Aurora asks judge to lift gag order, so police and firefighters can talk about theater shooting

City also wants OK to release 911 call recordings

AURORA, Colo. - The city of Aurora has asked the judge in the Aurora theater shooting case to lift a gag order and allow Aurora police and fire officials to respond to worldwide requests from emergency response agencies "seeking to learn from the City's response" to the mass shooting.

Aurora police, firefighters and paramedics have been widely praised for their heroic response on July 20 to the carnage at the Century 16 theater, where a gunman opened fire with multiple weapons, killing 12 people and injuring 70 others.

The city has also been flooded with open records requests regarding the case from the news media, educational institutions and individuals from around the world, Martha L. Fitzgerald, an attorney for the city, wrote in court papers filed Tuesday.

Fitzgerald is asking Arapahoe County District Judge William B. Sylvester to lift -- or modify -- the  gag order imposed on all responding agencies associated with the case to at least allow police and fire commanders to share what their agencies have learned from handling the mass shooting.

During a preliminary hearing for accused shooter killer James Holmes earlier this month, veteran police officers choked up on the stand as they described the combat-like scene they faced at the theater.

Officer Justin Grizzle testified about seeing screaming people streaming out of Theater 9 as he enter it to find "several bodies throughout the theater lying motionless."

Like other officers, Grizzle jumped into action. He used his patrol car to make four trips and bringing six victims to hospitals.

Because of the gag order imposed on July 23, Fitzgerald said, "the City has refused numerous requests from law enforcement personnel and fire departments from jurisdictions around the country and the world which seek for the City to give presentations regarding the theater shooting."

"Those requests have in the vast majority of instances been made by other … emergency response organizations seeking to learn from the City's response here."

The gag order was initially imposed at the request of defense attorneys and prosecutors seeking to protect Holmes' right to a fair trial and the integrity of the ongoing criminal investigation.

Fitzgerald, however, noted that law enforcement testimony and evidence presented during the preliminary had received global news coverage. This rendered the gag order "moot" -- or irrelevant -- because people around the world had learned details of the murder case.

The city also asked for permission to release to the news media two recordings of 911 calls received from people in the theater during the attack that were played at the hearing.

"Release of recordings of the two 911 calls played in open court and/or allowing the City to speak about its response will not potentially jeopardize any investigation or the fairness of the judicial process here, because the evidence has already been revealed to millions of people worldwide," Fitzgerald wrote.

Holmes awaits trial on 166 counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder along with sentence-enhancement counts for illegal explosives possession and committing a crime of violence.

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