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UC Riverside Chancellor: "We Are Very Deeply Saddened" by Colorado Shootings

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Holmes was a UCR honors student

Black Voice News Staff Report

The University of California at Riverside confirmed Friday that James Holmes, the suspect in a movie theater massacre that left 71 shot and 12 dead, had graduated from the school in 2010. UCR said that Holmes graduated with a bachelor's of science degree in neuroscience. The university confirmed their alumnus was the same man as the one suspected in the shootings during a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colo., outside Denver. Chancellor Tim White said during a press conference that Holmes, now 24, had been a stand-out student academically and had received a merit-based scholarship. He said neuroscience, Holmes' major, was one of the more rigorous degrees at the school. "Academically, he was at the top of the top," White said.

"He obviously had the capability to do just about anything he wanted academically," White added. The chancellor expressed "profound sadness over the horrific shootings" in a written statement. “On behalf of the entire UCR community, I extend our deepest sympathy to the victims, their families, and all of those impacted by this tragedy.” Counseling would be offered on campus and the university would cooperate with law enforcement, White said. He said there was no record of any contact between Holmes and UC police. The shooting touched a nerve with some of UC Riverside's roughly 21,000 students. "Students and faculty are shocked," White said at the press conference. "It's disturbing and upsetting to know a UCR alum did something like this," junior Hector Berber, who had attended a midnight showing of the Batman movie in Riverside. Berber told the Los Angeles Times, “That shooting could have happened here.”

New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said at a news conference Friday the shooter had dyed his hair orange and red and called himself "The Joker," Batman's arch-villain.

"It clearly looks like a deranged individual," he said.

Aurora police said the gunman was wearing a gas mask, helmet and full body armor.

Heavily armed police and FBI agents in gas masks surrounded Holmes' apartment building after the shooting, and a bomb squad sent a robot in to check his apartment. Five buildings in the area were evacuated.

Aurora Deputy Fire Chief Chris Henderson said the suspect's third-floor apartment was "extensively" booby-trapped, with numerous liter bottles connected with wires or cord arranged in the front room, along with other unknown devices or items.

"It's definitely intentionally booby-trapped," Henderson says. "We assume it's the worst case scenario."

FBI agents and police used a hook-and-ladder fire truck and put a camera at the end of 12-foot pole inside the apartment.

Holmes does not have a criminal record in Riverside County, according to online court records.

Riverside police spokesman Lt. Guy Toussaint said his department did not immediately know anything about Holmes.

“We just heard about that recently, so we are looking into verifying if he was a resident here and, if so, if we had any contact with him,” he said Friday morning.

White also said he had not met Holmes, and federal law prevents him from discussing any research Holmes may have done at UCR.

The university said the student's last known address was in San Diego. Holmes is from the San Diego community of Rancho Penasquitos, where police were stationed at the family home. He attended Westview High School, part of the Poway Unified School District, graduating in 2006. Holmes was studying for a neuroscience graduate degree at the University of Colorado Medical School in Aurora, which said he had enrolled in June 2011 but was in the process of withdrawing last month.

Professors at UC Riverside recalled Holmes as ‘smart’ and ‘quiet’ but could provide no clues that would indicate he was capable the violent attack that left 12 people dead and dozens of others injured, Chancellor Timothy White said. White said professors who knew Holmes expressed shock and disbelief about the movie theater shooting at the premiere of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colo. He said that many on campus were still trying to understand happened.

Kelly Huffman, an assistant professor of psychology at UC Riverside, said Holmes was in her Drugs and Behavior class in 2010 and did well in what she said was a challenging course. She described him as “a smart and quiet guy.” Huffman said that she spoke Friday with the teaching assistant who led the course's smaller discussion section that Holmes attended, and that the assistant didn't recall the shooting suspect.

"So that probably means he [Holmes] was pretty quiet," Huffman said.

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