting suspect shy, 'socially inept,' classmate recalls

July 23, 2012 |  4:15 am

More photos: 'Dark Knight Rises' shooting

More details emerged over the weekend concerning James Holmes, the suspect in the "Dark Knight" Colorado movie theater shooting.

Many friends in California said he was a gifted student and intelligent person -- but others said he was more complicated. 

Arash Adami, a UC Riverside student studying for his doctorate, was James Holmes' teaching assistant for a neuroscience class in 2009. The class focused on the nervous system’s importance to controlling other systems in the human body. Adami said nothing really stood out about James except for his intellect.

PHOTOS: 'Dark Knight Rises' shooting

"He was one of the smartest kids in the class," Adami said. "I wasn't in his inner circle or anything, so it's tough for me to say any more about him."

During the summer of 2006, Holmes  was an intern at a prestigious computer laboratory at the Salk Institute at UC San Diego.

A graduate student who worked with Holmes at the Salk Institute’s Computational Neurobiology Laboratory recalled him as a “mediocre” student who was enormously stubborn.

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“I saw a shy, pretty socially inept person,” said John Jacobson, now a PhD candidate at UC San Diego in philosophy and cognitive sciences. “I didn’t see any behavior that would be indicative of violence then or in the future.”

Another piece of this narrative emerged Sunday when ABC News obtained a video of James Holmes making a science presentation in San Diego while in high school.

The video was taken at Miramar College when Holmes was 18. He is seen giving a presentation to an audience. "Over the course of the summer I've been working with a temporal illusion. It's an illusion that allows you to change the past," he says at one point.

TIMELINE: Mass shootings in the U.S.

In the video, he is introduced as someone who wanted to become a science researcher. The speaker says Holmes liked soccer, strategy games and had a goal of one day owning a Slurpee machine.

Other friends from that time described Holmes as a promising scientist.

 Ritchie Duong, a 24-year-old student at UC Riverside, went to middle school and high school with Holmes in San Diego and to college with him at UC Riverside. Duong said he last saw Holmes in December in downtown Los Angeles when the two joined some other friends to have 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.

"Everything came easy for him," Duong said by phone 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 he did not believe Holmes was on prescription medication. He called Holmes a “pretty athletic kid” who frequented the gym. Duong said that Holmes had several 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 suspected shooter.

In a resume posted on Monster.com, Holmes listed himself as an "aspiring scientist" and said he was looking for a job as a laboratory technician, the Associated Press reported.

The resume described how Holmes worked as a summer intern at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla in 2006 and mapped the neurons of zebra finches and studied the flight muscles of hummingbirds while he was an undergraduate at UC Riverside.

He also worked one summer as a counselor at a camp for underprivileged children. The chief executive at Camp Max Straus said Holmes worked there in 2008 and "had no incidents or disciplinary concerns."

In a statement to The Times, Randy Schwab, chief executive of Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles and director of Camp Max Straus, wrote that Holmes was responsible for "the care and guidance of a group of approximately 10 children" at the camp, in the hills above Glendale.

"His role was to ensure that these children had a wonderful camp experience by helping them learn confidence, self-esteem and how to work in small teams to effect positive outcomes," he said. In a later email, he added: "That summer provided the kids a wonderful camp experience without incident."


After shooting, Aurora seeks solace, unity

In video, Colorado shooting suspect gives science lecture

Colorado shooting suspect was 'smartest guy in the class'

-- Matt Stevens, Tony Perry, Sam Quinones, Richard Marosi and Phil Willon


Photo: James Holmes, accused in a mass shooting in a Colorado movie theater, in a Westview High School yearbook photo.