James Holmes had applied for membership in the Lead Valley shooting range.… (Kim Murphy / Los Angeles…)
DEER TRAIL, Colo. -- When Glenn Rotkovich reviewed the application from an Aurora, Colo., resident to become a member of the shooting range he runs out on the remote prairies east of town, he made a routine telephone call to invite the applicant for a personal orientation.
But what he heard was anything but routine, he said of the June call.
The applicant was James Holmes -- a name that didn't ring any bells, since it was weeks before the theater shooting in Aurora. But the message on Holmes' answering machine unsettled Rotkovich.
"It was this very base, guttural, rambling, incoherent message that was bizarre, at best," Rotkovich said in an interview Sunday. "Freakish, maybe."
The shooting range owner has no idea what the message said; when he tried to duplicate it, it sounded like the vocals from a hard-core death metal band: artfully scary.
Rotkovich did know he probably didn't want Holmes to join the membership at his shooting range, about 20 miles east of Byers, Colo.
"I called him back a second day and a third day, and the third day I'm thinking, 'I'm not impressed with what's going on, no.' I told the staff, if this guy shows up, nothing happens till I meet him. I want to see him."
Holmes, as it happens, didn't call back. The next time Rotkovich heard of him, it was on television: A man by the same name, living at the same address as the one listed on the application, had just shot about 70 people in a movie theater, police said. Twelve of them died.
"My reaction was pretty simple," he said. "Thank you, Lord, that we didn't have to deal with him."
Who they were: Aurora movie theater victims
Guns, ammo in Colorado theater shooting were legal
For Colorado, theater shootings bring back memories of Columbine
Follow Kim on Twitter @kimmurphy. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org