Investigators have been following the trail of Colorado shooting suspect James Holmes, 24, into the mountains north of Denver this week, searching for witnesses who might have seen Holmes in the weeks before last week's massacre at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater.
The shooting killed 12 people and wounded 58; investigators are particularly interested in those who may have seen the suspect with some of the firearms used in the attack.
In Hot Sulphur Springs, a town of 500 about 95 miles northwest of Denver, investigators stopped by a local gun shop and hotel.
Clark Branstetter, owner of C&M Guns, told the Los Angeles Times that he spoke with local sheriff’s deputies last Friday, followed by FBI and ATF agents who stopped by his shop Monday and Tuesday.
“I just had all the agencies up here asking the same questions — did I see the gentleman,” he said of Holmes.
Branstetter said federal agents showed him a photo of Holmes with black hair.
“For some reason they suspect he was through here in June a few times,” Branstetter said.
But he said another federal agent asked him if he remembered a man of Holmes’ description with red hair stopping by in June at his store.
“The ATF agent seems to think in June he even had the red hair,” he said.
Branstetter said he did not remember seeing Holmes, or anyone fitting his description with either hair color, and had no record of him visiting the shop.
“I have not seen him, but we’ve got a little range up here and it’s a free range,” open to public, he said.
The shooting range, called Byers Canyon Rifle Range and operated by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, is about three miles outside town in a remote area, he said. A parks and wildlife spokesman did not immediately return calls Friday.
Earlier this week, the owner of a shooting range about 130 miles east in Byers, Colo., told The Times that Holmes had applied to join the range but that when he called Holmes about an orientation, he was disturbed by the 24 year-old doctoral student’s answering machine message. The owner, Glenn Rotkovich, described the message as “guttural, rambling, incoherent.”
Holmes never called back or showed up for orientation, Rotkovich said.
On Friday, the manager of the 14-room Canyon Motel in Hot Sulphur Springs told The Times he too spoke this week with investigators about Holmes.
Angus Simpson said he talked with FBI agents searching for records of Holmes visiting the area.
“We looked through the database to see if the name was in the database, which it was not,” Simpson told The Times. “They are going to contact me with a list of known associates to see if he had come up here with a friend to the shooting range who might have booked the room.”
Simpson, who has worked at the motel for two years, said he told investigators he did not remember seeing Holmes.
“We’re a small mountain community and somebody with orange hair would stick out,” he said. “Other than in hunting season.”
Colorado shooting: Police groups call for tougher gun laws
Northeast storms cause lightning strike to steeple, killing man
Testimony: Pvt. Danny Chen said slurs made him consider suicide
Join Molly on Google+ and Twitter @mollyhf. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org