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Aurora, Colorado - Colorado shooting suspect James Holmes was likely facing eviction from the Aurora apartment that authorities say he booby-trapped with explosives last week, neighbours said.
Holmes, a former University of Colorado graduate student, is accused of killing 12 people and wounding 58 others in a shooting rampage at a midnight movie premiere of The Dark Knight Rises on July 20, and wiring his apartment with enough explosives to have levelled the building if they had detonated.
Neighbours and students in the North Aurora neighbourhood where Holmes lived said Holmes' withdrawal from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus a month before the shooting would likely have triggered his eviction from the building, which is reserved for people affiliated with the school.
Officials at the University of Colorado have said Holmes was enrolled in the school's Ph.D. neuroscience programme, but he withdrew last month.
Nine days before the shooting, Holmes was seen on Paris Street, asking landlords and neighbours if anyone was aware of a vacant apartment in the area, several neighbours told Reuters.
Holmes was arrested in the movie theatre parking lot shortly after the shooting, and told officers his apartment contained explosives, police said.
Law enforcement officials told Reuters the third floor Paris Street apartment was rigged with 30 homemade explosives, chemicals designed to accelerate a fire sparked by the bombs, and trip wires to trigger the blast as soon as a person attempted to enter the booby-trapped apartment.
The building was evacuated. But the explosives were later safely dismantled and removed by authorities, and Holmes' neighbours returned to their homes.
On July 11, at around 3.30pm, Holmes approached neighbour Carl Pedro Allen, 54, who was sitting in front of 1733 Paris Street - about a block away from Holmes' apartment building. Holmes asked Allen, and others gathered there, if they knew of any vacant one-bedroom apartments.
“We let him know there were no vacancies [in that building], but we told him about where he might be able to find an open apartment,” Allen said.
Holmes was wearing jeans and sneakers and described himself as a local student, Allen said. But Allen also said he noticed something strange about Holmes' eyes.
“His eyes were fluttering and blinking,” Allen said. “It was really weird. I didn't know if he was high or what, but those eyes kept fluttering.”
Two others who witnessed the incident, Ashley Jones, 25, and Rosando “JR” Causus, a maintenance man at 1733 Paris Street, independently confirmed Allen's story.
At Holmes' initial court appearance last week, observers said his eyes fluttered wildly and he blinked repeatedly. He is due back in court on Monday.
Joan Holley of Holley Realty, which manages the building at 1690 Paris Street where Holmes lived, could not be reached for comment. She had previously told Reuters that she would not comment on matters related to the building.
Kylina Washington, 14, said she and her friend Asia Quinn spoke with Holmes around the same time Allen said he did, behind a 7-Eleven where clerks recognised Holmes as a regular customer.
“He said he was moving,” Washington said.
Tori Everhart, 27, a resident in Holmes' building, said Holley Realty representatives told her the building was reserved for University of Colorado students, faculty and staff.
A second student resident, who was moving his belongings out of a second floor apartment and into a U-Haul truck on Saturday afternoon and declined to give his name, confirmed the policy.
“Only residents and faculty can live here,” he said. The student said withdrawal from the school would require a resident to leave within a month.
A third student exiting the complex, who also declined to allow her name to be used, confirmed the policy. - Reuters