James Eagan Holmes, right, goofing around with an unidentified fellow counselor at Camp Max Straus in summer 2008, near Glendale, Calif.
James Eagan Holmes, the suspect in the mass killing in Aurora, Colo., was a counselor in the summer of 2008 at a residential camp for underprivileged children near Glendale, Calif.
Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles confirmed that Holmes was a cabin counselor, responsible for 10 children at its Camp Max Straus for children ages 7 to 14 from Los Angeles. Holmes was then a 20-year-old student at the University of California, Riverside, and neighbors have said he was active in the Presbyterian church that the family attended. The camp is nonsectarian.
A statement from the group said, "His role was to insure that these children had a wonderful camp experience by helping them learn confidence, self esteem and how to work in small teams to effect positive outcomes. These skills are learned through activities such as archery, horseback riding, swimming, art, sports and high ropes course."
A fellow counselor told NBC News that Holmes seemed shy.
"The entire staff was really close, considering we lived together, except for James," said the counselor, who asked that she not be named. "He really kept to himself and hardly ever went on any trips with the rest of the staff. He was very shy and reserved."
Photos of the staff show Holmes goofing around with other counselors.
"It is sickening," the fellow counselor said, "knowing that he killed kids the same age that he once cared for." The youngest of those who died in Friday morning's shooting is Veronica Moser-Sullivan, 6. Holmes, who has not been charged with a crime, is scheduled to have his first court appearance on Monday and is expected to face 12 counts of homicide and many counts of attempted homicide.
The CEO of Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles, Randy Schwab, told NBC4 Los Angeles that Holmes had no disciplinary problems. "It is with shock and sorrow that we learned of the incident in Aurora," Schwab said. "Our hearts and prayers go out to all the families and friends of those involved in this horrible tragedy."
For more on what's known about James Holmes, read our earlier story, Suspect was buying guns, dropping out of neuroscience program.
More reading: Last year, after the shootings of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others in Tucson, we explored the question, is there a "type of person" who carries out such an attack? A study by the U.S. Secret Service sheds some light, and you may be surprised at the answers. Read that earlier story here: Few assassins fit the 'profile.' Most had no mental health treatment, made no threats.
Do you know James Holmes? If you have information, send an email to Bill Dedman of NBC News.
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First published July 21 2012, 1:25 PM