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SAN DIEGO — Those who knew the 24-year-old man in custody for the mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater describe him as a shy, intelligent person who grew up in San Diego with parents who were active in their well-to-do suburban neighborhood.
James Holmes, who was studying neuroscience in a Ph.D. program in Colorado, grew up in San Diego, where his parents still live on a quiet, street of two-story homes with red tile roofs. He played soccer at Westview High School and ran cross country before going to college to study neuroscience.
Neighbors say the family belonged to a Presbyterian church and hosted a Christmas party for residents.
"Our hearts go out to those who were involved in this tragedy and to the families and friends of those involved," Holmes' family said in a written statement today. "We ask that the media respect our privacy during this difficult time."
There have been no indications so far that Holmes had any run-ins with the law before Friday. San Diego Superior Court spokeswoman Karen Dalton said there were no records found under his name, not even for a traffic ticket. Riverside County prosecutors also have no criminal record for him, said John Hall, a spokesman for the district attorney's office.
Police in Colorado said Holmes fired into a crowded movie theater in the Denver suburb of Aurora while wearing a gas mask, killing 12 people and wounding 59 others. He was in police custody in Colorado and the FBI said there was no indication the attack was tied to any terrorist groups.
A furniture mover who lives several blocks from the suspect's apartment building said he shared a beer with him Tuesday at a neighborhood bar where they talked about Denver Bronco Peyton Manning.
Jackie Mitchell, the Aurora neighbor, said he recognized Holmes' photo on television and he described the suspect as smart with a "swagger."
"We just talked about football. He had a backpack and geeky classes and seemed like a real intelligent guy and I figured he was one of the college students," he said.
There was no reference made to a planned shooting, Mitchell said.
Early today, police escorted the suspect's father, a manager of a software company, from their San Diego home. The mother stayed inside the home, receiving family visitors who came to offer support.
San Diego police spokeswoman Lt. Andra Brown, spoke to reporters in the driveway of the Holmes' home, on behalf of the family.
"As you can understand, the Holmes family is very upset about all of this," she said. "It's a tragic event and it's taken everyone by surprise. They are definitely trying to work through this."
Anthony Mai, a 16-year-old who grew up next door to Holmes, described the suspect as "solitary" person who largely kept to himself but his behavior was nothing out of the ordinary.
"He felt a little bit concealed, but it wasn't too much. It was alright" he said. "This is just a feeling in my gut, but I felt like he had something, like he was being picked on or something."
His father, Tom Mai, a retired electrical engineer, said Holmes was quiet.
"I said hello to him once in a while. He seemed to be a shy guy," he told reporters.
He said the Holmes have lived at the San Diego home about 10 years and they were a "very, very nice family." Holmes mother is a nurse. The suspect also has a younger sister.
Mai said the mother told him the suspect couldn't find a job after earning a master's degree from a University of California school and so went back for another degree.
Holmes graduated from University of California, Riverside, in the spring of 2010 with a bachelor of science degree in neuroscience, said university spokesman Sean Nealon. No other details were immediately available about his life on campus, Nealon said.
In 2011, Holmes enrolled in the Ph.D. neuroscience program at the University of Colorado-Denver but was in the process of withdrawing, said spokeswoman Jacque Montgomery. University officials earlier said he was a student at the university's medical school.