By Debbie Emery – Radar Reporter
James Holmes‘ dazed expression, cold demeanor and dyed orange hair have been imprinted into the minds of the nation as the face of a killer, but RadarOnline.com has never-before-seen photos of The Dark Knight Rises shooter that show he once looked just like a regular, mild-mannered teenager.
In the year book photos from his years spent at middle school and then Westview High School in San Diego, Calif., the now 24-year-old can be seen smiling warmly at the camera, with friendly eyes and neatly combed hair separated in a center-parting — a look that is a world away from the manic mass shooter who appeared in court on Monday.
As RadarOnline.com previously reported, Holmes is accused of killing 12 movie-goers and wounding 58 during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises at the Century 16 cinema theater in Aurora, Colorado in the early hours of Friday morning.
Now known for his expertise with explosives, Holmes was a PhD student in the highly selective neuroscience program at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Denver up until a month before the attack, however, newspaper clippings from his teenage years show he had a passion for sports.
The quiet kid excelled in athletics in elementary school, and was “picked for flag football first, because he was fast,” revealed one former classmate, according to Business Insider. He went on to play soccer for the school team and ran cross-country track.
Located just a few miles from the two-story white house with a red-tiled roof that James grew up in with his mathematician and computer scientist father, Robert, mother, Arlene, and younger sister, Chris, Westview was ranked the 40th best high school in California by U.S. News & World Report.
Matt Lewis, who graduated from Westview in 2005 and did not know Holmes, described the high school to The Huffington Post as highly competitive and “socially isolating.”
“Westview, at the time, was doing alternative schooling,” Lewis said. “The grades were less forgiving. There were standards — or criteria — for each class that each student was expected to meet. There was a lot of pressure to pass. No one wanted to have to take a class over again.”
The highly competitive and polarizing atmosphere of the school clearly had a lasting affect on Holmes, who is described by those who knew him then and now as a loner. “He had a small group of friends who played video games and were ‘a little nerdy.’ He was really shy, really quiet, but really nice and sweet,” Breana Hath told The New York Times.
Another friend, Ritchie Duong, who went to middle school, high school and UC Riverside with Holmes, reunited with him last December to go for dinner and a movie with a group of former school pals, and said he “didn’t seem to change very much from high school. We knew him as the same guy,” Duong said.
Holmes is currently being held without bond and will hear the formal charges against him next Monday. The County District Attorney is considering whether to seek the death penalty.