Suspect 'calm' after cinema shootings
A police officer testified at a preliminary hearing yesterday that when he responded to emergency calls about a mass shooting at a crowded cinema this summer, he found the suspected gunman standing calmly outside his car in a parking lot just moments after the man had opened fire inside, the authorities say, killing 12 people and injuring 58 others.
It has been more than five months since James E Holmes, a neuroscience graduate student, was accused of striding into a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises at a movie theatre in an Aurora shopping mall and beginning shooting.
“He was very relaxed,” said the police officer, Jason Oviatt. “It was like there weren’t normal emotional responses to anything. He seemed very detached.”
Officer Oviatt, speaking at the hearing in Centennial, Colorado, said that because the suspect, Mr Holmes, had been wearing a helmet and a gas mask, he had first thought that he was a fellow police officer.
But after a few moments, Officer Oviatt realised that aside from his calm demeanour, there was something else dangerously amiss about the man, whom he had first seen standing perfectly still – his hands were oddly positioned on the roof of his white car.
He noticed that Mr Holmes, who was wearing a red jumpsuit, was sweating profusely. Then, as he placed the compliant man in handcuffs, the officer learned why Mr Holmes might have been standing in such an unusual way, reluctant to move: a handgun was lying on the roof of the car where his hands had been.
While frisking Mr Holmes, he said, he found that he was swathed in layers of body armour, which officers eventually had to cut off with knives to search him adequately.
Police officers were among the first people to testify at a week-long court hearing that will determine whether there is sufficient evidence to move the case against Mr Holmes to trial, a decision that will be made by William Sylvester, a district judge in Arapahoe County.
But for victims and their families, the hearing may offer the best, and perhaps only, opportunity to understand how the July 20th shooting unfolded.
A criminal trial – if one ever convenes – remains months away, probably at the end of a long series of legal arguments, including over Mr Holmes’s mental fitness to stand trial.
Yesterday, police officers described the scene inside the cinema in graphic terms, describing amounts of blood so copious that they had trouble keeping their footing.
Realising that there were not enough ambulances to transport all the injured to hospitals, the officer said, he began putting people in his patrol car. He made four trips to the hospital, he said.
Lawyers for Mr Holmes (25) have signalled that they might call witnesses this week to discuss his mental state in the hope of rebutting the prosecution’s evidence that Mr Holmes spent months methodically buying 6,000 rounds of ammunition, handguns, a shotgun and an assault rifle.
He had also booby-trapped his apartment with explosives, which he told police about after he was arrested.
Although Mr Holmes has not yet filed a plea, his lawyers have said several times that he is mentally ill. – (New York Times)