Colorado families listen to testimony
First responders’ accounts emotional, detailed
CENTENNIAL, Colo. – The officers struggled to hold back the tears as they recalled the Colorado theater shooting: discovering a 6-year-old girl without a pulse, trying to keep a wounded man from jumping out of a moving police car to go back for his 7-year-old daughter, screaming at a gunshot victim not to die.
“After I saw what I saw in the theater – horrific – I didn’t want anyone else to die,” said Officer Justin Grizzle, who ferried the wounded to the hospital.
A bearded, disheveled James Holmes, the man accused of going on the deadly rampage, didn’t appear to show any emotion as Grizzle and the other officers testified Monday in a packed courtroom as survivors and families of those who died watched quietly. At one point, a woman buried her head in her hands when an officer recalled finding the 6-year-old girl.
“He’s heartless. He really is. He has no emotion. He has no feeling. I don’t know how anybody can live that way,” Sam Soudani said of the suspected gunman afterward. His 23-year-old daughter survived after being hit by shrapnel from an explosive device at the theater.
On the first day of a hearing that will determine whether there’s enough evidence to put Holmes on trial, the testimony brought back the raw emotions from the days following the July 20 attack at the suburban Denver theater that left 12 people dead and dozens wounded.
The hearing is the first extensive public disclosure of the evidence against Holmes. Other information has come out, including details about how he legally bought his guns in person and purchased thousands of bullets and body armor online as well as a notebook that he sent to a psychiatrist he had seen.
A district judge forbade attorneys and investigators from discussing the case publicly, and many court documents have been under seal.
On Monday, prosecutors called on the first responders to testify about the shooting at the midnight showing of the latest Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises,” in Aurora. Holmes had bought his ticket almost two weeks in advance. Investigators say Holmes, wearing body armor, tossed two gas canisters into the packed theater and then opened fire.
When officers arrived, they saw people running out of the theater and trying to drive away. Others walked. Some of the wounded tried to crawl out.
Officers found Holmes standing next to his car.
Officer Jason Oviatt pointed his gun at Holmes, handcuffed him and searched him. He said he found two knives and a semi-automatic handgun on top of Holmes’ car. An ammunition clip fell out of his pocket and Oviatt found another on the ground. He said Holmes was dripping in sweat and his pupils were wide open.
Oviatt said Holmes seemed “very, very relaxed” and didn’t seem to have “normal emotional reactions” to things. “He seemed very detached,” he said.
Officer Aaron Blue went with Jessica Ghawi, who had been shot in the head, to the hospital. He said he held the head of the 24-year-old aspiring sportscaster steady in the backseat while someone else drove so she could breathe. She later died.
Caleb Medley was also wounded in the head, and Grizzle recalled accompanying the 23-year-old aspiring comedian struggling to breathe on the way to the hospital. Every time he thought Medley had stopped breathing, Grizzle said, he yelled at the man not to die. Medley survived, and his wife gave birth to their first baby days after the shooting.
Sgt. Gerald Jonsgaard recalled not finding a pulse on the youngest victim, 6-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan. Jonsgaard then had to stop talking because he was about to break down in tears.
Holmes, now 25, is charged with more than 160 counts, including murder and attempted murder.
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