The Lookout

Colorado shooting suspect’s neighbor was going to movie but bailed


Click image to see more photos (Barry Gutierrez/AP)

AURORA, Colo.--Leilannah White woke Friday morning thankful her last-minute plans fell through.

Hours earlier, the 22-year-old Aurora resident and her husband planned to catch the midnight premiere of newest Batman movie at the Century 16 theater at the Aurora Town Center. But they couldn't find someone to watch their children on short notice.

"We were getting ready to go, but we couldn't find a babysitter," White told Yahoo News Friday morning. "If we went to the theater, we might be dead. I even got mad at my husband that we couldn't find a babysitter. But I thank God that we're here today to give my daughters hugs and kisses."

The shock of having narrowly avoided the mass shooting that claimed 12 lives and left 59 people injured was compounded this morning, when White discovered the suspect lived on her block.

She woke at 6:30 a.m. to find portions of her street--the 1600 and 1700 north blocks of Paris Street--cordoned off by crime scene tape, police cruisers, and fire trucks. Some of her neighbors had been evacuated; so far, her building had not been. White's home is cattycorner to the apartment building where Aurora authorities say the suspect in the shootings, 24-year-old James Holmes, lives.

[COMPLETE COVERAGE: Colorado theater shooting]

"I do not feel safe, to be honest," White, whose daughters are 2 years old and 3 months old, said. "That's scary to wake up to something like this."

White, along with about 20 neighbors, watched Friday morning as Aurora firefighters smashed open a third-story window in the apartment building at 1690 N. Paris St.

Few neighbors say they knew Holmes, who attended a Ph.D program in neurological sciences at the University of Colorado's medical campus, just a few blocks away.

"I didn't know him, couldn't even tell you if I saw him," said Antoinette Marshall, a neighbor who had attended a small party at the suspect's apartment building the evening of the shooting.

But Tayvon Lewis, who lives across the street from White, said he had seen Holmes on occasion.

"He was a quiet dude," Lewis said. "I have seen him early in the morning with his backpack on like he was going to school or work." Lewis said he usually saw Holmes about three times a week, but only saw him once in the last month.

Lewis described the immediate neighborhood as an "active block." He said Friday's scene--with neighbors milling about, visiting with each other on front steps--is a normal day. That everyone is always out in the open worries him in the wake of the public shooting: "It's a shame. I feel scared."

Another next-door neighbor, Hannah, 30, who didn't want to give her last name, said she saw police cars when she left for work at 3:30 a.m. She didn't think twice about it. "There were police in the parking lot, but no crime scene tape. I heard about it on the radio going to work. I didn't connect the two. They had a K9 unit out, but I was able to walk through (an empty lot next to the building)."

"The neighborhood's OK. It's not the best," she said. "I would suspect something more like a drug shooting [here]. If you look at Virginia Tech and Columbine, you don't expect it to happen next to you. But the scary thing is it could."

Added Phil, 46, a neighbor who didn't want to give his last name: "If it didn't happen here, it would have happened somewhere else. You never know what your neighbors do but what they show you."

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