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The James Holmes story: What went wrong in his life?

Updated on June 30, 2013

The motive for the massacre in Aurora, Colorado

Violence has an origin, but what is it? There are many questions left unanswered after the mass killings on July 20, 2012, at the premiere of the Batman movie “The Dark Knight rises in Aurora, Colorado. The nation was left with the aftermath of a violently orchestrated massacre with no explanation for the motives that led to this crime. With twelve dead and several dozen injured, the tragedy has affected the nation and permanently changed the lives of many during a premiere that was intended to be a great night out. So, what was the motive for the senseless killing of innocent victims?

Unfortunately, a motive does exist, but may not seem rational to anyone but the suspected shooter. James Holmes carefully planned this event and executed his plan methodically and successfully, leaving unanswered the question of “why did he do this?” after the tragedy was over. What would lead any person to this magnitude of violence without any reluctance to stop? What would prevent a person from realizing that this is reality and not a fantasy and not a game? This is a look into the mind of James Holmes and the reasoning behind his carefully planned massacre, providing some insight into the mind of James Holmes, the Batman massacre.


Definition of a mass murderer

A mass murder is an act of killing large numbers of victims in a short period of time, usually in one specific location. Most of the time, a mass murderer acts alone, without any partner involved. The motives for mass murderers vary, but are usually done for the notoriety, revenge, or for both reasons. Usually, the victims share an important trait that is significant to the killer, but may only be rational to the killer.

In the case of James Holmes, he struggled throughout his life socially, never fitting in and always being an outcast in society. He was a highly intelligent individual that excelled academically, but failed socially with relationships and acceptance in society. His internal struggle with his own personal inadequate social skills began to distance society from his life, leading him from reality into a fantasy world where he felt more comfortable.

Characteristics of a mass murderer

Mass murderers share traits that give insight into possible motives for the crimes committed by an individual who decided to execute a senseless massacre of innocent victims. Here is a list of traits that mass murders like James Hoes share which gives insight into the motives for the execution of the killings at the Batman premiere:

  • Revenge- targeting a group of individuals who have a connection to the murderer’s life. This could be a common admiration for a particular event, place, or person. With James Holmes, he went to the Batman movie in 2010 with a group of camp counselors while volunteering during the summer to monitor ten children.
  • Power- total control gives the murder a sense of power that was not achieved in life. Empowerment of innocent victims who are at the mercy of the murderer and powerless. James Holmes shot anyone who tried to leave the theater. Victims were terrorized by Holmes and left in terror, unaware of whether they would live or die. Holmes had the power to kill or not to kill.
  • Use of high powered weapons- when a mass murder occurs, high-powered weapons are used to control a large group of victims. James Holmes was armed with assault rifles that had a large capacity for ammunition magazines, and thousands of bullets to load his weapons. He had additional weapons that included a 40 caliber Glock handgun, Reminington 870 shotgun, and an AR-15, and smoke emitting bombs. He was prepared to kill a large group of victims.
  • Planned event- executing a mass murder requires planning for the event. In James Holmes case, he planned for the event for many months. He read the Norway’s mass murderer’s manifesto and created a plan from the guide. He ordered much of his equipment online, over several months. He wore armor that protected all parts of his body and used the manifesto as his lesson.
  • Mental illness- anyone planning a mass murder is most likely mentally unstable. James Holmes claimed to be the ‘Joker’, the villain of Batman, when he was arrested the night of the killings. He dyed his hair red and got into character for the mass killings of movie-goers. He distanced himself from reality by creating a fantasy world where he was a character and not James Holmes.
  • Social Ineptness- Mass murderers usually have few or no friends, minimal contact with individuals, and keep to themselves. James Holmes spent a great deal of time alone throughout his life, spending most of his time online gaming. He was described by individuals that knew him as shy and a person of a few words. Even though he smiled a lot, he seemed socially awkward and a little creepy.
  • Often suicidal- when a mass murder is planned, the murderer usually plans every part of the massacre except the exit strategy. Usually there are no plans of exit, only suicide as the option. It is unknown whether James Holmes was planning suicide, but he did not have an exit strategy when he was arrested. He did not resist and directed law enforcement to additional bombs in his apartment.

The fine line between intelligence and insanity

More information concerning James Holmes personal life is surfacing, giving the nation a clearer picture of the man behind the Batman massacre. The websites he visited, the planning of the attack, are bringing together a portrait of a disturbed man who was tortured by his own mind. He was battling the inner demons that came to surface with the mass murder of dozens of victims.

Externally, James Holmes appears to have a good life and a promising future. However, the man behind the mask on the night of the killings at the premiere of “The Dark Knight rises” in Aurora, Colorado shows a man who was tortured by the life he lived. James Holmes led a troubled life, but no one that was visible to most. Many who knew him did not realize how tortured he was until the news broke about the massacre at the Batman premiere.

When the news reached James Holmes’ mother, she was positive that her son was behind the killings. Many realized James Holmes was different, but could not imagine the magnitude of his struggles. He struggled internally with his own self, trying to fit into a world that was unlike him. James Holmes is facing capital punishment if he is considered sane. However, inmates are claiming he is insane, spitting and yelling at anyone who comes close to his cell.


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    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      Great analysis. Such a tragedy.

    • profile image

      Nita Permata K 5 years ago

      lucky him, he's only labelled mentally ill, if only he's an arab origin, countdown to another middle east war starts now...

    • spartucusjones profile image

      CJ Baker 5 years ago from Parts Unknown

      It was definitely a tragic event. You did a good job of addressing the potential issues which could lead someone to committing such evil actions. Sadly as a society we are not aware that people are in in trouble and need help before it is too late.