Media outlets are still trying to figure out what caused 24-year-old James Holmes to allegedly open fire on a Colorado movie theater last month, killing a dozen people and injuring 58 others. The urgent need to label Holmes as a freakish loner can be frustrating — shortly after the horrific event, we wrote about how it's wrong to blame the Auora shootings on Holmes "not getting laid" — but details in a new New York Times piece make it clear that Holmes had a notably difficult time connecting with other people. (And not just because he didn't have a Facebook account.)
Holmes had a pretty awkward text-based relationship with a female grad student; he once sent her a text message asking "Why are you distracting me with those shorts?" They started texting earlier in the year, when she was out sick with the flu:
"You still sick, girl?" she remembers Mr. Holmes asking.
"Who is this?" she shot back.
"Jimmy James from neuroscience," he replied.
After that, she said, he sent her messages sporadically — once he asked her if she would like to go hiking — though he would sometimes walk right past her in the hallway, making no eye contact.
Mr. Holmes took his oral exam on June 7. The graduate student sent him a message the next day, asking how it had gone. Not well, he replied, "and I am going to quit."
"Are you kidding me?" she asked.
"No, I am just being James," he said.
But in early July, his weird texts became more cryptic: he asked the student if she had heard of "dysphoric mania." When she replied by asking if the disorder was treatable, Holmes said that it was but that she should stay away from him because he was "bad news."
The Times defines dysphoric mania as a "psychiatric condition, a form of bipolar disorder, [which] combines the frenetic energy of mania with the agitation, dark thoughts and in some cases paranoid delusions of major depression."
Do Holmes' texts and other odd, lonerish characteristics — many of which are described in the lengthy article — prove that he went on a murderous rampage because he craved closer contact with others, romantically or otherwise? No, but they do make an excellent case for listening to and acting on your instincts if you feel like someone in your life might be "bad news," even if all you have to go on is a casual text exchange.