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From Top Student To Top Suspect: A Mystery Between

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Police are still not saying what motivated the gunman who walked into a crowded Aurora, Colo., movie theater, shot 12 people dead and injured more than 50. The shooter was well-armed and believed to have acted alone.

Police immediately apprehended the suspect, identified as 24-year-old James Holmes, outside the multiplex. Until recently, Holmes was a student in a graduate program at the University of Colorado, Denver.

The Gunman's Entrance

Jennifer Seeger got to the Aurora movie theater after midnight Friday morning. She was late. The new Batman movie had already started. The only seats left were down in front. Seeger sat in the second row by the exit. She said about 10 minutes into the movie, a guy walked in the back door. He was in full black body armor.

"He had a gas mask on, he had Kevlar and a gun, and I thought it was part of the show at first," she says, "and I didn't think anything of it because I was like, what is this guy doing? And he threw this gas can."

The smoke was thick coming out of the can. Seeger says within seconds she was choking. Her eyes were tearing up. Then, she says, the gunman pulled out a gun and started firing into the ceiling.

"And then he took that gun and he pointed it at me right after that. I was 4 or 5 feet away from the gentlemen," she says. "I literally ... just jumped and dived into the aisle and I just curled up into a ball and waited for him. I was telling my friends, 'Don't move. Just sit there. Don't go anywhere.' "

Shooting 'At Random'

Calls to 911 streamed out of the theater by the dozens. Operators quickly dispatched officers. Meanwhile, Seeger started to crawl out from behind the seats. She headed for the aisle.

"I just saw him going upstairs and just shooting people — anybody that got up, that tried to leave the aisle, he would shoot. Just shoot at random, no particular order," she says.

She stayed down and kept crawling — over bodies. She stumbled over a man moaning. She felt his pulse. It was weak. She started trying to pull him out of the theater, but the shooter headed her way. She says she panicked, stood up and ran.

Seeger was taken to a nearby school with other witnesses. She still had blood on her arm from the injured man when she told her story to Colorado Public Radio several hours later.

Further Obstacles

Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates says the suspect had four weapons and lots ammunition, all bought legally.

"In the last 60 days, he purchased four guns at local metro gun shops, and through the Internet, he purchased over 6,000 rounds of ammunition," he says.

Oates would not give any more information about Holmes — nothing about his demeanor, statements made or his possible motives.

Holmes was a graduate student in the University of Colorado, Denver, neuroscience program. A spokeswoman says he was in the process of withdrawing.

Holmes lived in an apartment across the street from the campus. There, police found a chilling scene: The apartment was booby-trapped. Oates says he's never seen anything like it before.

"I see a lot of wires, trip wires, jars full of ammunition, jars full of liquid, some things that look like mortar rounds. We have a lot of challenges to get in there safely," he says.

Residents were evacuated from five buildings around Holmes' apartment. Neighbors did say he kept to himself.

On The Honor Roll

Before coming to Denver, Holmes lived in San Diego, where he went to high school. He attended college at the University of California, Riverside, graduating two years ago. U.C. Riverside Chancellor Timothy White says he was a top-rated student.

"He was an honor student, so academically he was at the top of the top. He really distinguished himself from an academic point of view during his four years with us," White says.

Holmes remains in custody. He will make his first court appearance Monday.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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