Day 2 of theater shooting prelim: Prosecutors play 911 calls, outline weapons purchased
Last Updated: 330 days ago
ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. - Prosecutors in the Aurora movie theater shooting trial established a timeline to show James Holmes began stockpiling weapons and ammunition months before the massacre on July 20, 2012.
A preliminary hearing is underway for Holmes, who is charged with 166 counts of murder and attempted murder -- two counts for each person injured or killed in the theater shooting -- along with one count of possession of an explosive/incendiary device and one count of using a weapon to commit a violent crime. After the preliminary hearing, the judge will decide if there's enough evidence to try Holmes on each count.
-- 4 Weapons, 6,295 Rounds --
At the beginning of the day prosecutors outlined Holmes' purchase of four weapons and 6,295 rounds of ammunition.
Testimony from ATF Supervisory Special Agent Steven Beggs and an ATF timeline revealed the purchases were made both in person and online. The 16 purchases detailed in court Tuesday began on May 10, 2012. The last was on July 14.
The online purchases came from sites based in at least six states. The biggest online purchase of ammunition involved 4,325 rounds from a dealer in Georgia.
The in-person purchase of chemicals presumably used for booby traps in Holmes' apartment was from The Science Company in Denver on July 14. Those chemical precursors include aluminum electrodes, iron electrodes, glycerin, ammonium chloride, and a component of potassium.
Beggs also testified he'd seen surveillance video of Holmes purchasing weapons at Gander Mountain in Thornton.
In total, Holmes purchased two .40-caliber pistols plus 2,600 rounds for them, a Remington tactical shotgun plus 375 rounds for it, and a Smith & Wesson M&P15 plus 3,370 rounds for that gun.
Other purchases included laser sights, tear gas grenades, various body armor and tools used for reloading drills.
In the July 1 video from Gander Mountain, Beggs said Holmes already had the infamous red-orange hair.
Prosecutors did establish that Holmes underwent a CBI background check for the guns. Upon cross-examination the defense asked about security surrounding the purchase of the other items.
"Is there any process in Colorado to screen if a severely mentally ill person had ordered these items?" the defense asked.
Beggs responded that there was not.
-- The Remote Controlled Car Booby Trap --
Testimony from Garrett Gumbinner, an FBI bomb technician, revealed publicly for the first time the traps found in Holmes' apartment at 1690 Paris Street.
Gumbinner said he was notified that Holmes had told arresting officers about improvised explosives in his home.
Prosecutors submitted photos taken from inside the apartment building. One showed the hallway leading to Holmes' door, others showed the items inside the apartment itself.
Gumbinner said a bomb squad robot found a trip wire made out of fishing line leading from the door jamb to a system of explosives. [Editors note: While the FBI bomb technician listed specific chemicals and details about the improvised explosive system, 7NEWS has decided not to report those explicit details.]
If someone had tripped the fishing line, the fire would have spread to the carpet, which had been soaked with gasoline and oil, Gumbinner testified.
Gumbinner also said he interviewed Holmes in jail about the apartment and that Holmes confirmed his plan to use fire or an explosion as a distraction before the shooting. According to the testimony, Holmes said he had set his computer to play 25 minutes of silence followed by loud music.
"He said he was hoping that would cause a disturbance and police would respond to his apartment instead of the theater," Gumbinner said.
Gumbinner said Holmes told him he also rigged a fuse between three glass jars that would explode. Holmes filled them, the agent said, with a potentially deadly mixture of homemade napalm and homemade thermite, which burns so hot it cannot be extinguished with water. He had also filled one jar with live rounds of ammunition, Gumbinner said.
Gumbinner also testified Holmes placed a portable radio in a trash bag along with a remote controlled toy car in a nearby trash bin. That radio was also programmed to play silence for 40 minutes then loud music for 20 minutes. Gumbinner testified Holmes hoped someone would find the radio and start to play with the remote controlled car; the remote was programmed to detonate explosions in his apartment.
-- Holmes' Activity On Dating Websites --
Aurora Police Detective Tom Welton also testified on Tuesday about Holmes' activity on dating websites before the shooting.
Holmes created a Match.com profile April 19, 2012, and last updated it July 18, Welton said. Holmes also created and Adult Friend Finder profile on July 5, and also updated it for the last time on July 18.
The defense questioned how the information was relevant, and the prosecution said both online profiles had the quote "will you visit me in prison?" indicating he had planned to commit a crime at least several days before the shooting.
-- Rapid-Fire Gunfire Heard On First 911 Call --
At least 30 gunshots were heard in court Tuesday as prosecutors played a 27-second recording of a 911 call made during the theater shooting.
The audio came from what detective Randy Hansen testified was the very first 911 call from inside Theater 9 during the midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises.”
The very first call was from moviegoer Kevin Quinonez as the shooting was still underway. In the background, you can hear rapid-fire shots along with screaming.
“Gunshots…” Quinonez can be heard saying.
The dispatcher pleads with Quinonez to give the theater address, but the sound of gunshots and chaos drowns him out.
“Say it loud” the dispatcher pleads before the call goes dead.
The call, Hansen said, was made at 12:38 a.m. Previously, Hansen's testimony established the movie began playing at 12:20 a.m., meaning the shooting started no more than 18 minutes into the film.
The second tape played was a call from a 13-year-old girl, who attended the film with her cousins, Veronica Moser-Sullivan and Ashley Moser, according to testimony from Hansen.
The four-minute call begins with the girl's voice: "There's been a shooting," she said.
"Is this the Century 16 Theater shooting?" a dispatcher asked.
A moment later the dispatcher asked, "Do you know whose been shot?"
"My two cousins," the girl responded.
No gun shots could be heard in that recording, but because of the noise and confusion in the theater, the girl was having trouble hearing the dispatcher.
“We need to start CPR,” the dispatcher says.
“I can’t,” Bailey says.
The dispatcher continued trying to talk her through performing CPR, but without any apparent success.
Victims and families listening to the calls in the courtroom were weeping openly and holding hands. One woman buried her face in her hands.
In court, Holmes did not move and didn't even blink as the sound of the call degenerated into yelling and crying.
In all, 41 911 calls were made within the first 10 minutes.
-- Holmes Had Ticket For Theater 8 --
Although Theater 9 is where 12 people were killed and 70 others were injured on July 20, testimony revealed that Holmes actually purchased a ticket for Theater 8.
The revelation came during the testimony of Aurora Police Detective Craig Appel, who said he'd worked exclusively on the theater shooting case for five months.
Asked if he'd seen all the evidence and read all the documents in the case, Appel said, "I hope so."
In response to questions, Appel revealed that Holmes' movie ticket was bought at 9 p.m. MST on July 7 from Fandago.com, but the ticket bore the date July 8 because that's the time zone where Fandango is located.
How did Holmes get into Theater 9?
"The only checkpoint was the ticket-taker," Appel said and there was no system to prevent someone from entering another theater after passing that checkpoint.
-- Casings Found Near Front Exit, Entrance Hall --
Appel also testified about several crime-scene photos taken inside Theater 9. He identified spent shell casings, bullet magazines and a shotgun recovered in the theater that matched the serial number of the gun Holmes purchased at a local Bass Pro Shop.
Appel said roughly 55 percent of the shell casings from the three weapons used in the rampage -- the shotgun, an assault rifle and a handgun -- were found by an emergency exit at the front of the theater to the right of the movie screen.
The remaining spent shells -- about 45 percent -- were found along Theater 9's entrance hall to the right of the seating area, Appel said.
This indicated the shooter was firing from that hallway, Appel said. Bullet holes were also found in a rear wall of that entrance hallway and in the wall on the left side of the seating area that separates Theater 9 and Theater 8.
Under questioning by Defense Attorney Daniel King, Appel said some of the shell casings might have been moved by the stampede of people fleeing the shooting. But Appel stood by his analysis of the shell casings.
"It's not an exact science, but I think you get a general understanding of where (the shooter) may have been standing," based on the spent shell casings' location, Appel said.
Appel testified that a total of 66 spent rifle rounds, six spent shotgun shells and four spent handgun rounds were found in the theater.
Other rounds that had not been fired showed that the assault rifle had jammed, Appel said. He said unfired bullet casings bored telltale markings confirming the rifle had jammed.
-- Homicide Sgt. Chokes Up On Stand --
The judge called a brief recess before 4 p.m. when a homicide sergeant choked up on the stand while describing the injuries of 70 victims who survived the shooting.
Aurora Police Sgt. Matthew Fyles was gripped by emotion while describing how a bullet severed Stefan Moton's spine, leaving him paralyzed.
Fyles testified about a chart he compiled detailing survivors' injuries. They ranged from minor gunshot and shotgun pellet wounds to serious gunshot wounds causing brain injuries and paralysis. Other wounds included chemical irritation from tear gas grenades and injuries suffered as fleeing people fell.
Officers interviewed the friends and military comrades of victim John Larimer who was a Navy sailor stationed at Buckley Air Force Base. They went to the movie with him and they all hit the ground when shots were fired. They said there was a pause, then more shots, then they realized Larimer had died. They were going to carry him out but then stopped when they heard someone yell, “He’s coming back!” at which point they left his body behind and ran from the theater, according to testimony revealed in court on Tuesday.
Fyles, who was the on-call supervisor for the Major Crimes and Homicide Unit that night testified the rounds used in the rifle were steel core rounds that do not fragment. Therefore, the bullets may have continued through multiple victims and/or multiple objects.
He also described arriving at the Aurora Century 16 theater complex.
The parking lot was "a sea of police vehicles," Fyles said.
He said more than 1,000 people have worked on the investigation, adding that 444 Aurora officers have written reports on the attack.
Others who have worked on the case include 56 crime-lab technicians, law enforcement officers from 27 other agencies along with firefighters and paramedics.
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