Colorado shooting: Inside the mind of `The Joker’

Shruti Saxena

A normal summer night, humming of the winds, swinging trees and soothing breeze; do you still need a reason for not stepping out of your home?

With this same thought in their minds, a few movie lovers stepped out of their homes in the US to see a midnight premiere of the new Batman movie, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, at an Aurora theatre in suburban Denver. But, they would have never thought, even in the wildest of their imagination, that a surreal horror is awaiting them outside.

A masked gunmen enclosed head-to-toe in body armour opened fire at the movie theatre leading to bloodshed; 12 people were killed and 58 others were wounded in the ghastly act.

The suspect was identified as James Eagen Holmes, a 24-year-old student who had been studying neuroscience in a PhD program at the University of Colorado-Denver graduate school, although he was about to quit. He referred to himself as ‘The Joker’ (the fictional villain in previous Batman films) when he surrendered to police, though officials say that he has been co-operating with their investigation. But if one believes those who knew him, he is a shy and intelligent guy brought up in a good family in San Diego and used to play soccer in his school days. The locals called him by the name ‘Jimmy’. Then, why did he address himself as ‘The Joker’ when he surrendered? Was he trying to portray himself as the ‘fictional villain’ in Batman film or is he a ‘real joker’ who is sad and a loner?

My mind is reeling with questions as to what led an exceptional neuroscience graduate to execute such a senseless and devilish act? Is it the decline of morals? Or the violence in movies, news and in our surroundings corrupted his mind? Or the easy transport of lethal armaments? I am shocked and sad.

Does the value of life hold no significance anymore? It is the mighty mind that separates human beings from animals; then why are we behaving like the latter? There is something seriously wrong with us.

In a resume posted on, Holmes listed himself as an “aspiring scientist” and said he was looking for a job as a laboratory technician. Then, how could a seemingly functional and a whip-smart having no previous criminal record except for a traffic violation, all of a sudden engage in this kind of ruthless and horrendous hostility?

According to ABC News’ Denver affiliate KMGH-TV, Holmes reportedly failed a preliminary exam before deciding to pull out of the PhD program. So, did this failure force him to take revenge from others?

Why did he choose this particular Batman movie and the same time for firing when it was actually taking place in the movie simultaneously? Was he trying to popularise the movie or be popular himself? (Was he trying to re-enact “The Dark Knight”?) Is he power starved? If he wanted fame, why did he not have an Internet account except on an adult website, namely AdultFriendFinder, which is meant for connecting to people for sexual purposes? According to TMZ, his profile has been reportedly verified on this website with an unusual message, “Will you visit me in prison?”

According to James Alan Fox, a criminal justice professor at Northeastern University in Boston, “It takes a certain degree of clear-headedness to plan and execute a crime like this.”

“It was just coincidental, although it just made the situation more ambiguous for the people involved,” he said. Some of those who were in the theatre said they initially first thought the shooting was part of the screening.

Another expert Dr Jeffrey Merin, a bay area psychologist, believes: “Holmes likely picked one of the most highly-anticipated movies of the year because he was looking for fame”.

“He created his own story. He has become greater than the movie itself”, he added.

It is learnt that when this news broke, Mrs Holmes in San Diego said, “You’ve got the right person”. Now, why would a mother say so about his son?

Also, questions like why was his apartment booby-trapped also hog my mind. Did he intend to hurt someone or kill? According to Aurora police, Homes received ammunition deliveries for months which authorities believe armed him for battle and were used to rig his apartment with dozens of bombs. Less than a month before carrying out this shooting carnage, James Holmes applied for membership at a private gun range namely Lead Valley Range, in Byers, Colorado. The club’s owner told that when he called back to Holmes’ apartment, he was alarmed with a bizarre sound of his answering machine that sounded just like a Batman-inspired creepy voicemail message. What was churning inside Homes’ mind? Was he inspired by Batman and that is why he chose this particular movie to execute his wacky act?

Another such gratuitous incident was when in 2007, Seung-hui Cho, a 23-year-old student at Virginia Tech, opened fire on campus, killing 32 people before taking his own life. Apart from these, many other such incidents have also happened in the past which possibly hint that mass public shootings have become a part of American life in recent decades.

There is no single, certain answer to these questions; it is elusive. No clues into the motive which led James Holmes to press that trigger have been found so far. But if we look at some common patterns, a possible answer could be that some of the mass shooters have an unwavering, purposeful and fixed plan of murder in their minds. They are just not scared of the law and other barriers of the state and their will power to kill is so strong that it surpasses the feeling which makes them understand that they are ‘literate’ humans and not animals.

No one becomes a mass slayer overnight. It is important to realise that these minds nurse their bad fantasies, insults or may be isolation in those sultry, dark eyes all night and then one day these desires become lethal and a source of homicide. Many a times, these people also blame the society for their failures and struggle and this is what provokes them to execute such a bizarre act.

Wish that people like James Holmes, rather than being a villain, fight with the ‘villain’ inside them.

Such sudden and unpredictable episodes too raise questions in our minds that are we safe anywhere as mass shootings have taken place in malls, schools, restaurants and almost any place that you and I visit.

With so many tragic shootings on the rise in the US, it is indeed the need of the hour that gun control laws should be reformed. Another important social reform could be that from childhood itself parents should inculcate and nurture the feeling of brotherhood, community feeling and love towards human beings in their kids so that such horrific rampages could be prevented, as when a loved one dies due to such a brainless act, you don’t ask for sympathy but action.

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