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Updated Jul 20, 2012 - 4:58 pm

Understanding the possible mindset of Aurora shooter

The horrific mass shooting at an Aurora, Colorado movie theater has left Americans paralyzed with shock and dismay.

The Director for the Center for the Study of Violence in Washington D.C. Alan Lipman joined 92.3 KTAR's Karie and Chuck Friday to discuss certain indicators that could point to what caused shooting suspect James Holmes to commit this brutal act of random violence.

"In just about every one of these events there are two factors that are true, there is an underlying mental illness that has not been dealt with and there is some kind of triggering event that makes that illness more severe," Lipman said.

Lipman isn't absolving Holmes' behavior due to a potential mental illness, but he does want people to be aware of warning signs so incidents like this can be prevented in the future.

"This does not excuse the event, but we want to understand this because if we don't understand the factors that cause it, we will not prevent it.

"In this case, the age of 24, is the precise age at which a person tends to have what is called their first psychotic break -- it means that they lose touch with reality. It's the beginning of these psychotic illnesses like schizophrenia that cause a person to have very disordered beliefs, wild ideas, hallucinations and voices, preoccupations with things like violence," Lipman said.

Holmes went into the movie theater armed with body armor, tear gas, smoking canisters and explosives. His apartment was also laced with chemicals and devices designed to cause harm. All of these signs point to a very unstable and troubled young man.

"What do we have here with Holmes, we have someone who was in school, for some reason had to leave almost immediately after he had begun, was preoccupied with ideas of violence, had an apartment that was filled with the most horrific forms of violent materials that one could have and then went into a movie theater armed as if he was going to battle," Holmes said.

But after the shooting spree ended, Lipman said Holmes' actions were very telling.

"What does he do at the end of it, after these random shooting that were not targeted, he gave himself up," Lipman said. "Why did he give himself up? Because the delusional fantasy was over. The thing that he had been dreaming of and thinking of was done."

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