Aurora Theater Shooting

Aurora theater shooting: Neighbors of James Holmes forced to leave apartment building

Ben Leung just wants to get a shower. He really wishes he'd made a more appropriate wardrobe selection, especially since he's been standing around all day in the sweltering heat answering the same questions over and over. Then again, when the armed officers roused him at 2:30 a.m. today, he didn't think about grabbing some shorts.

"They pretty much just said, 'Put on some clothes, grab whatever you can," Leung recalls. "And I asked them what was going on, and they said, 'We don't really know, but we know that it's serious. It's going to be on the national news, and we need to get you out of here now, and we need to get you to safety."

Leung was already awake when the pounding on his door started. He'd been awakened by a loud bang outside his window, which sounded like a window air conditioning unit coming unhinged and crashing to the ground, and that was immediately followed by what sounded like a battering ram at the entry way just outside his apartment.

He barely had a minute to gather himself, and he ended up answering the door in his boxers -- greeting officers standing in his doorway with rifles.

Leung put on his pants and got out, but he was hanging around the apartment building across the street today, talking with reporter after reporter. They all wanted to know what everyone wants to know today. Did he know James Holmes, the alleged mass murderer who killed twelve people and injured 58 others at The Dark Knight Rises premiere just a few miles away at the Century 16? If so, what was he like? And above all, did he ever suspect that Holmes could do something as heinous as this?

These are all reasonable questions, considering that Leung lives two floors directly below Holmes in what he presumes is a similar -- if not identical -- apartment. Leung's in apartment two; his neighbors -- the couple who phoned the police this morning with a noise complaint just after midnight -- are above him in six and below Holmes, who lived in ten. After being rudely awakened, Leung and his neighbors were led outside, where the police gave them a pair of options: They were welcome to call friends or family to come retrieve them, or they could set up shop across Peoria in the police gym at Fitzsimons. Leung and several of his neighbors chose the latter.

At their temporary evacuation site, folks started talking -- and before long, they checked their smartphones to see if headlines could shed any light on the situation. What they learned, of course, was that there had just been a grisly shooting a few miles from their homes. "Does this have something to do with that?" they asked. It did, they were informed, and as a matter of fact, did they happen to know the tall white guy with crazy dyed hair living in the corner apartment on the top floor of their building?

Leung hadn't noticed the hair. "I was like, 'Naw, never. I definitely would've noticed had I seen that,'" Leung says. "I'm sure he must've dyed it recently." In fact, he doesn't remember anything particularly significant about Holmes; he'd only seen him a few times when their paths crossed.

Right now, Leung is stationed just behind the staging area in the parking lot of an adjacent apartment complex, peering at the crime scene. A friend lives in this complex, and has been gracious enough to let him hang out at his place. Problem is, his friend's apartment has bed bugs. So Leung's planning to look for another place. This weekend, in fact.

Back at apartment two, all of his stuff is in boxes, with the exception of his TV and bed and a few other important things. Turns out, the Pharm.D student who moved here a year ago from Southern California was planning to move to a new apartment, anyway. But he still feels sorry for the landlord at his current place. "Who's going to want to live there now?" he wonders.

See Also: - Aurora theater shooting prompts volleys from pro-gun, anti-gun forces - Aurora theater shooting: 12 dead, 59 injured, chief won't address Joker rumors - Aurora theater shooting: "We are all just crying"

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Dave Herrera
Contact: Dave Herrera