The man suspected of shooting 12 people dead at a screening of the new Batman movie in Colorado was often seen carrying guns to and from his home and was described Friday as a "loner."
James Holmes, 24, was enrolled since June 2011 as a student in neuroscience at the University of Colorado, but was reportedly in the process of withdrawing from his PhD program.
In a photo released by the university, Holmes wore a burnt-orange T-shirt and sported a smile, but one neighbor at the apartment block where the suspect lived in Aurora recalled a subdued character.
"He was always wearing camouflage pants and a hat," said Gabriel Macias, a Mexican who works at a meat factory and recalled seeing Holmes carrying guns and weapon cases to and from his apartment.
"We did not know him well because he talked to nobody. He was always locked up behind his door," said Macias.
A second photo, from Holmes's San Diego high school yearbook, showed him in a dark suit, this time flashing a toothy smile. He graduated from Westview High School in San Diego in 2006.
Melvin Evans, a security guard from a nearby building said he occasionally saw Holmes at a local bar.
"He was always by himself. Looked like a nice guy," said Evans, 33. "I go to the bar every Sunday for Karaoke. I've seen him there every now and then. We would talk sometimes, the weather, you know."
The FBI described Holmes as a white male, 6-foot-3 (1.9 meters) tall, born on December 13, 1987, with no significant criminal record and no links to terrorism.
Residents at the apartment block were removed in the wake of the shooting after it appeared that Holmes's home had been booby-trapped.
Police in Aurora, Colorado, told reporters records showed that the shooting suspect's only infringement in the city was a speeding ticket in 2011.
In an apartment rental application he submitted in early 2011, Holmes described himself as a "quiet and easy-going" student, the Denver Post said on its website (www.denverpost.com).
"No one knew him. No one," it quoted a pharmacy student living in the same building -- reserved for medical students, faculty and staff -- in Aurora as saying.
The student, who only gave his name as Ben, said Holmes kept to himself and would not say hello or acknowledge other people in the hallway.
Ben also revealed he had called police shortly after midnight -- coincidentally around the time of the massacre at a Batman premiere -- to report a song blaring from inside Holmes' apartment.
Ben could not make out the song, but it appeared to be playing on repeat.
Tom Mai, a next-door neighbor of the Holmes family in San Diego, remembered Holmes as a shy teenager who did not play or socialize with other youngsters in the neighborhood, the San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper said.
"He said that he last saw him two years ago when he came home during summer recess from college," it said on its website (www.utsandiego.com). "The family, he said, was nice and involved with a Presbyterian church."
Holmes graduated from the University of California in Riverside in 2010 with a degree in neuroscience, said its director of communications Kris Lovekin, who added she could not release any further information about him.
Mashable.com, which monitors social media, said Holmes was "an online ghost" with no apparent presence on sites like Facebook or Twitter, although people sharing Holmes' name found themselves suddenly bombarded with attention.
In a statement, Holmes' family said they were cooperating with investigators.
"We are still trying to process this information and we appreciate that people will respect our privacy," the family said, after Holmes' mother Arlen confirmed her son was the suspected shooter.
6,000 Rounds Of Ammo
The movie theater massacre suspect bought more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition over the Internet in the last two months, the local police chief said Friday.
All the ammunition was purchased legally, as were four weapons bought by James Holmes at local gunshops over the last 60 days, according to Aurora police chief Dan Oates.
In an end-of-day update, he amended slightly the number of victims of the shooting at a midnight screening of the latest Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises," from 71 to 70. Twelve of them died, including 10 in the theater.
"Nearly everyone was shot," he said, adding that a "handful" of those treated in hospital did not have gunshot wounds, but suffered other injuries in the mayhem.
"In the last 60 days, (Holmes) purchased four guns at local metro gun shops and through the Internet, he purchased over 6,000 rounds of ammunition," said Oates, who occasionally fought to control his emotion.
The ammunition included more than 3,000 rounds bought by the 24-year-old for an assault rifle, 3,000 rounds for two Glock handguns and 300 rounds for a shotgun.
"Also through the Internet, he purchased multiple magazines for the .223 caliber assault rifle, including one 100-round drum magazine, which was recovered from the scene," Oates added.
"I'm told by experts that with that drum magazine, he could have gotten off 50 to 60 rounds... within one minute. And as far as we know, it was a pretty rapid pace of fire in that theater."
He added: "My understanding is that all the weapons that he possessed he possessed legally, and all the clips that he possessed, he possessed legally, and all the ammunition he possessed, he possessed legally."
The shooting, the latest such incident, has revived the perennial debate about gun control in the United States.
The well-funded US gun lobby, led by the influential National Rifle Association (NRA), accuses President Barack Obama of favoring a UN treaty as a ruse to limit Americans' constitutional right to own as many guns as they wish.
A Movie Killer Come To Life
As police and FBI investigators sifted through the carnage of a Colorado cineplex, media were putting together a picture of the suspect: 24-year-old neuroscience graduate Holmes.
People from the swanky San Diego neighborhood where he grew up remembered him as a loner. Even on the tight-knit football team that he played on in high school, no one could really remember much about him, reporters from NBC News discovered.
One woman who did know him in high school remembered him as a ''nice guy'' but found it strange that he always rooted for the villains in superhero movies.
He was regarded as a brilliant student both at his San Diego high school and the University of California in Riverside where he majored in neuroscience and graduated at the top of his class.
He enrolled in a doctoral program at the University of Colorado, but something seemed to have snapped a couple months ago, starting with a dramatic fall in his grades.
The Washington Post reported that a neuroscience faculty member at Colorado said he immediately thought of Holmes when he heard that a student was accused of the shooting. He was ''very quiet, strangely quiet in class,'' and said he seemed ''socially off.''
''I always thought that he was a little strange. I could never put my finger on it, but something told me to not get to close to him, female instincts I guess,'' a female student told NBC News.
His methodical nature was reflected in the calculations of his plan. Holmes appeared to have scrubbed his traces on the Internet; searches for him on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere turned up little information.
Police sources confirmed to NBC News that Holmes was disguised as Batman's twisted nemesis The Joker when he launched his attack, with the same brightly coloured orange hair.
An official confirmed that Holmes had two handguns, a shotgun and a semi-automatic rifle and was wearing an outfit of black ballistic gear that he allegedly used to kill 12 people and injure 59.
Witnesses described him as being remarkably calm as he let off hundreds of rounds in the packed theatre, shooting people at random, before exiting from a rear door and meekly surrendering to police.
Police said his apartment was rigged with a sophisticated apparatus of trip wires, chemicals and explosives and could take days to defuse. It will take much longer to understand the reason behind the attacks.
No Escape From Death
Jessica Ghawi, 24, cheated death last month.
But when she went to the midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises on Friday in Aurora, Colorado, there was no escape.
Ghawi, a Texas-born blogger, who was one of the 12 people slain when a gas-masked gunman opened fire at the film screening outside Denver.
Ghawi was an extroverted aspiring sports journalist and avid hockey fan who blogged and tweeted about her passions to thousands of internet readers.
The most recent entry on her blog described how she narrowly escaped death in early June, when a shooter opened fire in the food court of the Eaton Centre Mall in Toronto, Canada.
Writing under the pseudonym Jessica Redfield, Ghawi described how she had been in the food court minutes before the shooting, when a strangle feeling came over her and she felt compelled to leave.
''Had I not gone outside, I would've been in the midst of gunfire,'' she wrote.
That same sixth sense seems to have failed her early Friday, however, when Ghawi was so excited at the prospect of the new Batman movie that she went with a friend to the midnight premiere.
''You aren't seeing it tonight?'' she asked a friend playfully in her penultimate Twitter posting. ''Loser.''
Ghawi's final tweet was simple and bore not a hint of the impending horror: ''Movie Doesn't Start For 20 Minutes,'' she write in all-caps to reflect her excitement.
What happened next was described in a blog by her brother, who relied on the account of her friend, Brent Lowack, who was with her.
Jordan Ghawi wrote that Lowak and Jessica were sitting in the middle portion of the theatre when a device was thrown in their direction ''that produced a hissing sound.'' It is now believed to have been a tear-gas canister lobbed by suspected spree killer James Holmes.
Jessica urged Lowak to call 911 and was then shot in the leg.
Lowak was attending to her injury when he himself was shot.
''While still administering first aid, Brent noticed that Jessica was no longer screaming. He advised that he looked over to Jessica and saw what appeared to be an entry wound to her head,'' Ghawi wrote.
''Jessica was shot in the head. After that, she could no longer be heard screaming.'' —with additional reports from Deutsche Press-Agentur
By LEILA MACOR/Agence France Presse