Frightening new details emerge in theater shooting trial |

Frightening new details emerge in theater shooting trial

Sadie Gurman and Dan Elliott
The Associated Press
Marcus Weaver, front left, a victim of the 2012 shooting at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater, leaves the courthouse after testifying during the third day in the trial of James Holmes, Wednesday, April 29, 2015, in Centennial, Colo. Holmes is charged with multiple counts of murder and attempted murder in an attack that killed 12 people and injured 70. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

CENTENNIAL, Colo. — Vivid and disturbing new details about the Colorado theater shooting emerged in the third day of gunman James Holmes’ trial, with witnesses describing pandemonium and terror inside the auditorium.

Police officers called by the prosecution on Wednesday recounted a nightmarish scene with bloody victims, noxious smells and blaring noise. Moviegoers recalled the roar and flash of gunfire and the searing pain of being shot.

The July 20, 2012, attack in suburban Denver left 12 people dead and 70 injured. More than 400 people had gone to the theater for a midnight showing of a new Batman movie.

In opening statements and two days of testimony, prosecutors appeared intent on planting a deeply upsetting image of the attack in jurors’ minds. Witnesses have described watching loved ones being gunned down and being trampled by others trying to escape the theater.

Defense lawyers say Holmes acknowledged he was the shooter, but they say schizophrenia had so distorted his mind that he couldn’t tell right from wrong. The defense is asking the jury to find Holmes not guilty by reason of insanity, and if they do, he would be committed indefinitely to the state mental hospital.

Prosecutors say Holmes was mentally ill but intelligent and calculating and that he knew what he was doing was wrong. They want the jury to convict him of murder and sentence him to die.

Testimony resumes Thursday. Some key testimony from Wednesday:


Blache, an Air Force veteran who served in Iraq, dropped to the floor when she heard gunfire but was shot in both legs before she hit the ground. She heard people screaming, “I’ve been shot, I’ve been hit — stuff I’ve heard before.” Where had she heard it before? a prosecutor asked. “Iraq,” she replied.


Rushing to the theater, Hoefler heard rising panic in the police radio dispatches. “What we came across was blood and bodies everywhere. It was like a horror movie,” he said. He and another firefighter entered the theater without knowing whether a gunman was still inside. “We have a saying in the fire service, ‘Risk a life to save a life,’” he said. “There was no protecting ourselves.”


Weaver saw the gunman in silhouette, holding a single weapon with both hands at waist level. Standing in the witness box Wednesday, using a microphone as a stand-in for the weapon, Weaver demonstrated how the gunman rotated back and forth in a spraying motion. “You could see him moving this way and that way and this way and that way,” he said.


Dozens of people were still inside the theater when Jonsgaard and other officers went in, covering the exits and evacuating survivors. In the midst of securing the scene, he stopped to check on the wounded. “My son was supposed to go to this movie, not at this theater, but somewhere. I just wanted to make sure there, too,” he said.

Elliott reported from Denver.

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