Police testify on first day of hearing for accused U.S. theater shooter

Xinhua News – by Peter Mertz

CENTENNIAL, Colorado, Jan. 7 (Xinhua) — Police officers on Monday tearfully recalled the bloody chaos and carnage that greeted them as they responded to the Colorado theater shooting that left 12 people dead.

The officers described “slipping in blood” and “seeing dead bodies everywhere,” in riveting testimony during the first day of a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to put James Holmes on trial for the July 20 attack that also left dozens injured.

“There was so much blood I could hear it sloshing in the back seat of my car,” said Aurora police Officer Justin Grizzle, who transported four separate groups of wounded people to local hospitals.

Monday’s testimony was both intense and revealing as police officers described a calm, cooperative, and almost confident Holmes, who was apprehended minutes after the attack.

“He smirked at me,” Grizzle, a 13-year veteran, said of Holmes’ response after being asked if he had acted alone.

Holmes, charged with 166 counts of murder, attempted murder and weapons violations, did not speak nor show emotion during Monday’s day-long hearing in a courtroom filled with survivors and families of those who died.

Holmes’ dark hair and bushy beard contrasted with the bright orange-dyed hair he wore the night of the shootings in the suburban Denver movie theater, and close-cropped, clean look he had donned in subsequent court appearances.

All of the police officers who testified said that at the time of the attack Holmes did not seem under the influence of any drugs.

Aurora Police officer Jason Oviatt said he arrived at the scene minutes after the shootings and initially mistook Holmes – wearing a helmet, gas mask and body armor – as a police officer before arresting him at gunpoint.

“He seemed very detached to things. His responses were not normal,” Oviatt said. “He didn’t even exhibit normal tension.”

Grizzle wiped away tears while describing his efforts to rush badly wounded victims to the hospital, including 25-year-old Ashley Moser and her husband, who wanted Grizzle to return to the theater to find his daughter.

Ian Sullivan, suffering from a gunshot wound to the head, repeatedly asked Grizzle to turn around and go back to the theater to find his 6-year-old daughter Veronica. At one point Sullivan opened the door of the police car and tried to jump out, Grizzle said.

“I had to grab him by the shoulder and wrestle him back into the car,” said Grizzle, who at the time was racing to the hospital with his emergency lights on and siren blaring.

Sgt. Gerald Jonsgaard, a 33-year police veteran and the first commander to arrive at the movie theater, testified that Sullivan’s daughter, Veronica Moser-Sullivan, died at the scene.

“I felt her neck … and felt no sign of life,” Jonsgaard said on the stand. “In my opinion she was dead,” he said, before stopping to control his emotions.

As the courtroom emptied, family members who had sat in stunned silence during the lengthy hearing were drawn to Grizzle, who shared emotional hugs and words with many.

Grizzle also described an intense scene as he drove Caleb Medley, 23, to the hospital with multiple gunshot wounds.

As Medley’s breathing became more and more strained, Grizzle screamed repeatedly “Don’t … die on me, don’t … die on me.” Medley survived the massacre.

Jessica Ghawi was not so lucky. Officer Aaron Blue testified that he helped take the 24-year-old to the hospital after she was shot in the head and the leg. Every time she moved, she stopped breathing, he said. She later died.

Aurora police detective Matthew Ingui, who arrived at the theater later that day, described a gruesome scene with “blood, body tissue and popcorn on the floor.” Ingui said he found 209 live rounds of .223 ammunition and 15 cartridges of .40-caliber rounds inside the theater.

Several police officers pointed to Holmes as the man arrested at the scene. No witnesses inside the theater were able to identity the shooter due to his body armor, according to police testimony.

Jonsgaard said a plastic clip was found in Holmes’ possession, and that an identical one was used to prop open the door where a shooter, wielding three guns, entered the theater and opened fire about 30 minutes into the screening of the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises.”

Prosecutors said Holmes purchased a ticket for the movie on July 8 – almost two weeks before the massacre. They also showed surveillance camera video taken inside the theater complex where dozens of people ran for the main exit in an uncontrolled panic.

After the hearing, Arapahoe County District Judge William Sylvester will determine whether there is enough evidence for Holmes to stand trial.


Start the Conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *