Alleged gunman was ‘bookworm’ but also temperamental, locals say

James Holmes

Aurora resident Jackie Mitchell turned on the television this morning and saw a familiar face staring back at him.

It was a mugshot of a man Mitchell had beers with at the Zephyr Lounge on East Colfax Avenue on Tuesday night. James Holmes, who allegedly gunned down dozens of people in an Aurora movie theater and was a regular at the Zephyr, seemed like just an average guy, Mitchell said.

He had glasses, a backwards cap, and he was carrying a backpack Tuesday, he said.

“Bookworm, smart guy, really intelligent looking guy,” said Mitchell, 45. “The look on the picture that was on TV was the same look you got when you sat across from him. There wasn’t no evil look. I didn’t see it coming. Not that.”

Zephyr owner and manager Myron Melnick said employees at the bar said they’ve never seen Holmes in the bar, including this week.

“It’s just not true,” Melnick said. “Tuesday night was very slow. We definitely would have recognized this person. But I don’t think he’s ever been in here.”

Mitchell, who lives just a few blocks away from Holmes’ house near the intersection of Peoria Street and 17th Avenue, talked about their brief encounter at the local bar. In the background, dozens of firefighters and heavily armed policemen searched Holmes’ house for explosive devices.

Mitchell and Holmes shared a few beers over the course of an hour on the patio of the bar on Tuesday evening. The topic of conversation was Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. There was no talk about the Aurora movie screening of the “Dark Knight Rises,” where he allegedly shot more than 70 people two days later.

“It’s crazy,” Mitchell said. “Look at it from my side. How can you go from drinking a beer with a guy and having a conversation about football on Tuesday night and then Thursday night (he) shoots the whole thing up? That’s crazy.”

Mitchell didn’t feel threatened in any way, but his girlfriend, Rachell Reed, saw a different side of the gunman when she saw him at the bar two weeks ago.

Reed recalled putting a Lil’ Wayne song on the jukebox at the bar, and being chastised for it by Holmes.

“He was talking trash because he liked rock music and country and he made a slightly racial comment about people listening to rap music,” she said.

Her friend said they should leave before the situation escalated, and they did so. She was shocked when she awoke this morning to a photograph of him on the news.

“I think it’s terrible,” she said. “I mean there was kids there, you know? It takes a certain type of person to gun down people. It’s one thing to set up a bomb, but you have to be a certain type of person to shoot somebody, especially kids.”