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Suspected Colorado gunman's family stands by son, attorney says

July 23, 2012 |  2:23 pm

The attorney for the family of suspected Colorado gunman James Holmes said Monday his family continues to stand by him.

"Yes, they do, he's their son," Lisa Damiani said in response to reporters' questions about whether they support the 24-year-old suspect, who appeared in a Colorado courtroom Monday looking dazed.

Holmes is a suspect in the shooting rampage that killed 12 and injured 58 inside an Aurora, Colo., movie theater.

PHOTOS: Suspected Colorado gunman's California ties

Damiani also clarified a statement made by Holmes' mother, Arlene Holmes, to ABC News just after the mass shooting.

"She said, ‘Yes, I am Arlene Holmes and yes I have a son,” Damiani said, adding that Arlene Holmes did not say she wasn't surprised that Holmes had been involved in the mass shooting.

Damiani said she could not comment on James Holmes or the relationship between him and his family, which resides in San Diego.

WHO THEY WERE: Aurora theater shooting victims

“I’m not going to comment on how they are feeling,” Damiani said.

She said later that the family would like their privacy respected.

Damiani quoted Arlene Holmes about the statement to ABC News: “I told him I could not comment because I did not know the person he was talking about was my son.”

Damiani said the family has received comfort from their local church.

“It’s amazing how much support they’re getting from their church,” Damiani said.

The attorney also repeated a message that she had relayed earlier: “The family wants to reiterate that their hearts go out to the victims.”

She also said: “They’re doing as well as they can under the circumstances.”

More details emerged over the weekend about James Holmes. 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 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.

"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 near 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.

“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 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.

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 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."


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— Tony Perry in San Diego