When he returned to his red-brick apartment building in Aurora, Colo., on Thursday afternoon, Zhang Yi said he bumped right into James Eagan Holmes.
Yi, a 34-year-old visiting scholar of interventional neuroradiology at the University of Colorado Hospital, said that when Yi opened the back door to the building, Holmes walked out carrying two black bags. Yi tried to greet him.
"I said, 'Hey,' and he doesn't answer me," Yi said in a phone interview. "Not friendly."
Yi said he had never seen Holmes before, but watched him put the bags in the back of his car before going inside.
Around 2:00 a.m. Friday, police banged on Yi's second-floor door and told him that he and his seven-year-old son had to evacuate the building right away. Yi didn't get details, he said, but they told him a "bad thing happened" somewhere else. He later learned that Holmes had allegedly walked into an opening-night screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" at a nearby movie theater, set off some smoke bombs, and shot 71 people, resulting in 12 deaths.
Several of Holmes' neighbors said they had never even seen the shooting suspect, a 24-year-old neuroscience doctoral candidate who lived on the third floor of the three-story building on Paris Street.
Ben Leung, a 27-year-old pharmacy student, said only people affiliated with the University of Colorado at Denver are allowed to live in the building. He said he lived on the first floor and described the building as decent, if a bit weathered. "It's kind of in the ghetto," he said.
Leung said he went to bed shortly after midnight, then awoke when police in riot gear knocked on his door and told him the building was being evacuated. "At that time I had no idea what was going on." He said a fellow evacuee told him he knew who Holmes was and had once tried to greet him, but Holmes didn't respond.
Leung didn't know what to make of the fact that he lived in the same building as an alleged mass murderer. "At the moment I guess I'm numb," he said. "I don't really know what to think, really."
Kaitlyn Fonzi said she lives in the apartment directly beneath the one where Holmes lived. She and her boyfriend were trying to go to sleep Thursday when, at midnight, techno music started blaring from upstairs.
“We heard very loud music coming so I walked upstairs and banged on the door,” Fonzi, a 20-year old biology student at the University of Colorado at Denver, said on Friday.
Fonzi said when she banged on the door, it rattled as if it were unlocked. "I contemplated poking my head in and saying, 'Yo, shut that off.'"
Instead, Fonzi said she went back downstairs and called a non-emergency police number. She said the bass-heavy music kept blasting, as if it was just one song on repeat, until it abruptly stopped at 1:00 a.m. She and her boyfriend figured the music had been on a timer.
Fonzi said they went to sleep, but were awoken by police an hour later and told to evacuate. When she learned about the shooting she said she was glad she hadn't poked her head in. Police later said Holmes' apartment had been filled with "various incendiary devices and trip wires."
Fonzi said she and her boyfriend had never had a problem with their upstairs neighbor before. "It was like nobody lived there," she said.