James Holmes Hearing: Accused Aurora Shooter Was ‘Just Standing There’ After Theater Rampage

The first day of preliminary hearings in the case of the Aurora, Colo. theater shooting was an emotional one, as police officers testified about what they saw when responding to the scene of the bloody July 20 rampage that killed 12 people and injured 58.

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In this photo provided by the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office, James Holmes poses for a booking photo September 20, 2012 in Centennial, Colorado.
Photo by Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office via Getty Images

In this photo provided by the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office, James Holmes poses for a booking photo September 20, 2012 in Centennial, Colorado.

Correction Appended Jan. 7, 2012

The first day of preliminary hearings in the case of the Aurora, Colo. theater shooting was an emotional one, as police officers testified about what they saw when responding to the scene of the bloody July 20 rampage that killed 12 people and injured 58.  And it’s likely just the beginning of several days of similar testimony.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys are presenting evidence in a Centennial, Colo., courtroom in case of James Eagan Holmes, 24, who was charged in July with 142 counts of murder and attempted murder after he opened fire at a July 20 midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. At the conclusion of the hearing he is expected to find out if he will stand trial for his actions.

Arapahoe County judge William Sylvester will decide whether the 24-year-old former neuroscience student is mentally competent to stand trial. Early in the day’s testimony, Holmes was described as “out of it” by the officer who found him after the shooting, according to reports from The Denver Post.

“He was very relaxed,” said Aurora Police Officer Jason Oviatt, who along with other officers found Holmes in the parking lot of the Cinemark Century 16 megaplex theater wearing two ammunition magazines and body armor. “It was like there weren’t normal responses.”

(MORE: James Holmes Charged with 142 Counts in Colorado Theater Shooting)

Later, Officer James Grizzle described the bloody scene came across when he moved inside the theater. “I slipped. I almost fell down because of all the blood there.” He said he took people to the hospital in the back of his patrol car rather than waiting on an ambulance at least three times and described in graphic detail what it was like.

“There was so much blood I could hear it sloshing in the back of my car,” he told the court

Holmes entered the movie theater just after the beginning of a screening of the film, armed with an AR-15, rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun, and a .40 caliber pistol, and opened fire on moviegoers, killing 12 and injuring 58. He surrendered to police without a struggle after the shooting. In a subsequent search of his nearby apartment, police found that he had booby-trapped it with explosives, which were later dismantled by investigators.

Other evidence presented at the hearing included security video of “dozens” of people running from the theater into the lobby to escape the gunfire and of Holmes walking into the theater before the shooting began. He had purchased a ticket for the showing 12 days in advance.

Oviatt said Holmes was “just standing there” not moving much at all, and seemed unconcerned when officers arrived on the scene. “Not in any hurry. Not excited. Not urgent about anything.”

The gunman was initially charged with 142 counts of murder and attempted murder, but prosecutors later added 24 additional counts for a total of 166.  During early motions in the case prosecutors and defense lawyers debated over several types of evidence, much of it to do with Holmes’ mental state prior to the shooting. Holmes had attended the University of Colorado and was studying for his Ph.D in neuroscience, but dropped out in June after taking his oral exams. His lawyers said that he was also seeing a psychiatrist at the school, Dr. Lynne Fenton. According to local news reports, Fenton, concerned at Holmes’ erratic behavior, had alerted school officials that he could pose a threat to others.

After Holmes dropped out, however, the university’s Behavioral Evaluation and Threat Assessment Team — which Fenton helped develop — had no authority to respond to his behavior. The day he dropped out, he legally purchased the AR-15 semiautomatic and other weapons.

Prosecutors have not disclosed whether they plan to pursue the death penalty against Holmes, if he’s found competent to stand trial; Arapahoe County District Attorney Carol Chambers, however, said that the feelings of the shooting survivors and victims’ families would need to be taken into account first. “Victims will be impacted by that decision in an enormous way for years, if the death penalty is sought,” she said. “We will want to get their input before we make any kind of a decision on that.”

An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the movie playing at the Aurora theater during the shooting as The Dark Knight Returns.

18 comments
AngelaKathleen
AngelaKathleen

He looks like the devil! Of course he is insane! But that shouldn't change the degree of punishment he deserves!!!

joeysiddick2
joeysiddick2

I don't care if he is mentally ill or not, let him die!

WinstonSmith1984
WinstonSmith1984

I have a post with a list of questions (fully referenced) the MSM (Mainstream Media) has neglected to ask, which could shed an awful lot of light on this horrible tragedy. You can read the post "Questions the MSM doesn't ask about James Holmes" at http://wp.me/p1mEWh-7P and see what ELSE might be going on here...

SeanO'Keefe
SeanO'Keefe

Sane or insane, is not the question of criminally insane. The question of criminally insane is knowing the difference between right and wrong. If he bought his ticket in advance, so far in advance that he actually bought his ticket before he dropped out of school, before he talked to the school psychitrist and before he even bought all of the weapons then he was planning this act so far in advance that he even had a mental checklist of things to do to prepare for the act. Clearly that is evidence of knowing the difference between right and wrong rather than simply acting on an uncontrollable urge. By the defintion of criminally insane he's clearly not insane at all but caluculating and exact in his actions. He should be given the death penalty.

columbare1
columbare1

when someone does what this man did and then stands around seemingly unconcerned and has shown signs of mental instability I would conclude that he is insane and as such is not mentally competent to stand trial or aid in his defense. My own feeling he should be commited to a hospital for the criminally insane and if he ever recovers then brought to trial. But in any case he should never ever be set free.

bReader
bReader

It was a screening of "Dark Knight Rises" not "Dark Knight Returns"!

MC
MC

Wow... Grad school.

JustThinkAboutIt
JustThinkAboutIt

@SeanO'Keefe I'm not at all defending Holmes, but arguing that he had it all planned out based on his purchase of a movie ticket is stupid. He could have no intention of doing the things he did before he started doing them, so that would not be a valid argument in a trail, and if he did have the intention to do the things he did before he did them, then why would he have worried about the ticket in the first place? Do you think he sat there and questioned whether or not he would be asked for his ticket while he had three firearms and body armor on? That's a stupid argument.

nappyhoose
nappyhoose

@SeanO'Keefe He bought his ticket 12 days in advance, not before he dropped out.  He dropped out 2 months before the shooting and bought weapons the day he dropped out.

commentonitall
commentonitall

@SeanO'Keefe 

Your legal assessment of insanity is wrong.  Just because he carried out the acts does not mean he knew the difference between right and wrong.  What if voices were telling him to do these things?  I am not in any way defending this person, I'm just pointing out you don't understand the legal definition of insanity and how it plays out in court.  There are many factors that come into play and you failed to mentioned them.

bibleverse1
bibleverse1

@columbare1 Should be put in psyciatric prison. Maximum security hospital. Should be declared uncurable.

tjmorrison
tjmorrison

@bReader Thanks for flagging. This has been fixed in the article above. 

SeanO'Keefe
SeanO'Keefe

@JustThinkAboutIt That's a stupid argument? How about going to the movie theater at least three times in advance to do reconnaissance. How about taking pictures of the door and then searching for the perfect item to use to prop it open. How about finding something pretty close to perfect (a plastic table cloth clip) and then deciding to modify it to make it even better. How about having the forethought to put a sun shade in his front windshield so that while he was changing into his body armor anyone walking by couldn't see into his vehicle. My point was not that he was worrying about someone asking him for a movie ticket - but rather that he needed one for that movie, that night. My point was that he thought about all of those things well in advance of the crime meaning they were premeditated. Proof of premeditation is one of the classic dividing lines between the levels of severity of crimes. So perhaps, once again people just looking for an argument on the internet is the stupid part of this conversation.

SeanO'Keefe
SeanO'Keefe

Again incorrect. He took an oral exam which he failed on June 7th. He tendered his withdraw on June 10th. He bought his ticket on June 8th. I guess it's easier to simply comment on something you read on the internet than it is to know what you're talking about before you comment.

SeanO'Keefe
SeanO'Keefe

According to the State of Colorado's legal statue:

(1) The applicable test of insanity shall be, and the jury shall be so instructed: "A person who is so diseased or defective in mind at the time of the commission of the act as to be incapable of distinguishing right from wrong with respect to that act is not accountable. But care should be taken not to confuse such mental disease or defect with moral obliquity, mental depravity, or passion growing out of anger, revenge, hatred, or other motives, and kindred evil conditions, for when the act is induced by any of these causes the person is accountable to the law."
(2) The term "diseased or defective in mind", as used in subsection (1) of this section, does not refer to an abnormality manifested only by repeated criminal or otherwise antisocial conduct.

Therefore your legal assesssment is wrong. There are no what if's and I do understand the legal defination of insanity and how it plays out in a court in Colorado, where this case is being tried.