Connect to share and comment

UPDATE 5-Horror of Colorado theater massacre recalled at hearing

Thomson ReutersEnlarge
(/GlobalPost)

* Former student charged with killing 12 during Batman film

* Prosecutors outline evidence against accused gunman

* Police describe nightmarish crime scene

(Adds testimony about date of movie ticket purchase in seventh
paragraph)

By Keith Coffman

CENTENNIAL, Colo. Jan 7 (Reuters) - The former graduate
student accused of shooting a dozen people to death at a
Colorado movie theater last summer sat impassively in court on
Monday as police recounted the nightmarish mix of blood, tear
gas, screams and flashing strobe lights they found in the
darkened cinema.

Outside the crowded theater, police confronted the accused
gunman, James Holmes, wearing a helmet, gas mask and head-to-toe
body armor, the officers testified. He surrendered without a
struggle, they said, and apart from smirking when asked whether
he had acted alone, Holmes seemed "detached" from the mayhem
around him.

Testimony from the first officers to reach the chaotic crime
scene opened a hearing in which prosecutors set out to convince
a judge that they have enough evidence to put Holmes on trial
for one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history.

The onetime University of Colorado doctoral student of
neuroscience is charged with multiple counts of first-degree
murder and attempted murder stemming from a shooting rampage
that left 12 dead and 58 wounded at a midnight screening of the
Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises."

The so-called preliminary hearing is expected to last a week
and offer the public its first detailed look into the
investigation of the July 20 carnage in Aurora, a Denver suburb.

It also will give Holmes' lawyers an opportunity to call
witnesses to testify about his mental state. They are expected
to mount an insanity defense if the case goes to trial.

In one piece of evidence suggesting considerable advance
planning for the attack, police detective Matthew Ingui
displayed security-camera footage of Holmes in the theater lobby
before the shooting as he scanned a movie ticket the
investigator said Holmes had purchased 12 days earlier.

Shackled and wearing a crimson jumpsuit, a bearded Holmes
sat expressionless at the defense table. Dark brown hair has
replaced the dyed bright red hair the California native had when
he was arrested.

'TRAIL OF BLOOD'

Aurora Police Officer Jason Oviatt opened the testimony by
recounting that he saw "a trail of blood that led to the
theater" as he approached Holmes in the rear parking lot,
initially mistaking the suspect for a fellow policeman.

Holmes "immediately put his hands up" when ordered to
freeze, and he was handcuffed and taken into custody without
resistance, Oviatt said.

Officer Justin Grizzle testified that Holmes kept silent
after his arrest, even when asked if he had accomplices. "He
didn't respond verbally. He looked at me and smiled," Grizzle
recalled. "It was a smirk."

Authorities have concluded that Holmes acted alone.

As terrified moviegoers fled the theater, Oviatt said that
Holmes appeared to be "very detached from it all."

Officers who rushed into the theater from the parking lot
said they found dozens of people sprawled around the auditorium,
some trying to crawl to exits over a floor slick with blood. The
air was heavy with tear gas the assailant had released inside
the theater.

Police described the macabre scene they encountered as the
film projection continued while people moaned and cried for
help, cell phones rang, and strobe lights from the auditorium's
fire alarm system flashed.

Officer Grizzle choked back tears as he testified about how
he tried to attend to the wounded before paramedics arrived,
saying, "I didn't want anyone else to die."

In desperation, he and other police started transporting
some of the wounded to hospitals in their patrol cars. Grizzle
said he "could hear blood sloshing in the back of my car" after
making four such trips.

The Aurora shooting ranked as the bloodiest instance of U.S.
gun violence in 2012 until last month's massacre of 20 children
and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

SANITY ISSUES

Few details about the crime and its immediate aftermath had
been divulged by authorities before Monday.

Most of the evidence against Holmes has been sealed, and
Arapahoe County District Judge William Sylvester has issued a
gag order preventing all parties, including law enforcement,
from discussing the case outside court.

Once the preliminary hearing ends, Sylvester will decide if
there is sufficient cause for the case to proceed. If a trial is
ordered, prosecutors would have 60 days from the time Holmes
enters a plea to decide whether to seek the death penalty in the
event he is convicted.

Legal analysts assume that Holmes will ultimately plead not
guilty by reason of insanity, based on statements from his
defense attorneys and court filings.

Public defender Daniel King has said that his client suffers
from an unspecified mental illness. King has subpoenaed two
witnesses for this week's hearing to testify about Holmes' state
of mind before the massacre, according to court documents.

Authorities have said that Holmes bought a ticket to the
Batman film, and that he left the theater minutes into the movie
and propped open a rear exit door to allow himself a way back
inside.

He then donned protective gear, armed himself with a
shotgun, semiautomatic rifle and handgun, then returned to the
auditorium moments later to spray moviegoers with gunfire,
authorities said.

Officer Aaron Blue testified that just after Holmes
surrendered, he blurted out that he had booby-trapped the house
in which he lived with what Holmes called "improvised explosive
devices." Bomb squad technicians disarmed homemade bombs without
detonating any of them.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Additional reporting by Laura Beth
Coffman; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by John Wallace, Grant
McCool, Kenneth Barry and Lisa Shumaker)

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130108/update-5-horror-colorado-theater-massacre-recalled-at-hearing