Criminal Justice

Colorado Shooting Suspect Texted Classmate About Mental Illness, Wrote 'I Am Bad News'

Two weeks before the July 20 massacre at the new Batman movie in Aurora, Colo., shooting suspect James Eagan Holmes sent a text message to a classmate that foreshadowed trouble.

Holmes asked if the neuroscience classmate at the University of Colorado had heard of “dysphoric mania,” a form of bipolar disorder, the New York Times reports. The illness “combines the frenetic energy of mania with the agitation, dark thoughts and in some cases paranoid delusions of major depression,” the Times says.

The classmate replied in a text, asking if the problem could be managed with treatment. “It was,” Holmes said, but the woman should stay away from him “because I am bad news.”

Forensic psychologist J. Reid Meloy, an expert on mass killers, told the Times that most of the perpetrators of such crimes suffer from some kind of psychosis and often believe they are attacking someone who is out to get them. The killers may be able to make elaborate plans despite the illness. Most people with the condition, however, are never violent, according to Dr. Victor Reus, a psychiatry professor at the University of California at San Francisco.

According to the Times, Holmes’ apparent deterioration raises questions “about the adequacy of the treatment he received and about the steps the university took or failed to take in dealing with a deeply troubled student.” The issue is also likely to be part of the defense. The burden of proof on sanity lies with the prosecution in Colorado, one of only a few states with such a rule.

Meanwhile, the director of a low-budget movie the Times describes as “a Batman-style story of vigilante justice” told the newspaper he received a couple calls about a month or more before the shooting from someone who said he was James Holmes from Denver. According to the director, Dave Aragon, the caller said he had seen the trailer and wanted more information. “He was obviously interested in the body count,” Aragon said.

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