Local psychiatrist talks about Colorado massacre suspect; were there warning signs?

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PHOENIX -- People all over the country are asking a single question in the wake of the Colorado movie-theater massacre that left at least 12 people dead and dozens more wounded. Why?

Police arrested a suspect, now identified as medical-school dropout James Holmes, not long after he allegedly opened fire inside a packed theater where people were watching "The Dark Knight Rises," the final installment of director Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy.

Scottsdale psychiatrist Dr. Michael Yasinski, who recently opened a concierge-model practice, sat down with Kaley O'Kelley just hours after the mass shooting to discuss the suspect and what might have been going on in his head.

"I think there's enough evidence here, and I've heard comment from law enforcement, that this is not consistent with any act of terrorism," Yasinski said. "The way it was carried out, well-planned, was not consistent with someone that is performing an act of terrorism. I don't want people to be frightened."

While not a lot is known about Holmes at this point, there are details about his actions in the last year or so that Yasinski said could be significant.

Yasinski mentioned Holmes' recent decision to drop out of medical school. He also said Homes seemed to isolate himself quite a bit.

"He lived in the back of an apartment complex where none of his neighbors seemed to recognize him," Yasinski said. "This social isolation is usually what leads up to what we call a first break psychotic illness."

With men, it often happens in the early 20s. Holmes is 24.

"They can become delusional, paranoid and have things like auditory hallucinations commanding them to do something pretty crazy that doesn't make sense to use, but in their mind -- they're out of touch with reality -- ... it makes sense. This is one of those situations that none of us understand, but in his mind, he probably had a goal. He had a sense of accomplishment and that's why he presented out in a calm fashion to police."

When police went to Holmes' home, they found it booby trapped.

"The booby traps in the house really speak to the level of paranoia that you just don't see in someone who is just a violent person otherwise ...."

 Yasinski said it's not uncommon for a high-functioning person with no history of mental illness to experience a psychotic break. Those people usually end up in a hospital or other care facility.

"Much more rare is for someone to do anything of this nature, violence-wise, but it's not unheard of."

Yasinski went on to list some of the warning signs that a potential psychiatric or psychotic issue could be on the horizon.

  • Cuts off contact with family, friends; drops off the radar
  • Isolation
  • Radical changes in personality
  • Impaired functioning
  • Paranoia
  • Distorted view of objective reality

"That isolation occurs in almost all of these cases," Yasinski said. "Not that this is clearly preventable, but with close watch of friends and family, it definitely can be picked up that there might be something going on."

Holmes' mother, who lives in San Diego, might have have had such suspicions about her son. When an ABC reporter contacted her at her home about the shooting, the woman reportedly said, "You have the right person. I need to call the police ... I need to fly out to Colorado."