James Eagan Holmes, the man suspected of shooting dead 12 people in a cinema in a Denver suburb last week, may have used his position as a researcher at the University of Colorado medical school to order the equipment for a booby-trap bomb designed to cause a second scene of mayhem, it has emerged.
The university said yesterday it was investigating what might have been in packages that were sent to Holmes at a research lab at its medical school. The 24-year-old was in the process of dropping out of a neuroscience PhD programme when he is alleged to have gone on the worst gun rampage in US history, in terms of numbers killed or injured. He also set trip wires in his apartment connected to what police say was a potentially deadly bomb.
Holmes is due to make his first court appearance this morning.
President Barack Obama was scheduled to meet survivors of the shooting and families of the victims in Aurora last night, and the community was planning to come together for a memorial service and vigil near the site of the massacre.
The heartbreaking stories of the dead and injured are almost too numerous to process, from the mother fighting for her life in hospital who is yet to be told that her six-year-old was killed in the cinema, to the workers of a nearby restaurant, which had eight of their number injured at the screening – one of them fatally.
Police in the Denver suburb say that Holmes received numerous packages at his home and school addresses in the months leading up to his rampage – "evidence", said police chief Daniel Oates, "of a deliberative process to commit this assault and a deliberative process to attack whoever walked through the door of that apartment".
Explosive materials removed by bomb squad experts from Holmes's apartment after a painstaking 36-hour operation were destroyed in a controlled explosion on nearby scrubland late yesterday.
Meanwhile, police continue the work of piecing together how Holmes assembled an arsenal of bomb-making equipment, semi-automatic and other guns, and 6,000 bullets in magazines capable of delivering up to 60 rounds per minute.
A resumé posted online shows Holmes had mapped the neurons of Zebra finches and studied the flight muscles of hummingbirds while an undergraduate at the University of California.