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Colorado shooting suspect smart but 'a little weird,' classmate says

July 20, 2012 |  6:16 pm

A classmate of the man accused of killing 12 people at a Colorado movie theater said he was smart but somewhat strange.

Jessica Cade, a 23-year-old graduate student at UC Riverside, lived in the same honors dorm as James Holmes, 24, and said she would occasionally go out with him with friends.

“He was a very nice guy. He was very, very smart, a little weird, kind of like you’d expect a really smart guy to be,” Cade said.

She said Holmes and other young men in the dorm often played video games, especially Guitar Hero, but nothing out of the ordinary.

“They’re calling him ‘deranged’ and a ‘lunatic.’ Never in a million years would that have crossed my mind,” Cade said. “I was horrified when I saw his picture on the news. I was very close to fainting in the office.”

Cade said she has not kept in touch with Holmes in recent years.

Holmes graduated from Westview High School in San Diego in 2006.

PHOTOS: 'Dark Knight Rises' shooting

A former high school classmate, Keith Goodwin, 24, now a Columbia Law School student, said he had a couple of conversations with Holmes during an AP European history class at Westview. He called Holmes a "generally pleasant guy."

"James was certainly not someone I would have ever imagined shooting somebody," Goodwin said.

Tori Burton, 24, now a fellow with the National Institutes of Health, said Holmes was part of Westview's cross-country team for at least one year.

"He was very quiet," she said. "He was a nice guy when you did occasionally talk to him. But he was definitely more introverted."

Dan Kim, a 23-year-old student at UC San Diego, called the suspect a "super-nice kid," "kinda quiet"  and "really smart."

Kim said Holmes took multiple AP classes and had an academically inclined circle of about five to 10 friends. 

"He didn't seem like a troublemaker at all," Kim said. "He just seemed like he wanted to get in and out, and go to college."

Professors at UC Riverside recalled Holmes as an honor student and could provide no clues that would indicate he was capable of the violent attack that left 12 people dead and dozens of others injured, Chancellor Timothy White said.

White said professors who knew Holmes expressed shock and disbelief about the movie theater shooting at the opening showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colo. He said that many on campus were still trying to understand what happened.

White said counseling is being offered to faculty and staff who may have known Holmes.

"He was an honor student, so academically, he was at the top of the top," White said. Holmes graduated from the university with a bachelor's degree in neuroscience in 2010.

Kelly Huffman, an assistant professor of psychology at UC Riverside, said Holmes was in her Drugs and Behavior class in 2010 and did well in what she said was a challenging course. She described him as “a smart and quiet guy.”

Huffman said that she spoke Friday with the teaching assistant who led the course's smaller discussion section that Holmes attended, and that the assistant didn't recall the suspect. "So that probably means he [Holmes] was pretty quiet," Huffman said.

-- Phil Willon and Matt Stevens