University of Colorado officials are looking into whether James Holmes used his position in a graduate program to collect hazardous materials and police officials say Holmes is not cooperating and it could take months to learn the motive for his alleged attack on a packed theater of moviegoers watching the latest Batman movie.
The Friday assault killed 12 and left 58 wounded.
On Sunday, President Barack Obama flew to Colorado to comfort residents and visit relatives of the victims — including the family of Matt McQuinn, a former Springfield resident and Vandalia Butler graduate, killed in the tragedy.
“I come to them not so much as president as I do as a father and as a husband,” Obama told reporters after his visits. “The reason stories like this have such an impact on us is because we could all understand what it would be to have somebody we love taken from us in this fashion.”
McQuinn’s girlfriend, Samantha Yowler, is among the 58 injured. She suffered a gunshot wound to the knee and is still in the hospital recuperating, according to Rob Scott, an attorney for the Yowler and McQuinn families. Yowler used to live in St. Paris in Champaign County and graduated from Graham High School.
Yowler’s brother, Nick Yowler, and McQuinn tried to shield her from the gunfire.
Nick Yowler was not injured.
Samanthan and Nick Yowler, and members of the McQuinn family met with Obama Sunday, according to Scott. Details on the discussion with the president were unavailable.
Yowler plans to return to the southwest Ohio area with her family at a later time, according to Scott.
Samantha and Nick Yowler and McQuinn lived together in Aurora. Neighbor Patricia Felker said she and the couple would typically leave for work around the same time and they would wave to each other.
“… I thought maybe they are just out of town,” she said. “I never, never put the two together that they might have been at the movies.”
Felker said she saw photos of McQuinn and Yowler she didn’t realize it was the young couple who lived near her. She was shocked to learn one had been injured and the other killed.
The couple moved to Aurora in fall 2011.
“Like I said, they are always polite. They seem like, you know, good people. I guess you never know when it’s your time. It could happen anywhere,” Felker said.
Target, where McQuinn and Yowler worked in Denver, is holding a vigil for McQuinn at a church in Colorado at 8 a.m. today. Scott said the Yowler and McQuinn families are aware of the vigil but there has been no decision on whether they plan to attend.
Suspect to be in court today
Holmes is scheduled to appear in court on at 9:30 a.m. MDT today and has been assigned a public defense attorney.
He is being held in solitary confinement at a Denver-area county detention facility, Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said.
During the attack early Friday, Holmes set off gas canisters and used a military-style semiautomatic rifle, a shotgun and a pistol to open fire on the unsuspecting theater-goers, Oates said. Holmes had bought the weapons at local gun stores in the past two months. He recently purchased 6,000 rounds of ammunition over the Internet, the chief said.
On Sunday, officials learned the gunman’s semiautomatic assault rifle jammed during the attack, forcing him to switch to another gun with less firepower, a federal law enforcement official told The Associated Press. That malfunction and weapons switch during the shooting rampage might have saved some lives.
Oates said a 100-round ammunition drum was found in the theater but said he did not know whether it jammed or emptied.
Police have finished collecting evidence from the apartment where Holmes lived, but residents are still not allowed back into the building because of chemical hazards. Aurora police said Sunday residents can retrieve personal items, but the building remains closed.
The shooting was the worst in the U.S. since the Nov. 5, 2009, attack at Fort Hood, Texas. An Army psychiatrist was charged with killing 13 soldiers and civilians and wounding more than two dozen others.
Holmes was pursuing a graduate degree in the neuroscience field, before he recently withdrew from the program. University officials told the Associated Press they were investigating whether the aspiring scientist used his position at the university to order supplies used to make the booby traps setup in his apartment.
Holmes had attempted to join a gun range in Colorado in June, but was rejected after the owner called his apartment and got a “bizarre,” guttral” and “freakish” outgoing message, according to reports.
The gun range owner, Glenn Rotkovich, told staff members to reject Holmes’ membership.
Despite the tragedy during the film’s midnight showing on Friday, the most recent installment of Batman movies earned $160 million to $162 million, making the film the third highest weekend opening in the country, according to media reports, which relied on box-office insiders, cited by the Associated Press.
Back in Ohio, funeral arrangements for McQuinn have not been finalized at this time, but his friends are attempting to raise $10,000, to help cover funeral costs through the website giveforward.com. As of Sunday evening, $1,896 had been donated.