Aurora theater shooting hearing, day two: Youngest victim's story, death of a military man
Editor's note: Melanie Asmar is covering day two of the preliminary hearing into the July 20 Aurora theater shooting allegedly committed by James Holmes. The latest update is immediately below, followed by previous coverage.
Update: The majority of the afternoon session was dominated by a listing of victims by name, injury and the corresponding charges against James Holmes.
Aurora Police Department Sergeant Matthew Fyles testified at length. He began by sharing APD statistics. He said 444 different officers had written reports in the theater shooting case and approximately 1,000 people worked on the case.
He also shared a chart featuring the names and experiences of each victim. He read through them one by one, a process that took in the range of two hours due to the large number of individuals killed (twelve) and injured (seventy), as well as the equally sizable roster of charges (166).
Patricia Legarreta and Jamie Rohrs with the youngest victim at the theater, four-month-old Ethan Rohrs.
Many of those injured were struck by shotgun pellets, while others suffered unspecified chemical irritations, possibly from the teargas used in the theater. Among those with a chemical irritation wound was thirteen-year-old Kaylan Bailey, mentioned in previous testimony. Fyles noted when victims were so badly wounded that they required emergency surgery and/or suffered lasting injuries: permanent limps, nerve damage, loss of teeth, paralysis.
The youngest victim was Ethan Rohrs, four months old. He was at the theater with his parents, Patricia Legarreta and Jamie Rohrs. Legarreta was holding Ethan when she was shot in the right calf -- a wound that caused her to drop the child, who sustained bumps and bruises as a result.
Reading this litany caused Fyles to grow emotional on the stand. He occasionally wiped his eyes with a tissue, and a number of victims attending the hearing were similarly impacted.
One vivid story told by Fyles involved one of the deceased victims, John Larimer. He was a member of the military in attendance with friends also in the service. His body was not found behind seats, as were most of those who lost their lives, but in an aisle leading toward an exit. Fyles testified that there was a break in the shooting, during which Larimer's friends tried to carry his body with them. But before they could get out of the auditorium, someone screamed, "He's coming back!" As a result, they were unable to get his body out.
As five p.m. neared, the prosecutor told the judge it would be a good time to break, adding that Fyles was the last witness. He had not been dismissed, so he's expected to continue his testimony tomorrow. But at this writing, it's not known if the conclusion of his remarks will also mark the end of the hearing.
Continue for previous posts about today's preliminary hearing.
Update January 8, 3:14 p.m.: After lunch, answers were provided to questions about a boombox and a remote-control car that were allegedly part of a system to trigger a blast in James Holmes's apartment.
FBI bomb technician Garrett Gumbinner had testified about a secondary system to set off an explosion in Holmes's residence, involving a boombox left near a dumpster outside the apartment building. The device was set to begin playing music intended to lure someone to the area, where a remote-control car was also present. Playing with the car using the remote would have caused the apartment to go up in flames, Gumbinner said.
James Holmes's first mug shot shows the dyed hair noted by investigators.
Holmes defense attorney Daniel King subsequently asked Gumbinner if the boombox had been recovered, and he said he wasn't sure. But later testimony revealed that the boombox had been found by a resident of the neighborhood (not Holmes's building). After he provided it to police, investigators found Holmes's fingerprints on it.
In contrast, the car and the remote control were never recovered.
More testimony was offered by Aurora detective Craig Appel, who spoke about a police-station interview with Holmes on the morning of July 20. Appel said Holmes's hair was dyed red and he wore a torn T-shirt and boxer shorts.
King followed up with questions that focused on odd behavior. Appel said law enforcement had put paper bags on Holmes's hands to preserve gunshot residue, and an officer watching him in the room said he began moving the bags in talking-puppet motions. After being given some water, he also played with the Styrofoam cup, as well as pulling a staple from a table and trying to stick it into an electrical outlet.
Despite these actions, Holmes was not tested for drugs or alcohol. When King asked why not, Appel replied, "I saw no indication that he was under the influence of anything."
Continue for more about day two of the Aurora theater shooting preliminary hearing.
Update, 1:03 p.m. January 8: After the mid-morning break, FBI bomb technician Garrett Gumbinner returned to the stand to offer more details of James Holmes's apartment and its potentially lethal contents.
The agent said there appeared to have been three "initiating systems" designed to cause the various devices and substances inside the residence to explode -- fishing line connected to the door jamb, a remote control by a dumpster and a control used to launch model rockets. While speaking with Gumbinner, Holmes said he hadn't set the latter, but Gumbinner testified that lights on it were blinking.
Daniel King, a defense attorney for James Holmes.
Other items inside included ten two-liter Sprite bottles filled with gasoline and a series of six-inch fireworks shells with three-inch shells nested inside them. The three-inch shells contained smokeless powder of the sort used to make bullets, while the six-inch shells were partly filled with oil and gasoline.
Photos of the apartment displayed at the hearing depicted a very cluttered space thanks to a multitude of jars, bottles and shells, plus wires running from them over the beige carpet to the assorted triggering systems.
On cross-examination, Daniel King, one of Holmes's defense attorneys, asked Gumbinner if the remote-control car and boombox allegedly left near the apartment's dumpster were ever recovered. Gumbinner said that weren't found on July 20 and didn't know if they'd been picked up subsequently. However, he confirmed that the authorities were able to disarm all of the devices without causing fire or an explosion.
The next witness, Steven Beggs, is a supervising special agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. He testified about the timeline of purchases Holmes allegedly made in preparation for the theater attack and the rigging of his apartment. He started buying items on May 10, 2012, obtaining two six-ounce Clear Out teargas grenades via the Internet, and concluded his purchases on July 14. During that time, he bought items online and at area businesses, including Gander Mountain and Bass Pro Shop. Among them were four guns -- two handguns, a shotgun and a rifle -- plus 6,295 rounds of ammunition, the tactical gear he was wearing upon his arrest, two pairs of handcuffs, hearing protection, gun sights and a 100-round drum magazine for the rifle, an AR-15, and an array of chemicals.
Continue for more of our latest update on the preliminary hearing's second day.
In a video of Holmes at a Gander Mountain store in Aurora buying snap caps -- devices similar to firearm cartridges that are used to practice firing guns -- "his hair was bright orange," Beggs testified.
Shortly thereafter, Beggs was cross-examined by Tamara Brady, another of Holmes's defense attorneys. She asked him if there's any legal process in the state of Colorado that would have prevented someone who was "severely mentally ill" from buying any of the items listed above. Beggs's answer was "no."
James Holmes's Adultfriendfidner.com profile.
Next to the stand was Detective Tom Welton, who testified that Holmes had created online profiles on Match.com and Adultfriendfinder.com -- the first on April 19, the second on July 5. Each of them featured a headline that read, "Will you visit me in prison?" The last time he accessed the Match.com account was July 18, just two days before the attack.
Holmes's Match.com profile.
Welton also mentioned interviewing two more victims who had been in the theater on July 20. Their accounts were similar to others: They recalled seeing someone dressed in black enter the auditorium through an exit door, throw a gas cannister and then begin shooting at the crowd.
Continue to read our previous coverage about day two of the Aurora theater shooting preliminary hearing.
Original post, January 8, 11:47 a.m.: Today's session began with two 911 recordings from inside the theater that captured the attack's chaos and terror.
According to Aurora police detective Randy Hansen, a screening of The Dark Knight Rises was scheduled to begin in auditorium nine of the Aurora Century 16 at 12:05 a.m. on July 20. After previews and a commercial, the actual move started at 12:20 a.m. The first 911 call came in shortly thereafter, at 12:38 a.m. It was 27 seconds long and was placed by Keven Quinonez, who survived the massacre. The recording is dominated by booming noises; the detective counted at least thirty of them. Amid the noise, Quinonez says something about gunshots, after which the dispatcher asks for the address and then, after a pause, says, "I'm sorry, I can't hear you."
The second 911 call was made by Kaylan Bailey, thirteen, a cousin of Ashley Moser, who was paralyzed in the attack, and six-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan, Ashley's daughter, who was killed; it lasts about four minutes. In it, Bailey tells the dispatcher that her two cousins have been shot and one of them isn't breathing. The dispatcher tells her, "We need to start CPR," but Bailey keeps saying, "I can't hear you." A short time later, the police arrive and Bailey ends the call.
The next person to testify was FBI agent Garrett Gumbinner, a bomb technician who searched suspect James Holmes's car and apartment for bombs. No explosive devices were found in the vehicle, he said, but officers located a number of weapons, including two handguns (one on top of the car, the other in a pocket of the passenger door), plus rifle cases, backpacks, bags, an iPhone and what were described as vehicular deterrent spikes.
The scene from the apartment complex on July 20. Holmes lived in the top left corner apartment.
The apartment was a much different story. Later on July 20, Gumbinner spoke with Holmes, who "said he had rigged his apartment to explode or catch fire to send resources to his apartment rather than to the theater."
Continue for more from day two of the preliminary hearing about the Aurora theater shooting.
A view from the staging area on July 20.
According to Gumbinner, a five-foot stretch of fishing line ran from the apartment's door jamb feet to a thermos full of glycerin tilted at a 45 degree angle over a frying pan containing potassium permanganate. If these chemicals mixed, Gumbinner said the result would be "heat, flame and sparks." Holmes had also programmed his computer to play 25 minutes of silence, followed by loud music, "hoping that would cause a disturbance," the agent said -- enough of one to prompt a call to the police, who would then show up at the apartment. Holmes also put a line of a white powder -- ammonium chloride -- on the floor "to scare us," Gumbinner maintained; when ammonium chloride catches fire, it's said to produce a great deal of smoke.
The apartment's carpeting was also saturated with gasoline and oil. Gumbinner said that if a spark had landed on the carpet, it would have "made the entire apartment explode or catch fire."
Also on the scene were three jars filled with homemade napalm with bullets in them. On top of the jars were what Gumbinner described as half of a plastic fireworks shell with a chemical in them that would have burned so hot that "you can't put it out with water," he said.
In addition, officers found what Gumbinner called a pyrotechnics firing box -- a control system for the entire set-up, complete with a remote control -- and a boombox in a white trash bag left near the dumpster outside his apartment, not far from a remote-control car. The boombox was set to play forty minutes of silence followed by loud music. According to Gumbinner, Holmes apparently hoped that someone would hear the music, see the toy, play with it using the remote and inadvertently trigger the apartment to explode.
More from our Aurora Theater Shooting archive: "Aurora theater shooting hearing: James Holmes's eyes lit up, said victim's dad."
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.