A police officer broke down yesterday as he described how James Holmes ‘smiled and smirked’ moments after allegedly shooting dead 12 people and injuring 58 when he opened fire at a Colorado cinema.
In the first extensive courtroom account of the massacre in Aurora on July 20 last year, police officers who were first on the scene and arrested Holmes found him to be ‘detached’ and ‘out of it"’ while wearing head-to-toe body armour.
In emotional testimony Officer Justin Grizzle described a scene of horror in the aftermath with victims screaming out for help. The officer ferried six of them to hospital in his patrol car, which had pools of blood in it, and pleaded with victims to “not die” as he went.
He had arrived at the Century 16 cinema as Holmes was being arrested, and held his legs down. He then asked Holmes if there was a second gunman, and Holmes “just looked at me and smiled. It was a smirk”. Officer Grizzle choked back tears as he told the court how he entered the building and slipped in blood.
He found several bodies throughout the theatre laying motionless as mobile phones rang out. The officer said: “People were screaming, yelling ‘help, help us’. All of them were covered in blood. There were horrific injuries — anyone could realise they needed to go now. After what I saw in the theatre I didn’t want anyone else to die. There was so much blood I could hear it sloshing around in the back of the car.”
Officer Jason Oviatt said that after arriving at the scene of the shooting to find victims bleeding on a street corner, he followed a trail of blood and ran with his gun drawn to the back of the cinema building.
There, he said he saw Holmes wearing a gas mask, helmet and clad head to toe in body armour. He said he initially thought he must be a police officer. Sitting 15 feet from Holmes in Court 201 at Arapahoe County Justice Center on Monday, Officer Oviatt identified him as the man he had arrested. ”
The court was shown video footage of Holmes arriving at the cinema, and later footage of people fleeing through the lobby.
Holmes bought his ticket for the Batman screening on July 8, three weeks before the shooting, the court heard. The alleged attack took place on July 20 in an opening midnight screening of the blockbuster Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises, at the Century 16 theatre in Aurora.
Witnesses said Holmes threw smoke bomb-type devices before opening fire randomly with weapons including an AR-15 rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun and a .40-caliber pistol.
Reliving the horror
One of the shooter’s badly wounded victims, Farrah Soudani, attended the hearing — but from a distance. She chose to watch it on closed-circuit TV from the jury room rather than be near her would-be killer in court, her dad said. “If she wanted to sit in the courtroom, I would have held her hand. But she didn’t want to look at [Holmes’] face,” said the young woman’s dad, Sam. “It’s like he has no emotion. He’s a robot,” he said of Holmes.
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