He grew up in California, along a famous stretch of coastal highway known for its scenic beauty. His mother was a nurse and his father a mathematician, with degrees from Stanford and Berkeley. In high school, he played soccer and ran cross country. He regularly attended church.
He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Riverside and graduated with honors. He had no criminal record. He was accepted into a PhD program at the University of Colorado to study neuroscience. He was 23.
And on July 20 he allegedly walked into a packed movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, set off several gas canisters so people couldn’t see, then opened fire on the audience. Twelve people were killed and 58 were wounded. His name of course is James Holmes and last week he appeared in court, where he was charged with 24 counts of first degree murder and 116 counts of attempted murder. It’s not the first time in recent years that a young man with the world at his fingertips cracked and murdered a whole bunch of people. What were these other killers like before they killed?
Jared Loughner, the 23 year old who shot and killed six people and seriously wounded Congresswoman Gabby Giffords in a Tucson, Arizona supermarket parking lot grew up in the area and was the only child of what neighbors describe as a very private family. He had friends in high school, a job at Quiznos and during his sophomore year began dating freshman Kelsey Hawkes. A few months later, she broke up with him. Loughner crumpled. “He was definitely in love with me but I’m not sure if I could say I was in love with him—it was typical teenage stuff,” Hawkes told the Daily Mail. “That was when Jared was a normal person. It all stopped when we broke up.”
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After the break-up Loughner began acting strange. He was fired from his job though found work volunteering at a local animal shelter. It didn’t last long, after he refused to walk the dogs in the designated dog walking area the shelter asked him not to return. “He didn’t understand or comprehend what the supervisor was trying to tell him,” said the shelter manager. Loughner began using drugs, recreational ones like pot but also LSD and Salvia, a natural hallucinogen illegal in many states. He applied for the U.S. Army but was declared unfit for service because of his marijuana habit. In October of 2007, Loughner was cited for possession of drug paraphernalia. A year later he was charged for defacing a street sign. In November 2010 he purchased a 9mm Glock pistol. The night before the supermarket shooting he left a message on his MySpace page:
“Goodbye friends. Please don’t be mad at me. The literacy rate is below 5%…The longest war in the history of the United States…I had a bully at school. Thank you. P.S.—plead the fifth!”
As a student, Anders Breivik had finely curved lips, searing blue eyes and a trim gentlemanly beard. He was born in Oslo in 1979. His mother was a nurse and his father was a diplomat for the Norwegian Embassy in London. When Breivik was one years old his parents divorced. He stayed with his mother in Oslo and she remarried a Norwegian Army officer. His father moved to France and remarried a diplomat. At age four a pair of reports were filed expressing concern for Breivik’s mental health. One psychologist noted he had a peculiar non-emotional smile. Breivik chastised his mother for being a feminist. He criticized both parents for supporting the Norwegian Labour Party. “I do not approve of the super-liberal, matriarchal upbringing,” he said. “It completely lacked discipline and has contributed to feminizing me to a certain degree.”
He was an intelligent student. A former classmate remembered that he stuck up for other students who were bullied. As a teenager Breivik became more rebellious. He was a prolific graffiti artist and on several occasions was caught by the police. When his father found this out he cut off communication with him. Shortly thereafter Breivik was expelled from his graffiti gang. He spent a great deal of time playing video games, particularly Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and World of Warcraft. He regarded this as training. In 2002, at age 23, he started planning the attacks.
On July 22, 2011 Breivik bombed a government building in Oslo, killing eight people. He then disguised himself as a policeman and showed up at a summer camp aligned with the country’s Labour Party where he lined up campers and began shooting. Some 69 people were killed, most of them were teenagers.