Aurora, Colorado: As families and friends of the victims of today's tragic shootings gather to mourn for the departed, a storm of suspicion is gathering over the institution some say is at the heart of the nation's recent epidemic of mass homicides, the American medical school.
In the early hours of confusion surrounding the attacks at a screening of "The Dark Night Rises" at an Aurora movie theater, some media outlets and politicians erroneously tied the shootings to the Tea Party movement, the Democratic Party, violent videogames, and enemies of Judeo-Christianity. But as details on the shooter emerge, a clearer picture is coming into focus. The sole suspect in the shootings, James Holmes, was a recent drop-out from the University of Colorado medical school.
Experts caution that it is too early to say that the suspect's medical education led him down a path ending in mass murder, but many are reminded of Dr. Nidal Hassan, who is presently awaiting trial for his role in the Fort Hood shootings of November 2009, and who, like James Holmes, attended medical school.
"I don't want to speculate on whether attending medical school inspired the Batman killer's rampage," said Professor Lewis Deery of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in an interview on MSNBC, "but the similarities are eerie. Here you have one graduate of a medical school opening fire, with no apparent motive, on innocent people on an Army base, and here you have another man who attended medical school opening fire, with no apparent motive, on innocent people at a midnight movie. Am I saying that these men were trained to kill when they attended medical school? No, but that possibility can't be discounted based on the limited information we have at this time."
In a roundtable discussion on the Fox News Channel's Fox and Friends, Ariel Spain of the Columbia School of Journalism's Tragedy Studies Department echoed Professor Deery's caution concerning the Dark Knight shooter's medical background. "It would be irresponsible, and reckless, to claim that James Holmes was programmed to become an unthinking assassin at the Colorado medical school simply because of the countless cases in which medical school graduates have gone on murder sprees, but many are asking themselves, right now, about the similarities between the Aurora shootings and the case of Dr. Jeffrey McDonald, who murdered his entire family in the 1970s. In both cases, I'll note, the murderer attended a highly regarded medical school.
Following a moment of silence for the fallen in the United States House of Representatives, House majority leader Eric Cantor promised a grieving nation that its Congress would conduct a full investigation into the causes of the Aurora shootings. "It's far too early to say whether the nefarious crimes of the infamous assassin James Eagan Holmes were the work of insidious medical professors, transforming our nation's best and brightest into psychopathic killing machines. But," Cantor informed the House, "the American people have a right to know."
Across the capital, Attorney General Eric Holder convened a news conference on the killings, promising federal aid to Colorado authorities in conducting full, fair, and impartial investigation into the tragedy. "I cannot comment on specifics of the case at this time, and it would be imprudent for me to speculate on who may be responsible for these horrific crimes at the outset of an investigation, but let me assure the grieving people of Aurora that the Department of Justice will hold all those who aided and abetted this tragedy responsible, from the lowest professor to the Dean of the medical college himself."
Historians of past calamities reiterated the Attorney General's warning against pre-judging the case. On C-Span's Books in Review, Dr. Thomas Waltham of the American University's Department of European History warned against a "witch hunt" in connection with the Aurora case. "Time and again, we historians see cases in which the people are led, by politicians, the media, and religious leaders into demonizing some despised minority for the actions of one. That only compounds the tragedy. It would be reckless to tie the Batman shootings into some historical framework of past atrocities by medical school graduates, such as the infamous "Doctor's Plot" in the Soviet Union, where prosecutors showed that a sinister cabal of people who, just like Nidal Hassan and the Batman killer, attended medical school had committed an unspeakably vile series of murders aimed at destabilizing and overthrowing the government."
Representatives of the American Association of Medical Colleges, which represents medical schools including the Colorado institution where James Eagan Holmes was allegedly trained, were contacted for comment, but did not return telephone calls before this story went to press.