James Holmes preliminary hearing: Witnesses told police shooter was "very calm"

Advertisement

CENTENNIAL — Afternoon testimony in the preliminary hearing for Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes included surveillance video that showed staff dropping to the floor and dozens of people rushing to exit the chaos.

The video showed Holmes walking into the Century 16 theater in Aurora wearing a long-sleeved shirt, dark pants and a dark beanie stocking cap. He had purchased his ticket July 8, apparently online.

Prosecutors also showed photos where bullets hit in Theater 9, with Aurora Police Det. Matthew Ingui pointing out where most of the slain victims were found. Three were in Row 8; one each in rows 10, 11, 12, 13, 16, 18; and one victim was found near the aisle stairs.

Crime scene investigators had put trajectory rods on the seats to show the path of bullets.

Testimony revealed that Aurora police recovered 209 live AR-15 rounds and 15 live 40-caliber handgun rounds from the scene.

"It was heartbreaking," Ingui testified of the scene at the theater on July 20. Victims "were crying. Some of them were covered in blood, missing shoes."

Ingui testified Monday that witnesses told police investigators that the gunman, later identified as Holmes, was "very calm and moving with purpose" inside the theater.

During morning testimony it was revealed that police reports from the day of the shooting noted that after he was apprehended, Holmes "stared off into space" and "seemed out of it."

Officer Jason Oviatt, who discovered Holmes behind the theater, was first to testify in the preliminary hearing Monday. Oviatt noted that Holmes understood direction and fully complied with officers.

"He was very relaxed," Oviatt testified. "It was like there weren't normal emotional responses."

The officer said police found Holmes with his hands on top of his car, next to a semi automatic handgun.

Holmes said little but seemed to understand questions and instructions he received and cooperated with officers.

Holmes was "just standing there," Oviatt testified. "Not doing anything. Not in any hurry. Not excited. Not urgent about anything."

Oviatt said he at first thought Holmes was a police officer because of the body armor he was wearing, which made it difficult to search him. Holmes was strip-searched near a trash bin behind the theater.

Officers found an assault rifle by the door, a rifle case in Holmes' car, a knife at his belt and magazines falling out his pockets.

Oviatt testified that Holmes told them explosives in his apartment would go off if they were tripped.

As officers dealt with Holmes, victims ran out of the theater.

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

Blue sat in the backseat with the woman, while another officer drove.

"Everytime she moved," Blue said Monday, "she stopped breathing."

And so Blue held her in his arms, trying as best he could to keep her alive.

Jessica Ghawi died at the hospital.

Many of the questions from both the defense and prosecution seemed to be a fight to frame Holmes' state of mind in the moments immediately after the shootings, a sign attorneys could be preparing for an insanity defense.

At one point defense attorney Daniel King pointed out that Oviatt had observed Holmes dripping with sweat.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Pearson quickly pointed out that anyone covered head to toe in body armor would likely be sweating.

The revelations came on Day 1 of a crucial hearing in the murder case against Holmes. Arapahoe County prosecutors, for the first time, are laying out their case against him. The hearing is expected to last all week, and, at the end of the hearing, the judge will decide whether there is enough evidence against Holmes for the case to proceed to trial.

Holmes is charged with 164 counts of murder and attempted murder, along with one count of illegal explosives possession and one sentence-enhancement count for allegedly committing a crime of violence. Twelve people were killed and least 58 were injured in the Aurora theater.

Holmes could face the death penalty if convicted, though prosecutors have not yet decided whether to seek capital punishment in the case. That decision will be made by newly elected Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, who will be sworn in Monday afternoon.

Victims and their families were allowed to sit in their own room where the hearing is being broadcast Monday, away from the media and the public. However, there was a lottery that allowed a large number of them to be in the courtroom where the proceedings are taking place. Among those seated in that room is Tom Teves, the father of Alex Teves, who was killed.

Outside the courtroom Monday, several officers 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.

They were gestures of thanks to the men in blue who came to the rescue. But those gestures were not the first.

On the night of the shooting, in the parking lot behind the theater, Oviatt dragged a handcuffed Holmes into an enclosure by a Dumpster. Oviatt testified Monday that he was worried there might be more shooters, and so he wanted to search Holmes in a more protected area.

But as he pulled the suspected shooter, a small voice called out from the shadows of the enclosure.

"Are you guys cops?" the voice said.

It was a teenaged girl, Oviatt said.

She had been hiding there since the shooting began.

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.