So there was the accused master fiend. The deadly, hyper intelligent, plotter who carefully crafted a murderous plan over the past few months, then carried it out with cold blooded efficiency. James Eagan Holmes, Jimmy to his childhood friends, sat next to his public defender in court, his hair dyed somewhere between red and orange. Rumors of his jailhouse behavior are swirling. Tales of him spitting at police and jailers are circulating on all the cable news outlets. However, as I watched him sitting there one word kept turning over in my mind. It will date me, because I don't think the drug is even used any more. That word is "Thorazine."
Yes, the Joker, as he reportedly referred to himself at the time of his arrest, was described by various talking heads as "unemotional" and "sullen." To this untrained eye he looked so drugged up that he was fighting to stay awake. His head would nod forward and then rock back. His eyes would close for long moments and then open wide as if just the act of remaining conscious was a supreme struggle. He did not speak, but the suspicion here is that this alleged brilliant assassin probably wouldn't have even been able tell you his name if he'd been asked it.
It is hard not to compare his stupor to the grand histrionics displayed by the Norwegian mad man, Anders Breivik. Breivik was angrily engaged with the prosecution and judges from the first moment on. He was and presumably still is, utterly unapologetic, vocal, and combative. Jimmy Holmes looked as if he didn't even know where he was, much less know what was happening.
A CNN legal expert doubted that the suspect was drugged, because it would limit his ability to understand the proceedings. Well if his somnolence was an act he pulled it off with with extreme aplomb.
All we know for sure is that Jimmy Holmes has been to and is still in a place none of the rest of us will ever know. Television wonks have wondered what set him off, as if a single trauma would answer all the questions about this nightmare. It is doubtful there was any one thing. No, Mr. Holmes' ship has been sinking for a long time. We just don't know when it went completely bottom up and he gave into his urges to trip off and perpetrate this horrifying act.
Subtle signs were there. It is reported that he applied for membership to a private gun range recently. The owner of the range turned down his application after listening to a couple of "bizarre" voice mail recordings when he tried to reach Holmes on the phone. He didn't specify exactly what those messages were, but you can be assured that if a gun range anywhere west of the Mississippi says we'd rather you not come here, they must have been out there. Another witness claims he saw Holmes in a sporting goods store trying to fit a scope onto a weapon and wondered why "a guy like that" would be buying such equipment.
Police say it could have been worse. The AR-15 assault weapon with the 100 round drum magazine apparently jammed during the attack leaving the shooter with "only" his shotgun and two .40 caliber Glocks. And of course there was the alleged confession to police that his apartment was heavily booby trapped. What if authorities had gone storming into that flat unaware of what was waiting for them. Indeed, the body count, as terrible as it is, could have been much higher.
Today millions of us looked into the eyes of insanity. What looked back at us wasn't some fire breathing dragon, some raging monster ready to create more awful havoc. What was there was a barely conscious chump who seemed to have no clue.
The makeshift memorials are growing by the moment. Candles are being lit, balloons, flowers and stuffed animals are being deposited at the site of the murders. Brave words about resilience, hope, and not bowing to such violence are being spoken. Unfortunately the dead are still dead and more may follow. At least seven of the wounded remain in critical condition.
The fact is there is something terribly wrong here. We keep producing these lunatics who have access to weapons that are the envy of guerrilla movements and drug cartels world wide. As predicted every bit of armament used in the attack was legally purchased. All the paper work was filled out, all the t's were crossed, all the i's dotted.
CNN sent a young man with a hidden camera into one of the same stores that James Eagan Holmes patronized. He was able to walk out of it with an AR-15 in less than two hours. When he questioned the salesman about how big of a magazine he could get for the weapon, he was told that the largest one the store had in stock held 30 rounds. The clerk then chuckled and said something like, "I guess you'll be shooting a bunch of those prairie dogs." It was as if none of this had ever happened.
Welcome to America. To paraphrase an Oklahoma City furniture store ad catch line, we kill folks.