AURORA, Colo. (AP) - The suspect in the Colorado shooting rampage displayed behavior that a gun range owner thought was "bizarre," but it is still unclear if anyone at the university where he studied had any hint of his plans.
Police said James Holmes began buying guns at Denver-area stores nearly two months before Friday's shooting. He also received at least 50 packages in four months at his home and the University of Colorado that authorities are investigating to see whether they contained materials for the potentially deadly booby traps that police found in his apartment.
At the same time, the quiet 24-year-old was in the final weeks of the first year of a rigorous Ph.D. neuroscience program, where he took a three-part final exam required for students to progress in the program and was scheduled to give a presentation on MicroRNA Biomarkers before abruptly leaving in June.
Travis Hirko kneels in front of a cross for Alex Sullivan at a memorial at in Aurora, Colo., Sunday. Hirko went to high school with Sullivan, a victim of Friday’s theater shooting rampage.
Holmes is being held without bond on suspicion of multiple counts of first-degree murder after a shooting rampage minutes into a premiere of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora early Friday that left 12 people dead and 58 injured.
He is scheduled for an initial hearing today and has been assigned a public defender.
Amid the continuing investigation of Holmes and his background, Sunday was a day for healing and remembrance in Aurora, with President Barack Obama arriving to visit with families of the victims and a vigil planned later in the evening.
Congregations across Colorado prayed for the shooting victims and their relatives.
Churches sent out social-media appeals for neighbors who wanted to join in remembrance. Elderly churchgoers at an aging Presbyterian church within walking distance near Holmes' apartment joined in prayer, though none had ever met him.
Holmes was being held in solitary confinement at a Denver-area county detention facility and was not cooperating to authorities, Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said.
"He lawyered up. He's not talking to us," the chief said.
Authorities are working with FBI behavioral analysts and are looking into Holmes' relationships to figure out a motive, which could take months, Oates said.
The gunman's semiautomatic assault rifle jammed during the attack at the Aurora movie theater, forcing him to switch to another gun with less firepower, a federal law enforcement official said. 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.
The owner of a gun range said Holmes applied to join the club last month but never became a member because of his behavior and a "bizarre" message on his voice mail.
He e-mailed an application to join the Lead Valley Range in Byers on June 25 in which he said he was not a user of illegal drugs or a convicted felon, said owner Glenn Rotkovich. When Rotkovich called to invite him to a mandatory orientation the following week, he said he heard a message on Holmes' voice mail that was "bizarre - guttural, freakish at best."
He left two other messages but eventually told his staff to watch out for Holmes at the July 1 orientation and not to accept him into the club, Rotkovich said.
Three days after the massacre, it still remained unclear whether Holmes' professors and other students at his 35-student Ph.D. program noticed anything unusual about his behavior. His reasons for quitting the program in June, just a year into the five- to seven-year program, also remained a mystery.
The university declined to release any details of his academic record, citing privacy concerns, and at least two dozen professors and other staff declined to speak with the AP. Some said they were instructed not to talk publicly about Holmes in a blanket email sent to university employees.
Jacque Montgomery, a spokeswoman for the University of Colorado medical school, said that police have told the school to not talk about Holmes.
The university also took down the website for its graduate neuroscience program on Saturday.
Dan Keeney, president of DPK Public Relations in Dallas, said asking for silence from university employees because of a police investigation was appropriate, but taking down the website was "indefensible" for a publicly funded university unless the school believed it contained inaccurate information relating to the suspect.
"It's an indefensible action," he said. "It's disappointing to hear that they would take that action because it suggests that it's not in the public's interest to have access to that information and I think it is in the public's interest."
The school took down the neuroscience department's site at the request of faculty and staff who had privacy concerns, Montgomery said.
The University of Colorado also disclosed it was cooperating with police who were looking into whether Holmes used his position as a graduate student to order materials in the potentially deadly booby traps that police said they found in his apartment.