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James Eagan HOLMES






Aurora theater shooting
Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Mass shooting at a Century movie theater
Number of victims: 12
Date of murders: July 20, 2012
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: December 13, 1987
Victims profile: Jonathan Blunk, 24 / Alexander J. Boik, 18 / Jesse Childress, 29 / Gordon Cowden, 51 / Jessica Ghawi, 24 / John Larimer, 27 / Matt McQuinn, 27 / Micayla Medek, 23 / Veronica Moser-Sullivan, 6 / Alex Sullivan, 27 / Alexander C. Teves, 24 / Rebecca Wingo, 32
Method of murder: Shooting (multiple firearms)
Location: Aurora, Colorado, USA
Status: On June 4, 2013, the presiding judge accepted his plea of insanity defense. On August 5, 2013, Holmes was transferred to the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo, Colorado. It is not known how long he will remain there

photo gallery 1

photo gallery 2


the victims


Complaint and Information (1.6 Mb)


Preliminary/Proof Evidence Hearing (3.2 Mb)


James Eagan Holmes (born December 13, 1987) is the admitted perpetrator of a mass shooting that killed 12 people at a Century movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, on July 20, 2012. He had no known criminal record prior to the shooting.

Holmes was hospitalized after attempting suicide several times while in jail in November 2012. He is currently held without bail and has entered a plea of not guilty on March 12, 2013. His attorneys had been expected to enter a plea of diminished capacity (which differs from an insanity plea), but they told the presiding judge in the preliminary hearing that they were not ready to decide on such a step yet, and needed more time to peruse and review the massive documentation on the case. Colorado State District Court Judge William B. Sylvester, who was the trial judge overseeing the preliminaries, also was concerned about moving too fast in proceeding to the arraignment, which could produce further issues supporting an eventual appeal.

On March 12, 2013, a Colorado judge entered a plea of not guilty when Holmes' attorney claimed that his client was not prepared to enter a plea. On March 27, 2013, Holmes's attorneys said he would plead guilty to avoid the death penalty, but the following day prosecutors said they are not ready to accept the offer. On the following Monday, prosecutors said they would seek the death penalty. He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity on June 4, 2013, which the judge accepted. The trial is scheduled for February 3, 2014.

Personal life

James Eagan Holmes was born on December 13, 1987 in San Diego, California. His father is a mathematician and scientist with degrees from Stanford University, UCLA and UC Berkeley and his mother is a registered nurse. He has one sister. Holmes was raised in Castroville, California, where he attended elementary school, and San Diego. Holmes played soccer and ran cross-country in high school. He attended a local Lutheran church with his family, according to the church's pastor.

In Aurora, Holmes lived on Paris Street in a one-bedroom apartment, in a building with other students involved in health studies. In a rental application for another apartment he applied for, he described himself as "quiet and easygoing". He left some digital footprints, like a university email address, an old MySpace photo, a dating profile on, and a profile on Adult FriendFinder, as well as a resume at the employment website According to a few sources, Holmes may have hired prostitutes and left reviews of them on an online message board.

Education and career

In 2006, Holmes worked as an intern at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies where he was assigned to write computer code for an experiment. Holmes, who was described by his supervisor as stubborn, uncommunicative and socially inept, presented his project to the other interns at the end of the internship, but never actually completed it.

Holmes wrote of his experiences at the Salk Institute in a college application essay: "I had little experience in computer programming and the work was challenging to say the least. Nonetheless, I taught myself how to program in Flash and then construct a cross-temporal calibration model.... Completing the project and presenting my model at the end of the internship was exhilarating."

Graduating from Westview High School in the Torrey Highlands community of San Diego in 2006, Holmes attended the University of California, Riverside (UCR) and, in 2010, received his undergraduate degree in neuroscience with the highest honors. He was a member of several honor societies, including Phi Beta Kappa and Golden Key. According to UCR recommendation letters submitted to the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign (UIUC), Holmes graduated in the top 1% of his class with a 3.949 GPA. The UCR letters also described Holmes as "a very effective group leader’’ and a person who "takes an active role in his education, and brings a great amount of intellectual and emotional maturity into the classroom".

In 2008, Holmes worked as a counselor at a residential summer camp in Glendale, California, that catered to needy children aged 7–14. There he was responsible for 10 children and had no disciplinary problems.

In June 2011, Holmes enrolled as a Ph.D. student in neuroscience at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora.[35] He received a $21,600 grant from the National Institutes of Health, according to agency records, which was disbursed in installments from July 2011 to June 2012. Holmes also received a $5,000 stipend from the University of Colorado, Denver. Though Holmes received a letter of acceptance to UIUC, where he was offered a $22,600 stipend and free tuition, he declined their offer without specifying a reason. Reviewers of Holmes' application at UIUC remembered his application because he submitted a picture of himself with a llama.

In 2012, his academic performance declined, and he scored poorly on the comprehensive exam in the spring. The university was not planning to expel him. However, Holmes was in the process of withdrawing from the university. Three days after failing a key oral exam at the university in early June 2012, Holmes dropped out of his studies without further explanation. At the time of his arrest, he gave his occupation as "laborer."

Aurora theater shooting

Events leading to the shooting

Holmes' defense attorneys claimed in a motion he was a "psychiatric patient" of the medical director of Anschutz's Student Mental Health Services prior to the Aurora shooting; however, the prosecution disagrees with that claim. Four days after the release of the defense attorney's motion, the judge required this information to be blacked out. CBS News later reported that Holmes met with at least three mental health professionals at the University of Colorado prior to the massacre.

One of Holmes psychiatrists suspected prior to the shooting that Holmes suffered from mental illness and could be dangerous. A month before the shooting, Dr. Lynne Fenton reported to the campus police that he had made homicidal statements which indicated he was a threat to the public. Despite the fact that she was seeing him as a patient, she decided not to hospitalize him for saying he wanted to kill people. Her reasoning is unknown. Other acquaintances also feared Holmes was violent. Two weeks prior to the shooting, he sent a text message asking a graduate student if they had heard of the disorder dysphoric mania, and warning the student to stay away from him "because I am bad news."

It was reported that Holmes was a big fan of superheroes, including Batman, and that his apartment was decorated with Batman paraphernalia. "Diggity" Dave Aragon, an actor from MTV television series Pimp My Ride, stated that James Holmes called him twice the month prior to the shooting. Aragon is the writer, director, and star of an upcoming film entitled The Suffocator of Sins, which has a plot that involves a vigilante who shoots criminals, and Aragon claimed that Holmes showed interest in his movie's trailer.

Actions prior to shooting

On May 22, 2012, Holmes purchased a Glock 22 pistol at a Gander Mountain shop in Aurora, and six days later bought a Remington Model 870 shotgun at a Bass Pro Shops in Denver. On June 7, just hours after failing his oral exam at the university, he purchased a Smith & Wesson M&P15 semi-automatic rifle, with a second Glock 22 pistol following on July 6. All the weapons were bought legally.

In the four months prior to the shooting, Holmes also bought 3000 rounds of ammunition for the pistols, 3000 rounds for the M&P15, and 350 shells for the shotgun over the Internet. On July 2, he placed an order for a Blackhawk Urban Assault Vest, two magazine holders and a knife at an online retailer.

On June 25, less than a month before the shooting, Holmes emailed an application to join a gun club in Byers, Colorado. The owner, Glenn Rotkovich, called him several times throughout the following days to invite him to a mandatory orientation, but could only reach his answering machine. Due to the nature of Holmes' voice mail, which he described as "bizarre, freaky", "guttural, spoken with a deep voice, incoherent and rambling," Rotkovich instructed his staff to inform him if Holmes showed up, though Holmes neither appeared at the gun range nor called back. "In hindsight, looking back – and if I'd seen the movies – maybe I'd say it was like the Joker – I would have gotten the Joker out of it... It was like somebody was trying to be as weird as possible," Rotkovich said.

Shooting and arrest

On July 20, 2012, police arrested an unresisting Holmes next to his car behind the Century 16 theater, moments after the 2012 Aurora shooting, in which Holmes allegedly set off several gas or smoke canisters and then opened fire on the theater audience, killing 12 and wounding 70. The responding officers recovered several guns from inside the car and the theater. According to two federal authorities, Holmes had dyed his hair orange and had called himself "The Joker". Although it should also be noted, that Holmes calling himself "The Joker", was later retracted to news sources such as "Face The Nation," on the CBS News network, by police.

Once apprehended, Holmes told the police that he had booby-trapped his apartment with explosive devices before heading to the theater. Police later confirmed the presence of explosives in the apartment.

Detention and court appearance

Holmes was initially jailed at Arapahoe Detention Center, under suicide watch. He is being held in solitary confinement to protect him from other inmates, a routine precaution for high-profile cases.

Holmes made his first court appearance in Centennial, Colorado on July 23, before Judge William B. Sylvester. He was read his rights and no bond was given. A mandatory protection order was issued by the judge. The judge appointed a public defender. Holmes said nothing and never looked at the judge. His appearance, which was described as "dazed" and "confused" fueled speculation about his mental state.

On July 30, Colorado prosecutors filed formal charges against Holmes that included 24 counts of first degree murder, 116 counts of attempted murder, possession of explosive devices, and inciting violence. The multiple charges expand the opportunities for prosecutors to obtain convictions. For each person killed in the shooting, Holmes is charged with one count of murder with deliberation and one count of murder with extreme indifference. Holmes agreed in court to waive his right to a preliminary hearing within 35 days.

On August 9, Holmes's attorneys said their client is mentally ill and that they need more time to assess the nature of his illness. The disclosure was made at a court hearing in Centennial where news media organizations were asking a judge to unseal court documents in the case.

On September 19, the prosecution filed a motion to add 10 new charges against Holmes and asked to amend 17 others. The additional charges would bring the total counts Holmes faces to 152. Holmes appeared in the Arapahoe County Court house the following day for the first time without his dyed-red hair, but with cropped hair revealing his natural brown color.

On September 28, court documents released by prosecutors say Holmes was revoked access to the University of Colorado campus because he threatened a professor. The university has said Holmes was denied access to non-public parts of the campus because he had withdrawn from school.

On October 11, 2012, Holmes's attorneys asked Judge William Sylvester to postpone a preliminary hearing scheduled for November. On October 25, the preliminary hearing was set for the week of January 7.

Holmes' lawyers filed an emergency motion on November 14, 2012 to delay a pre-trial hearing, citing an unspecified condition that has left him unable to appear in court. "As a result of developments over the past 24 hours, Mr. Holmes is in a condition that renders him unable to be present in court for tomorrow's hearing," They requested to delay the hearing, which they received. It was rescheduled for December. Evidently, Holmes made various suicide attempts referred to as "half-hearted" in days before the scheduled hearing on November 15.

Holmes returned to court on January 7, 2013 at which 9-1-1 phone call recordings and videos from the cineplex were presented as evidence, information that up until then had not been released. Holmes' defense team maintained that he is mentally ill. On that same day, it is reported that investigators seized four prescription bottles and immunization records from his apartment when it was searched in July 2012. It was not revealed what the prescriptions were or what they were for. The judge ultimately ruled in October that prosecutors could keep the items.

On January 10, 2013 a judge ruled that evidence is sufficient for Holmes to face trial on all counts with which he has been charged. His plea hearing was delayed until March 2013.

On March 27, 2013, Holmes's attorneys said he would be willing to plead guilty to avoid the death penalty. On March 28, prosecutors said they are not ready to accept Holmes's offer to plead guilty and avoid the death penalty and also criticized the offer as a ploy.

On April 1, 2013, prosecutors announced they will seek the death penalty in a trial to start in February 2014. On May 7, 2013, Holmes's attorneys filed their intent for him to plead not guilty by reason of insanity. He will make this change in his plea on May 31.

On May 23, 2013, Holmes's attorneys called the state's insanity-plea rules unconstitutional. The judge has answered those constitutional questions on May 29, 2013. On May 29, 2013, the judge ruled about the constitutionality of the laws for insanity-plea questioned by Holmes's attorneys, concluding that the laws are not in violation of the Constitution. On June 4, 2013, the presiding judge accepted his plea of insanity defense.

On August 5, 2013, Holmes was transferred to the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo, Colorado. It is not known how long he will remain there.


Judge allows plea of not guilty by insanity for James Holmes

By Jenny Deam and Michael Muskal - Los Angeles Times

June 4, 2013

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- James E. Holmes, charged with multiple murder counts in the shooting spree at an Aurora, Colo. movie theater, was allowed on Tuesday to change his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity.

Judge Carlos Samour Jr. of the state’s 18th Judicial District accepted the plea at a hearing. A not guilty plea had originally been entered in the case.

When Samour asked if he had any questions, Holmes replied no. Samour then accepted the plea.

“I find Mr. Holmes understands the effects and consequences of the not guilty by reason of insanity plea,” the judge said. “He was looking at the advisement and appeared to be following along.”

The morning action by Samour starts the clock on a series of court-ordered psychological tests to determine Holmes’ mental state at the time of last summer’s massacre inside a packed movie theater. Hundreds of people were there for the midnight showing of the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises.”

Holmes, 25, is charged with 116 counts of first-degree murder, attempted murder and weapons charges in the July 20 rampage that killed 12 people and injured 70 more.

The charges could carry the death penalty, but that will depend on decisions concerning the state of his mental health. The doctors who will examine Holmes could conclude that the former neuroscience doctoral student at the University of Colorado-Denver was insane or had a mental defect that made him unable to distinguish right from wrong at the time of the shooting.

The mental evaluation is expected to take months. Holmes will be evaluated by doctors from the state hospital in Pueblo.

Holmes' lawyers repeatedly have said he is mentally ill, but they delayed the insanity plea while arguing state laws were unconstitutional. They said the laws could hobble the defense if Holmes' case should ever reach the phase where the jury decides if he should be executed.

The judge rejected that argument last week.

Still ahead are likely years of legal proceedings.

If jurors find Holmes not guilty by reason of insanity, he would be committed indefinitely to the state mental hospital. He could eventually be released if doctors found his sanity had been restored, but that is considered rare.

If jurors convict him, a penalty phase would follow. Both the defense and prosecution could call witnesses to testify about factors that could affect why Holmes should or shouldn't be executed. The jury would then decide whether Holmes should be executed or sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.

If jurors impose the death penalty, it would trigger court appeals and open other possibilities that would take years to resolve.

In March, Chief District Judge William Sylvester entered a traditional not guilty plea on Holmes’ behalf after the defense said it was not prepared to advise Holmes on how to plea. The defense argued it could not proceed without knowing whether the district attorney would seek the death penalty.

Three weeks later, on April 1, Dist. Atty. George Brauchler announced that “justice is death” for Holmes.

Court documents show the defense had previously offered to have Holmes plead guilty and serve life in prison without the possibility of parole if the district attorney took the death penalty off the table.

Sylvester told the defense it could change the plea to not guilty by reason of insanity but would have to show why the change was warranted. Samour took over the case from Sylvester in April.


2012 Aurora shooting

On July 20, 2012, a mass shooting occurred inside of a Century movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, during a midnight screening of the film The Dark Knight Rises. A gunman, dressed in tactical clothing, set off tear gas grenades and shot into the audience with multiple firearms, killing 12 people and injuring 70 others. The sole suspect, James Eagan Holmes, was arrested outside the cinema minutes later.


The shooting occurred in theater 9 at the Century 16 multiplex (operated by Cinemark), located at the Town Center at Aurora shopping mall at 14300 E. Alameda Avenue. Police said the shooter bought a ticket, entered the theater, and sat in the front row; about 20 minutes into the film, he left the building through an emergency exit door, which he propped open.

It was alleged that he then went to his car, which was parked near the exit door, changed into protective clothing, and retrieved his guns. About 30 minutes into the film, police say, around 12:30 am, he reentered the theater through the exit door. He was dressed in black and wore a gas mask, a load-bearing vest (not to be confused with a bulletproof vest), a ballistic helmet, bullet-resistant leggings, a bullet-resistant throat protector, a groin protector and tactical gloves. Initially, few in the audience considered the masked figure a threat. He appeared to be wearing a costume, like other audience members who had dressed up for the screening. Some believed that the gunman was playing a prank, while others thought that he was part of a special effects installation set up for the film's premiere as a publicity stunt by the studio or theater management.

It was also said that the gunman threw two canisters emitting a gas or smoke, partially obscuring the audience members' vision, making their throats and skin itch, and causing eye irritation. He then fired a 12-gauge Remington 870 Express Tactical shotgun, first at the ceiling and then at the audience. He also fired a Smith & Wesson M&P15 semi-automatic rifle with a 100-round drum magazine, which malfunctioned after reportedly firing about 45 rounds. Finally, he fired a Glock 22 40-caliber handgun. He shot first to the back of the room, and then toward people in the aisles. A bullet passed through the wall and hit three people in the adjacent theater 8, which was screening the same film.

Witnesses said the multiplex's fire alarm system began sounding soon after the attack began and staff told people in theater 8 to evacuate. One witness said that she was hesitant to leave because someone yelled that there was someone shooting in the lobby and that they should not leave.

The first phone calls to emergency services via 9-1-1 were made at 12:39 am. Police arrived within 90 seconds and found at least three .40-caliber handgun magazines, a shotgun and a large drum magazine on the floor of the theater. Some people reported the shooting via tweets or text messaging rather than calling the police. Some of the first police on the scene decided not to wait for ambulances and took victims to hospitals in their squad cars.

About 12:45 am, police apprehended Holmes behind the cinema, next to his car, without resistance. According to two federal officials, he had dyed his hair red and called himself "the Joker", although authorities later declined to confirm this.

Three days later, at his first court appearance in Centennial, Colorado, Holmes had reddish-orange hair. The officers found several firearms in the theater and inside the car, including another Glock 22 handgun. Following his arrest, he was initially jailed at Arapahoe County Detention Center, under suicide watch. The police interviewed more than 200 witnesses. Investigators say that the shooter acted alone and was not part of a larger group or terrorist organization.

Explosive devices

When apprehended, Holmes told the police that he had booby-trapped his apartment with explosive devices before heading to the movie theater. Police then evacuated five buildings surrounding his Aurora residence, about 5 miles (8 km) north of the cinema. The apartment complex is limited to University of Colorado Medical Center students, patients, and employees.

One day after the shooting, officials disarmed an explosive device wired to the apartment's front entrance, allowing a remotely controlled robot to enter and disable other explosives. The apartment held more than 30 homemade grenades, wired to a control box in the kitchen, and 10 gallons of gasoline.

Neighbors reported loud music from the apartment around midnight on the night of the massacre, and one went to his door to tell him she was calling the police; she stated that the door seemed to be unlocked, but she chose not to open it. A law enforcement official said that a Batman mask was found inside the apartment.

On July 23, police finished collecting evidence from the apartment. Two days later, residents were allowed to return to the four surrounding buildings, and six days later, residents were allowed to move back into the formerly booby-trapped building.


Eighty-two people were shot or otherwise wounded, reported by mainstream news as the most victims of any mass shooting in United States history. Among the victims were four people who suffered from chemical irritation caused by the tear gas grenades, and eight others who injured themselves while fleeing the theater. The massacre is also the deadliest shooting in Colorado since the Columbine High School massacre on April 20, 1999.


Twelve people were killed in the shooting. Ten died at the scene and two more in local hospitals. Those killed were:

Jonathan Blunk, age 24
Alexander J. Boik, age 18
Jesse Childress, age 29
Gordon Cowden, age 51
Jessica Ghawi, age 24
John Larimer, age 27
Matt McQuinn, age 27
Micayla Medek, age 23
Veronica Moser-Sullivan, age 6
Alex Sullivan, age 27
Alexander C. Teves, age 24
Rebecca Wingo, age 32

Almost two months earlier, Ghawi narrowly avoided a shooting at the Eaton Centre in Toronto, which killed two people and injured several others.


The youngest injured shooting victim was three months old. Ashley Moser, Veronica Moser-Sullivan's mother, was critically injured in the shooting and suffered a miscarriage a week after the attack.

The injured were treated at Children's Hospital Colorado, Denver Health Medical Center, The Medical Center of Aurora, Parker Adventist Hospital, Rose Medical Center, Swedish Hospital, and University Hospital, as well as at a makeshift hospital set up at the scene of the attack. On July 25, three of the five hospitals treating victims announced that they would limit medical bills or forgive them entirely.

The Community First Foundation collected more than $5 million for a fund for victims and their families. In September, victims and their families received surveys asking about their preferences for how collected funds should be distributed, either by dividing it equally among victims or through a needs-assessment process.

On November 16, 2012, the Aurora Victim Relief Fund announced each claimant will receive $220,000.


Court proceedings

Holmes' booking photo was released and he first appeared in court on July 23, 2012. According to press reports, he seemed dazed and largely unaware of his surroundings.

On July 30, Colorado prosecutors filed formal charges against Holmes that included 24 counts of first degree murder and 116 counts of attempted murder. Two charges were filed for each victim to expand the opportunities for prosecutors to obtain convictions. Colorado State District Court Judge William B. Sylvester, who is the trial judge overseeing the case, has placed a gag order on lawyers and law enforcement, sealing the court file and barring the University of Colorado from releasing public records relating to Holmes' year at the school. Media organizations are challenging the sealing of the court file.

On August 9, Holmes' attorneys said he is mentally ill and they needed more time to assess the nature of his illness. The disclosure was made at a court hearing in Centennial, Colorado, where news media organizations asked a judge to unseal court documents in the case. Prosecutors alleged on August 24, 2012, that Holmes told a classmate that he wanted to kill people four months before the shooting.

A judge ruled on August 30 that a notebook written by Holmes, in which he allegedly described a violent attack, was covered by physician–patient privilege, as he had discussed it with his psychiatrist. This made it inadmissible as evidence unless Holmes' mental health became an issue in the case. Prosecutors eventually dropped their request to gain access to the notebook on September 20, 2012. Due to suicide attempts made by Holmes, Judge Sylvester agreed to postpone proceedings until December 2012.

On Wednesday, January 2, 2013, prosecutors and defense attorneys in the case returned to court in advance of the crucial preliminary hearing- the first officially sanctioned look for the people at the evidence, due to the gag order. The hearing is scheduled to begin the following week (specifically, Monday, January 7). At the hearing, prosecutors will offer their case as to why the trial will proceed, and defense lawyers will argue that it should not. At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Sylvester will decide if there is enough relevant, admissible evidence to proceed to a trial.

On that same January 7 date, it is reported that investigators had seized four prescription bottles and immunization records from Holmes' apartment when it was searched in July 2012. It was not revealed what the prescriptions were or what they were for. The judge ultimately ruled in October that prosecutors could keep the items.

On March 27, Holmes' lawyers offered a guilty plea in exchange for prosecutors not seeking the death penalty. On April 1, the prosecution announced it had declined the offer. Arapahoe County district attorney George Brauchler said "It's my determination and my intention that in this case for James Eagan Holmes justice is death."

Responses to the shooting


The evening after the shooting, a candlelight vigil was held at the site in Colorado. President Barack Obama ordered flags at government buildings flown at half-staff, in tribute to the victims, until July 25. Both Obama's and Mitt Romney's campaigns temporarily suspended television advertising in Colorado for the 2012 presidential election.

On July 22, President Obama met with victims and local and state officials and gave a nationally televised speech from Aurora. Many world leaders sent their condolences, including Queen Elizabeth II, French President François Hollande, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Pope Benedict XVI.

Entertainment industry

Warner Bros., the distributor of The Dark Knight Rises, stated that it was deeply saddened by the shooting. The studio canceled the film's gala premieres in Paris, Mexico, and Japan, scaled down its marketing campaign in Finland, and decided not to report box office figures for the movie until July 23. Some television advertisements for the film were also canceled. Other major film studios joined Warner Bros. in withholding early box office numbers on July 21. It was reported that Warner Bros. would be making a "substantial" donation to Colorado's Community First Foundation to benefit victims of the shooting.

Christopher Nolan, the film's director, spoke on behalf of his cast and crew and called the event "savage" and "devastating." Christian Bale, who plays Batman in the film series, privately visited victims on July 24. Members of the Colorado Rockies baseball team also visited victims. Members of the Denver Broncos also called and/or visited individuals at the hospitals.

Warner Bros. instructed cinemas to stop screening a trailer for the film Gangster Squad, which preceded The Dark Knight Rises screenings in some cities (though not in Aurora), because it contained a scene involving the main characters shooting at a movie theater audience with machine guns. The film's release date was rescheduled to January 2013, and the theater scene was replaced by a new sequence in a different setting.

In the wake of the shooting, DC Comics delayed the release of Batman Incorporated #3, which includes a scene in which a female Leviathan agent brandishes a handgun in a classroom full of children while disguised as a schoolteacher. Additionally, it was reported that Warner Bros. Animation would edit the upcoming Cartoon Network series Beware the Batman to make the firearms look less realistic.

Hans Zimmer, who composed the soundtrack for The Dark Knight Rises, recorded a choral song entitled "Aurora" in honor of the victims.

Cinemark agreed to pay any funeral expenses incurred by the deceased victims' families not covered by the Crime Victims' Compensation Fund. Cinemark closed the entire Century Aurora 16 multiplex in the wake of the shooting but reopened January 17, 2013 with a 40-minute ceremony led by Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan.

Soon after the shooting, police departments and cinemas across the United States and around the world increased security for fear of copycat incidents. In New York City, police officers were deployed to theaters screening the new film.

The National Association of Theatre Owners distributed checklists from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to its members and said in a July 21 statement that members were "working closely with local law enforcement agencies and reviewing security procedures."

AMC Theatres announced that it would "not allow any guests into our theatres in costumes that make other guests feel uncomfortable and we will not permit face-covering masks or fake weapons inside our buildings." Security Director News raised the possibility in a July 23 article that "the massacre could be a Virginia Tech for movie theaters, causing security to become a bigger part of the conversation and more stringent security procedures to be adopted at theaters across the country."

Civil litigation

In the aftermath of the shooting, several legal experts said that it would be extremely difficult for victims and their families to pursue claims for civil liability against the theater or others.

Three victims sued Cinemark in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado on September 21, 2012 for the company's alleged negligence in failing to provide adequate safety and security measures. Their attorneys released the statement "Readily available security procedures, security equipment and security personnel would likely have prevented or deterred the gunman from accomplishing his planned assault on the theater's patrons."

In response, Cinemark's representation filed a motion to dismiss on September 27, 2012 on the grounds that there was no liability under Colorado law for failure to prevent an unforeseeable criminal act. Cinemark's motion quoted extensively from the landmark California appellate opinion that held McDonald's had no duty of care to prevent the 1984 San Ysidro McDonald's massacre.

On October 30, 2012, the court hearing the criminal case against Holmes denied a motion by some of the survivors that would have let them access sealed evidence for review in their civil action against the theater chain.

On January 24, 2013, a federal magistrate judge issued a recommendation that most of the claims be thrown out, as they were not allowable under Colorado law, although he also said that claims alleging violations of the Colorado Premises Liability Act could proceed.

On January 14, 2013, Chantel Blunk, widow of victim Jonathan Blunk, filed a lawsuit against the University of Colorado in federal court. She alleged that a school psychiatrist could have prevented the slaughter by having Holmes detained after he admitted he "fantasized about killing a lot of people." This type of lawsuit had been anticipated in an August 2012 article co-authored by bioethicist Arthur Caplan which discussed the applicability of the landmark California Supreme Court decision in Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California (1976) to the facts of the Aurora shooting.

Related incidents

In the days following the attack, several people around the U.S. were arrested for threats and suspicious activities at or near screenings of The Dark Knight Rises.

On July 22 in Norwalk, California, a man at a The Dark Knight Rises screening who yelled, "Does anyone have a gun?" and "I should go off like in Colorado" was arrested for making criminal threats.

On July 22 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a man faced criminal charges for being involved in a fight in a cinema restroom. During the fight, a moviegoer shouted "Gun!", causing panic inside the theater showing The Dark Knight Rises.

On July 23 in San Jose, California, someone threw a package into a theater showing The Dark Knight Rises and reportedly yelled that it was a bomb, leading to an evacuation.

On July 23 in Sierra Vista, Arizona, a moviegoer's confrontation with an intoxicated man with a backpack at a The Dark Knight Rises screening led to "mass hysteria" and 50 people evacuating the theater.

On August 4 in Westlake, Ohio, a man was arrested for carrying several weapons in a satchel into a screening of The Dark Knight Rises. The suspect later received six months imprisonment over the incident.

Sale of guns and gun control debate

Colorado gun sales spiked after the shooting, with the number of background checks for people seeking to purchase a firearm in the state increasing to 2,887, up 43% from the previous week. Gun sales in Washington, Florida, California, and Georgia also increased. The shooting reignited the political debate on gun control, with one issue being the "easy access" Holmes had to semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity magazines, which were banned federally from 1994 to 2004. The results of a survey released on July 30, 2012 by the Pew Research Center suggested that the incident did not change Americans' views on the issue.


James Holmes refuses to enter a plea at Aurora theater shooting arraignment

By John Ingold and Sadie Gurman - The Denver Post

March, 12, 2013

CENTENNIAL — A slack-limbed James Holmes faced the biggest decision of his murder case with silence Tuesday, refusing to enter a plea for the Aurora theater shootings during an extraordinary hearing that forced the judge to act on his behalf.

Judge William Sylvester entered a plea of not guilty for Holmes — over the objection of Holmes' attorneys — and set a month-long trial to begin in August. Sylvester also set an April 1 hearing, at which prosecutors will announce whether they will seek the death penalty in the case.

Holmes' lawyers have said for weeks they were considering entering a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity at his arraignment. But when the moment arrived Tuesday morning — a half hour behind schedule because some of Holmes' attorneys were stuck in traffic — those lawyers said they were not ready and asked for a month or two more to weigh their options. Attorney Daniel King said the defense team had not yet completed psychiatric evaluations on Holmes and said they also needed more time to study the legal consequences of an insanity plea.

"I don't think we can stand before you ethically and say we're ready to enter a plea," King told Sylvester. "The nature of the work we're doing is ongoing."

Shooting victims and their families in the audience sighed when King made his request. Prosecutors were exasperated.

"They've had eight months to get to this point," prosecutor Karen Pearson said.

Sylvester, the 18th Judicial District's chief judge, was also clearly peeved by the defense's opacity in asking for more time.

"So how am I to make an informed decision based on the limited information you're giving me, Mr. King?" Sylvester asked.

Citing a law that gives judges the authority to enter pleas for a defendant who "refuses to plead," Sylvester entered the plain not guilty plea. Holmes could later change his plea to insanity, but his attorneys must show "good cause" and get special permission from the judge for the switch. Sylvester seemed open to a later change.

"This court would certainly consider a subsequent not guilty by reason of insanity plea," Sylvester said.

What has given Holmes' lawyers pause is the looming court-ordered independent psychiatric evaluation that would begin immediately after he enters an insanity plea. Their recent court filings, which Sylvester denied, have challenged the constitutionality of Colorado's laws governing the evaluation. Holmes would be ordered to cooperate in the evaluation — he could be drugged to aid his participation — and would also have to turn over potentially incriminating information he gave to previous counselors.

King on Tuesday said he remains concerned about how information from the evaluation could be used against Holmes during a possible death-penalty trial. And King also said he worried that the court's evaluation would cut short the defense's ongoing examinations of Holmes.

"We've made significant progress," King said. "We're just not ready to proceed."

Holmes is charged with 166 counts of murder, attempted murder and other offenses for the July 20 shootings at the Century Aurora 16 movie theater. The attack killed 12 and left 58 others wounded by gunfire. Victims and their family members sat on one side of the courtroom Tuesday, watching the proceedings intently even as Holmes stared blankly ahead.

Across the aisle from the victims, next to a bank of defense investigators, sat Holmes' parents, Robert and Arlene. They spoke little to each other during the hearing, mostly keeping their hands folded in their laps and their eyes downcast. They looked up at their bearded and bushy-haired son as he entered the courtroom.

After the hearing, shooting survivor Marcus Weaver said he was grateful Sylvester moved the case forward.

"Seeing (Holmes) in the courtroom today, he is human just like we all are. He does deserve a fair trial," said Weaver, who was shot in the arm. "There isn't a second that goes by that we don't feel the sting of his actions. Justice will be served in the end."

Weaver said he believes most victims want the death penalty sought against Holmes. But Weaver said he thinks Holmes should be given life in prison if he pleads guilty. He said Holmes seemed lucid during the hearing, not insane.

"To be honest," Weaver said, "I saw a human being today. And you can plead guilty and own up to it. Or you can plead not guilty and face serious consequences."

Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler told Sylvester that he would announce during the April 1 hearing whether he will pursue the death penalty.

Holmes' attorneys, meanwhile, said they have secured a signed subpoena for a New York-based Fox News reporter to appear at the April hearing to testify about her sources. The reporter, Jana Winter, wrote a story citing unnamed law enforcement sources who said a notebook Holmes mailed to his University of Colorado psychiatrist contained details of a shooting plot. Holmes' attorneys say the disclosure violated a gag order in the case.

Sylvester also set hearings for the week of May 13, to argue motions in the case, and for July 25, to determine readiness for trial. The trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 5 and last for at least four weeks. Prosecutors estimated it could actually take twice as long.

Unexpected delays have become the norm for the case. When Holmes entered Tuesday's hearing, he appeared to have but three options before him.

He could have pleaded not guilty and faced a jury trial to determine whether he did it. He could have pleaded guilty, skipping the trial and setting up a sentencing hearing to decide his punishment. Or he could have pleaded insanity, spurring the court-ordered evaluation and a trial to determine whether he is sane.

Instead, with inscrutable silence, Holmes chose none.

"He's a hollow person, very evil," said Jessica Watts, the cousin of slain theater victim Jonathan Blunk. "He's absolutely not insane. ... Just, he doesn't seem like he does a whole lot to help himself. He doesn't seem real interested in what's going on in his own future."


7 notes from Day 2 of the Aurora theater shooting preliminary hearing

By John Ingold - The Denver Post

January 9, 2013

Tuesday’s portion of the preliminary hearing in the murder case against Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes produced descriptions of the fiendishly devised explosive systems investigators say they found inside Holmes’ apartment and heart-breaking moments in two of the 911 calls to come from the theater the night of the shooting.

Here are seven more notes from Tuesday’s proceedings, ahead of what could be the hearing’s last day on Wednesday.

1. Twist of fate.

Though a detective testified Monday that Holmes bought his ticket to the new Batman movie online on July 8, Aurora Det. Craig Appel, the lead detective on the case, said Tuesday Holmes bought the ticket the night of July 7. For whatever reason, Appel said, Holmes’ ticket printout errantly showed the purchase date as July 8.

That’s not all that was inconsistent with the ticket and Holmes’ actions. Holmes’ ticket, Appel said, was actually purchased for theater 8. Holmes instead went into theater 9 next door, where the movie started about five minutes later that night. All of those killed and 55 of the 58 people wounded by gunfire on July 20 were in theater 9.

Appel did not say if police have any explanation for the switch in theaters.

Later on Tuesday, Sgt. Matthew Fyles — Appel’s supervisor — said investigators have never been able to put a precise number on the people in theater 9 or theater 8, he said. Theater 9 held a little over 400 people. Fyles said detectives believe between 370 and 380 people were in theater 9 when the shooting began — and an equal number were next door in theater 8.

But Fyles said it is likely some of those present haven’t come forward to police, preventing investigators from arriving at a precise figure.

2. Sinister shopping spree.

Between May 10 and July 14, detectives believe Holmes made 16 separate purchases online and at stores in the metro area to assemble the guns, ammunition and explosives he is accused of using to carry out the attack.

As testified to by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent Steven Beggs, the timeline looked like this:

May 10: Two tear gas canisters, bought online.

May 22: A .40-caliber Glock handgun, bought at Gander Mountain outdoor store in Aurora.

May 28: A Remington shotgun, and shotgun and handgun ammunition, bought at Bass Pro Shops in Denver.

June 6: Handcuffs and a military battle first aid kit, bought online.

June 7: A Smith and Wesson AR-15 style rifle, plus three 30-round ammunition magazines, bought at Gander Mountain.

June 13: A 100-round drum magazine for the rifle, plus more 30-round magazines, a laser sight for the handgun and two weapons slings, bought online.

June 17: 225 tactical targets, plus a target stand, bought online.

June 19: A laser sight for the rifle, more ammunition magazines and a holster for the handgun, bought online.

June 28: Over 2,000 rounds of rifle ammunition, bought online.

Separately on June 28: A ballistic helmet, bought online.

July 1: Several packages of “snap caps” — blank ammunition often used for training drills — bought at Gander Mountain.

July 2: Ballistic leggings, brought online.

Separately on July 2: Body armor for the neck, torso and groin, bought online.

July 3: Pyrotechnic parts, including 6-inch fireworks shells, fuses and a “launch control” box, all bought online.

July 6: Another .40-caliber Glock handgun, along with 200 rounds of rifle ammunition, 4 pounds of smokeless powder and gun-cleaning supplies, bought at Bass Pro Shops.

July 14: Chemicals and materials used to make improvised explosives, bought at a store in Denver.

Between May and July, Holmes bought four guns and 6,295 rounds of ammunition — including 2,600 rounds for the handgun, 325 shells for the shotgun and 3,370 rounds for the rifle, Beggs testified.

3. To the second.

Though billed as a midnight showing, the new Batman film’s showtime inside theater 9 was actually 12:05 a.m. Aurora Det. Randy Hansen testified Tuesday he recreated the next few minutes to the second.

At precisely 12:05, the theater played for patrons a commercial that lasted 2 minutes and 9 seconds. Next came 13 minutes and 29 seconds worth of movie previews. That means the actual film started at 12:20:38 a.m. on July 20, Hansen said.

The first 911 call came in at 12:38:37, Hansen said, meaning the shooting began roughly 18 minutes into the movie.

4. Widespread harm.

Investigators believe the shooter fired his shotgun inside the theater only six times — that’s how many spent shotgun shells were found on the theater’s floor. But, as Fyles recounted the injuries of each of the 82 victims — killed and injured — named in the charges, it became clear how much damage those six shots did.

At least three of the slain victims and 22 of the wounded were hit with shotgun pellets, according to Fyles’ testimony. That means, of the 70 people hit with gunfire in the theater, more than a third of them were shot during the six blasts. (Twelve of the victims named in the charges suffered non-gunshot injuries in fleeing the theater — such as a broken ankle or a head injury.)

Fyles said investigators found 65 .223-caliber shell casings, used in the rifle, in the theater and five shell casings from bullets fired from the handgun. That’s 76 shots total.

There was the potential for many more. Investigators also found 204 live rounds of rifle ammunition and several full handgun magazines in the theater. There were indications, detectives said, that at least one of the shooter’s weapons jammed, preventing him from firing more.

5. A difficult list.

Perhaps the toughest task of the preliminary hearing fell to Fyles on Tuesday afternoon, when he began reading through a list of victims and recounting their injuries.

The recitation was necessary because prosecutors need to provide evidence specific to each count — and each victim — in order for Holmes to potentially face trial on that count. And, so, guided by questioning from prosecutor Karen Pearson, Fyles started alphabetically with Petra Anderson and proceeded through the 70 names of those injured, followed by the 12 names of the slain victims.

At first, he matter-of-factly read from a chart he prepared of every victim and their injuries. But, as the list grew longer, Fyles grew more somber.

Describing Ashley Moser’s injuries — she was paralyzed, suffered a miscarriage and lost her 6-year-old daughter in the shooting — Fyles’ voice caught. For the next victim, Stefan Moton, who is now a quadriplegic, Fyles found it difficult to summon words. The judge called a recess.

After the break, Fyles continued to struggle with the weight of the list — each name, each injury, adding further to the tragic enormity of the shootings: Dion Roseborough, shot in the shoulder, underwent emergency surgery. Carey Rottman, shot in the upper right leg. Lucas Smith, hit in the pelvis and thigh. Heather Snyder, shot in the arm and the leg, lost a finger.

Fyles noted later that many of the shots fired were steel-core rounds, designed to tear through whatever they hit and keep going. Increasingly, Pearson took on the task of reading the injuries, asking Fyles only a yes-or-no question to confirm the assessment.

By the end of the list, Fyles had regained his matter-of-fact voice. But, after finishing with the last name, his relief was practically tangible.

6. Mysteries solved.

Two lingering questions from Monday’s hearing found resolution during testimony Tuesday.

On Monday, the first witness, Aurora office Jason Oviatt, testified that he heard a voice on the night of the shooting call out from the shadows by a Dumpster as he prepared to search a handcuffed James Holmes.

“Are you guys cops?” the voice — that of a girl who had hidden by the Dumpster after escaping the shooting — asked.

On Tuesday, Det. Todd Fredericksen provided a name for that voice. She was Jansen Young.

Likewise, on Monday, Aurora officer Justin Grizzle recounted how he drove a gravely injured Ashley Moser and a man to the hospital in his patrol car after the shooting. Grizzle’s testimony implied that the man was Moser’s husband, and Grizzle told how the man tried to leap from the car because he said he needed to get back to the theater to find his daughter.

Because Grizzle never learned the man’s name, though, it was unclear what relationship he actually had to Moser or Moser’s daughter, Veronica Moser-Sullivan, who was killed.

On Tuesday, Fyles said the man in Grizzle’s car was Jamison Toews. He was Moser’s boyfriend — and the father of her unborn child — but he was not Veronica’s father. He grieved just the same, though.

7. Mysteries remain.

Tuesday’s testimony revealed one crucial, previously unknown detail: Investigators interviewed Holmes at least once following the shooting and, according to the testimony, Holmes told them incriminating information.

FBI agent Garrett Gumbinner said he and Appel interviewed Holmes on the afternoon of July 20. Gumbinner said detectives wanted to find out more about the explosives found in Holmes’ apartment in order to safely defuse them. He said, to coax Holmes into talking, they told Holmes they would only ask him about the items in the apartment and nothing about what happened inside the theater.

But was that the only time detectives interviewed Holmes that day?

Appel testified Tuesday he was called to police headquarters early July 20 to interview Holmes. But prosecutors never asked Appel whether he actually spoke with Holmes or watched as other investigators did. The only thing Appel said Tuesday about his time at headquarters that morning was elicited on cross-examination — when he testified that he had officers remove Holmes’ handcuffs while Holmes sat in an interrogation room.

The prosecution’s side of the preliminary hearing is expected to wrap up Wednesday with the last of Fyles’ testimony, so it is possible this question will be answered. (Though, it is also possible testimony about an early interview with Holmes is tied up in the kind of fight over Miranda warnings and suppressed statements that saw attorneys for both sides argue at the judge’s bench for close to five minutes Tuesday before Gumbinner could testify about the afternoon interview.)

But it may just remain another unknown as the case moves forward, an echo to the heart-breaking mystery hanging over it all: Why?


7 notes from Day 1 of the Aurora theater shooting preliminary hearing

By John Ingold - The Denver Post

January 8, 2013

Monday’s opening day of the preliminary hearing in the Aurora theater shooting murder case offered numerous new insights into the tragedy and the evidence against James Holmes. In this morning’s Denver Post, we have two stories — one about the investigation details revealed in court Monday and another about the heroic actions of police officers the morning of the shooting.

But, after nearly six hours of testimony Monday, there were details that did not find their way into one of those two stories. Here are seven notes from Day 1 of the preliminary hearing:

1. A curious cross-examination.

The most significant moment in the preliminary hearing may have also been its most oddly out of place. Prosecutors Monday called two doctors from the Arapahoe County coroner’s office to testify about the wounds suffered by the victims slain in the shooting. After the first doctor testified, Holmes’ attorneys did not ask any questions.

In many instances throughout the day, the detectives and investigators testifying on behalf of the prosecution left little for the defense team to do. Those witnesses were there to describe the scene; they did not say anything that directly implicated Holmes. And, thus, their testimony meant there was little for the defense to rebut.

So it was somewhat unexpected when, after prosecutors finished questioning Arapahoe County Coroner Michael Dobersen, defense attorney Daniel King rose to ask some questions of his own. Where he went with his questions was even more unexpected.

King asked how long the autopsies took — they lasted between an hour and a half and over four hours. He asked about Dobersen’s experience as a coroner — Dobersen is one of the most respected forensic pathologists in the nation.

And then King asked whether anything about the wounds Dobersen observed could speak to the state of mind of the person who inflicted them. What kinds of stories do bullet holes tell? Dobersen seemed puzzled.

“You’re not drawing any conclusions about the mental state of the perpetrators by your autopsy, are you?” King asked.

“No,” Dobersen responded.

It was the best signal yet that the defense likely intends to offer an insanity defense in the case. Its odd placement in the hearing only made it stand out that much more clearly.

2. Handing off.

Perhaps the second most significant moment came before the hearing even began, when a man in a dark suit walked into the courtroom, stepped in front of the railing that separates the audience from the participants and sat next to a woman in a dark suit on the bench behind the prosecution table.

George Brauchler didn’t appear to say anything beyond pleasantries when he sat down next to Carol Chambers, but the moment’s symbolism was tangible. Monday’s hearing ended an hour earlier than normal — at 4 p.m. instead of 5 — so that Brauchler could be sworn in as the new Arapahoe County District Attorney, replacing Chambers, who was term-limited.

The role change means Brauchler will be the person to ultimately decide whether to seek the death penalty or to strike a plea bargain. He will be the person responsible for seeking justice on behalf of the victims and victims’ family members who sat behind him when the hearing opened.

For a first day, Monday was not an easy start.

3. “He immediately put his hands up.”

Monday’s testimony reiterated that Holmes was outfitted as if for a battle when police put him in handcuffs the morning of July 20. He wore a helmet and gas mask, a bullet-resistant vest, a throat protector, a groin protector and armored leggings. He had at least one knife on him, Aurora officer Jason Oviatt testified. And when Oviatt ordered Holmes to the ground and then searched him, at least two gun magazines fell from his pockets.

Yet several officers described a weird passivity to Holmes following the shooting. Oviatt said Holmes surrendered as soon as Oviatt pointed his gun at Holmes.

“He immediately put his hands up,” Oviatt said.

And, once in handcuffs, Holmes was unfailingly — even, bizarrely — acquiescent. He never tried to reach for a gun or run away or struggle with officers.

“He was completely compliant,” Oviatt said. “There wasn’t even a normal tension in him.”

4. Explosive statements.

There was conflicting testimony about whether Holmes told officers about explosives in his apartment after being prompted by a question or whether he volunteered it. But there is little question that officers did not have to twist his arm for the information.

Holmes — according to the officers’ testimony — seemed almost eager to tell police about the bombs. Police said Holmes told them the information shortly after they took him into custody.

“He used the term ‘improvised explosive devices,’” officer Aaron Blue said.

“He just wanted to give me the information,” Blue said. “He just told me.”

There was at least one thing he didn’t tell officers — at least not the several who testified Monday. No officer testified Monday that they heard Holmes call himself the Joker, contrary to widespread reports.

5. Blank stare

Because the question always comes up, this is how James Holmes looked in court Monday: like he wasn’t there.

Holmes showed no expression — staring ahead glassy-eyed — as officers recounted his arrest. He showed no emotion when officers described their frantic efforts to save the lives of wounded victims or when the coroner’s pathologist described how the shooter fired four bullets into a 6-year-old girl. He showed no emotion when two police officers choked back tears on the witness stand. And he showed no emotion when security videotapes from the theater showed him walking around the theater lobby the night of the shooting wearing long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and a beanie stocking cap.

From my vantage point in the second row in the audience, it was difficult to tell whether he was even keeping his eyes open at times.

6. “A bad day.”

The same could not be said for the victims and their families watching in the courtroom. Instead, they seemed to wear the day’s testimony on their faces. At times, some victims left during the hearing, unable to listen to any more. Others sniffed away tears or folded their arms and clinched their faces during difficult testimony.

“I would at least like to know what happened and get some details so we can understand,” Tom Teves, whose son, Alex, was killed in the shooting, told 9News.

It was a difficult decision just to come to the hearing. Sam Soudani said he came because his daughter, Farrah, who was seriously wounded in the attack, wanted to come. They listened as a detective recounted how Farrah was shot.

“Because she decided to come, I wanted to hold her hand,” Sam Soudani told 9News. “No more, no less. I personally, honest, I don’t want to be here.”

Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, the mother and stepfather of slain victim Jessica Ghawi, felt the same way. They were at a conference in North Carolina on Monday. But, Lonnie Phillips said in a statement, they wouldn’t have attended even if they could.

“It’s been a bad day,” Lonnie Phillips said in a statement. “It’s too much emotional turmoil. My wife cried just reading a text about it.”

7. A grim catalog

Monday’s portion of the hearing closed with a detective on the stand going name-by-name through a list of victims he interviewed, describing how they were injured, where they were sitting in the theater and what they saw.

Earlier in the afternoon Monday, a different detective pointed on a picture of Theater 9 to exactly where each slain victim was found. Three were in row 8, the first row behind the aisle that separated the seats in the theater at ground level and those elevated stadium-style. One victim each was found in row 10, 11, 12, 13, 16, and 18. And one victim was found lying beside the stairs leading to the top of the seats.

The testimony made for difficult listening: The tragedy condensed into a sterile catalog of facts. And it will likely continue on Tuesday.

Part of the prosecution’s burden in the preliminary hearing is convincing the judge there is enough evidence to move forward in every single count. Holmes faces 166 counts in total — including two counts of murder for each of the 12 slain victims and two counts of attempted murder for each of 70 people wounded or shot at in the attack.

The detective testifying Monday afternoon made it through the details for 12 wounded victims. There are still 58 to go.


James Holmes preliminary hearing: Aurora cop recalls, "There was so much blood"

By John Ingold - The Denver Post

January 7, 2013

Aurora police Officer Justin Grizzle stood at the exit door to theater 9. A trail of blood ran along the concrete. A trail of people burst from the door toward him, their screams for help ringing in his ears. And behind him, in a patrol car, sat the man accused of causing the chaos. Moments earlier, when Grizzle asked a handcuffed James Holmes whether there was anyone else with him, Holmes smiled.

"Like a smirk," Grizzle testified Monday at the first day of the preliminary hearing in the murder case against Holmes.

Grizzle pulled his gun, stepped over the semiautomatic rifle that the shooter had left lying beside the door and walked inside.

"I slipped," he said. "I almost fell down because of all the blood there."

Grizzle's testimony and that of other Aurora officers who arrived at the theater early July 20 provided emotional gravity Monday to a hearing with a simple purpose: Prosecutors hope to show there is enough evidence against Holmes for him to stand trial on 166 counts of murder, attempted murder and other crimes for the shootings at the Century Aurora 16 movie theater.

That is why, in painfully detailed testimony, prosecutors walked detectives through descriptions of where the victims were shot, where the deceased were found and what wounds they suffered. Officers for the first time publicly recounted what they witnessed.

Once inside the theater that morning, tear gas singed Grizzle's eyes and throat. An alarm blared. A strobe light flashed. Cellphones beeped. The movie — "The Dark Knight Rises," the latest Batman film — continued to roll.

Grizzle could see bodies lying motionless. Another officer who testified Monday, Sgt. Gerald Jonsgaard, recalled seeing frightened patrons cowering in the first two rows of the theater.

Communicating through shouts over the noise inside, the officers quickly developed a system for helping victims.

Get them out of the theater. If they could talk, send them a few yards away from the theater exit to await treatment. If they couldn't, lay them by the door and get them to help immediately.

Ambulances couldn't move through the tangled parking lot. Many were held at a staging area. For Grizzle and other officers, getting victims to the hospital meant using their patrol cars.

Grizzle said he didn't hesitate.

"After what I saw in the theater," he said Monday. "After the horrific ..."

In the courtroom, Grizzle's voice choked up.

"I didn't want anyone else to die."

On his first trip to the hospital, Grizzle took two people. In his back seat was Ashley Moser, bleeding from gunshot wounds to her torso. In his passenger seat was a man whose name he never learned.

Back inside the theater, an officer approached Jonsgaard, carrying the body of 6-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan.

Jonsgaard felt the little girl's neck, hoping for a pulse. There was none. She was rushed to a hospital anyway.

Once at the hospital, Grizzle gave his victims to waiting staffers. Then he turned around.

On his next trip to the hospital, Grizzle carried two more victims in his patrol car. On the third, it was a man with a gunshot wound to his head.

The man, Caleb Medley, was breathing, but just barely, Grizzle said.

"It was the most god-awful sound," Grizzle testified.

It was when the sound faded, though, that Grizzle became most worried. He could sense the life slipping from the man in his back seat.

"Don't you (expletive) die on me!" Grizzle said he would yell back at Medley when he could no longer hear him breathing. "Don't you (expletive) die on me!"

When he was done yelling, Grizzle said, that terrible sound, to his relief, would return.

Grizzle took Medley to the University of Colorado hospital, where doctors saved his life. Grizzle didn't stop to find that out, though. He went back to the theater, where one more victim — so covered in blood that Grizzle couldn't tell whether the person was young or old, man or woman — awaited.

By dawn, pools of blood gathered on his floorboards and seat cushions. There was blood on his car's ceiling, on its dashboard, on its headrests.

"There was so much blood," Grizzle testified Monday, "I could hear it sloshing in the back of my car."

Just getting their cars to the rear of the theater to pick up victims was a challenge, many officers testified Monday.

When the call went out for officers to help take victims to the hospital, Officer Aaron Blue sprinted to his patrol car. He negotiated a zigzag course through the theater's parking lot, around wounded victims and fleeing witnesses and over two curbs until fellow officers placed a young woman with gunshot wounds in her head and legs into his car.

Blue sat with her in the back seat while another officer drove.

"Every time she moved," Blue said Monday, "she stopped breathing."

And so Blue delicately held her, trying to keep her alive.

Jessica Ghawi died at the hospital.

Outside the courtroom Monday morning, several officers — including Grizzle — hung around after their testimony. On breaks, when shooting victims and their family members came outside, the officers would smile at them. And the victims, more often than not, extended their hands for a handshake or opened their arms wide for a hug.


James Holmes faces 142 counts, including 24 of first-degree murder

By John Ingold - The Denver Post

July 30, 2012

In pressing the case against James Eagan Holmes, the man accused of one of the worst mass shootings in American history, Arapahoe County prosecutors made it clear Monday they were leaving little to chance.

Holmes, 24, was formally charged with a total of 142 criminal counts — including two separate allegations of murder for each of the 12 people who died in the July 20 attack at the Century Aurora 16.

The two murder charges are based on different legal theories.

Prosecutors similarly filed two counts of attempted murder for each of the 58 people who were injured in the attack, carried out during an early morning premiere of the new Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises."

All told, Holmes faces 141 felonies:

24 counts of first-degree murder, 116 counts of attempted murder and one count of possession of an explosive device. Holmes, 24, was also charged with one "sentence enhancer" count for allegedly committing a crime of violence.

In the murder and attempted-murder charges, Holmes was accused in half the counts of committing the crimes after deliberation and in the other half with committing them with extreme indifference.

Denver attorney Daniel Recht said the different counts are an advantage to prosecutors because if a jury were to acquit Holmes under one theory, it could still convict him under the other theory. Extreme indifference, Recht wrote in an e-mail, is "arguably a much easier mental state for the prosecution to prove."

If convicted of any of the murder charges, Holmes could face execution, though prosecutors have not yet said whether they will pursue the death penalty.

The most lenient sentence Holmes could receive if convicted of the murder counts is life in prison without parole.

In a statement issued after the hearing on behalf of the family of shooting victim Jonathan Blunk, his cousin Jessica Watts said Blunk's family has faith the district attorney's office will "pursue all applicable charges" against Holmes.

"He will be held accountable for his actions and we, Jonny's family, will continue to mourn the hole we now have in our lives," Watts said in the statement.

In a charging document unsealed after the hearing, prosecutors accuse Holmes of one count of murder after deliberation and one count of murder with extreme indifference for each of the 12 victims who died.

The attempted-murder charges follow a similar pattern — officials have said 58 people were wounded in the shootings but have not released a list of names. The charging document muddies the picture somewhat.

The document listed wounded survivor Bonnie Kate Pourciau twice, in two charges naming a victim Bonnie Kate and in another two charges naming a victim as Bonnie Pourciau. Officials at the District Attorney's office said they could not clear up the confusion, citing a judge's order limiting publicity.

"Because of the gag order, our office is unable to interpret the charging document at this time," said Casimir Spencer, a spokeswoman for District Attorney Carol Chambers.

The charging document also included the names of several shooting survivors who were not physically injured and did not include the names of some of those who were wounded and survived.

Recht, the Denver attorney, said attempted murder is a valid charge in cases where people are shot at but not hit. He said prosecutors likely made their charging decision after talking to victims and ensuring they were comfortable with being included in the case. More so, Recht said, prosecutors likely didn't want to charge Holmes with every possible crime he could be charged with, such as aggravated assault.

"Clearly the prosecution decided they needed to keep this to the most serious charges," Recht said. "They wanted to keep the jury from getting confused with potentially hundreds of counts."

The charges can be amended in the future.

It was Holmes' second court appearance — at a preliminary advisement hearing July 23, he looked dazed and drowsy. Monday, Holmes appeared more composed. His hair, still dyed a Kool-Aid orange and red, was combed flat.

For much of the hearing, he appeared to be paying attention, often looking at Judge William Sylvester as he spoke. When Sylvester asked Holmes a question — whether he would agree to waive his right to a preliminary hearing within 35 days — Holmes answered with a muffled, "Yes."

Media cameras, which had been allowed for Holmes' first appearance, were not allowed in the courtroom during Monday's hearing.

In the audience, dozens of shooting survivors and family members of victims looked on, at times leaning forward to listen as Sylvester spoke and at other times craning their necks to look at Holmes.

Shooting survivor Rita Paulina, whose wrist, arm and leg were wrapped in bandages, fidgeted with the gauze and rested her arm awkwardly on the seat.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled Aug. 9, when attorneys will debate a motion from 20 news media organizations to unseal the case file. After that, on Aug. 16, Sylvester plans to hear arguments from the prosecution and the defense over a notebook Holmes allegedly mailed to his psychiatrist. Holmes' attorneys have asserted that the notebook is privileged doctor-patient communication.

The next major hearing in Holmes' case will likely be a preliminary hearing, at which the judge will listen to testimony to determine whether there is enough evidence for the case to proceed to trial. That hearing could provide the public with significant new information about the events of July 20. But the hearing, which Holmes' attorneys said could take a week, isn't scheduled until Nov. 13.

Even that date could be optimistic, said Denver defense attorney Pete Hedeen.

Given potential mental health issues hinted at publicly, Holmes' defense team is likely to raise issues of competency to determine whether he is able to participate in his own defense.

Once competency is raised, it stops the clock on the trial while defendants typically undergo at least two rounds of psychological evaluation. A judge makes the final determination, but even a fast-tracked process can take three to five months, Hedeen said.

"Certainly the indications are that this guy is seriously mentally ill," Hedeen said. "It'll be interesting at what point will they raise the competency issue."

Staff writers Kristen Leigh Painter, Jessica Fender and Jeremy P. Meyer contributed to this report.



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