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The New York Times tomorrow (Aug. 27) features a long story by four reporters on James Holmes, who murdered 12 people and injured 58 in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater shooting July 20. Holmes was raised in Rancho Penasquitos. He was pursuing a PhD in neuroscience, but had dropped out shortly before the mass killing. Interviewees said he had done poorly on oral exams and may have been dropped by the university, which refuses to discuss the matter, partly because of a court gag. His parents refused to talk to the Times.

Holmes sent a text message to another graduate student asking if she had heard of "dysphoric mania." This is a bipolar disorder that combines the frenetic energy of mania with agitation, dark thoughts and sometimes paranoid delusions of major depression, said the Times. "I am bad news," he told the student in the last message she received from him. More than a dozen people who knew Holmes believed he was losing his footing. He was painfully shy most of the time, but not long before the shooting had posted a personal advertisement seeking companionship on an adult website.

He was seeing a psychiatrist who alerted the university's threat assessment team that he might be dangerous. However, said the Times, nothing that Holmes revealed to the psychiatrist rose to the threshold to hospitalize someone voluntarily under Colorado law.

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Visduh Aug. 27, 2012 @ 10:46 a.m.

In a brief flash of cynicism, I thought that he might have been suffering the same sort of stress that many students in those doctoral programs experience. They are often noted for demanding inhuman amounts of effort, while the faculty heaps abuse on the students. That 's especially true of those who also function as teaching assistants, research assistants, and readers.

But there was something that went very wrong with him very quickly, and that is the mystery. It is also worth noting that although many folks saw that he was coming off the rails, and even alerted a system that is intended to stop these breakdowns before major harm is done, that didn't prevent this tragedy.


Don Bauder Aug. 27, 2012 @ 11:45 a.m.

Good observation. And Holmes was seeking a PhD in neuroscience. You would think the faculty would be very sensitive to the psychiatric afflictions that, as you point out, seemed to come on very quickly. The psychiatrist who alerted the university's threat assessment team to Holmes is being treated as a heroine. However, I wonder, admittedly on thin evidence, whether she might have done more. At this point, to be sure, we don't know what he told her. Best, Don Bauder


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