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Colorado shooting: Suspect's small hometown shaken after rampage

July 21, 2012 | 10:21 am

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Word spread quickly in Rancho Peñasquitos in San Diego County, where residents continued to grapple with the news that a suspected mass murderer hailed from their suburban community.

James Holmes, 24, who graduated from Westview High School in San Diego in 2006, was arrested after allegedly opening fire in an Aurora, Colo., theater early Friday, killing a dozen people and injuring 58 others.

It was the second violent incident in the last year to shake the small town that its residents call “PQ.” Last summer a veteran San Diego child abuse detective and her 18-year-old daughter were stabbed to death at their home. Authorities charged the detective's son with the slayings.

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Though Holmes long moved out from his parents’ home in San Diego to pursue neuroscience degrees at UC Riverside and then in Colorado, former high school classmates and community members Friday said they were shocked that so much violence could be tied to their hometown -– a place where families pay a premium for good schools and a safe neighborhood.

“I feel like people in PQ have lived there for a long time and know everyone else. That makes this extra weird that he [Holmes] is a phantom,” said Vanessa Do, 24, Westview’s student newspaper co-editor in 2006. “Everyone knows of him, but no one I knew really knew him. And that’s strange.

“I usually only hear good news coming out of PQ.”

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Do pointed to the Scripps National Spelling Bee champion who lives in the area, and that the student body elected a special needs student as prom king this year.

Bryce Griffin, 24, a Cal State San Marcos student who graduated with Holmes and had classes with him, called Rancho Peñasquitos “tight-knit.”  

“Because it’s so small, anything that happens, it really effects everyone," Griffin said. "If you don’t know the person directly, you know a person who knew the person.”


Timeline: Mass shootings in the U.S.

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Panic, blood inside Colorado theater -- and prayer circle outside

Obama, Boehner mourn victims of Colorado movie theater shooting

Police chief: Guns, ammo in Colorado theater shooting were legally bought

-- Matt Stevens


Photo: The San Diego home of shooting suspect James Holmes' parents. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times