News Column

Self-portraits Show Holmes Posing With Guns

Jan 10, 2013

By Gary Strauss

Self-portraits taken with a cellphone less than seven hours before the mass shooting at an Aurora theater show suspect James Holmes eerily grinning, sticking his tongue out and wearing black contact lenses while he holds a handgun, assault rifle and homemade bomb, prosecutors said Wednesday.

The chilling cellphone photos were shown on the third and final day of what was to be a five-day preliminary hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence to try Holmes on more than 160 counts of murder and attempted murder.

Holmes is charged with killing 12 people and injuring nearly 60 during the July 20 massacre.

As the hearing concluded, the evidence appeared overwhelming. Arapahoe County prosecutor Karen Pearson said the photos, along with video placing Holmes at the theater, records of weapons and ammunition purchases weeks before the shootings and other evidence "go to identity, deliberation and extreme indifference" under the charges.

"He knew what he was doing," Pearson said. "He picked a perfect venue for his crime, where people were packed in and where there would be great difficulty for escape. Had his (assault rifle) not jammed, he would have shot a lot more people."

Holmes' defense lawyers say the 25-year-old University of Colorado doctoral program dropout suffers from mental illness and have suggested they will use an insanity defense. Lead defense attorney Dan King had planned to call witnesses to testify about Holmes' mental state, but King told Judge William Sylvester on Wednesday that it was pointless to call witnesses.

"This is neither the proper venue nor time to put on a show or a truncated defense," King said.

Sylvester continued the hearing until Friday morning. Court officials said it's possible Sylvester could rule before Friday and then set an arraignment date for him.

Prosecutors said other cellphone photos taken by Holmes showed that he repeatedly checked out the theater weeks before the shootings.

Police said earlier that Holmes bought a ticket online July 8 for the July 20 midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises. On Tuesday, prosecutors played theater surveillance video that showed Holmes entering at 12:03 a.m. Police said Holmes later exited an emergency door, propped it open and went to his car, where he retrieved weapons and ammunition before returning to the packed theater.

Victims of the shooting who have been at the preliminary hearing say they were startled by Holmes' demeanor in the cellphone photos, which alternately showed him smiling or mugging for the camera.

"It shows he had planned this all along, that he knew what he was doing," said Yousef Gharbi, who was shot in the right temple. The 17-year-old high school student recalled wiping away blood before passing out. He later awoke in the hospital.

Tom Teves, whose son Alex was killed, said Holmes' odd behavior following the shootings is a ruse.

"He's playing everyone," said Teves, who attended the hearing with his wife, Caren.

Caren Teves said the evidence was disturbing but provided some sense of Holmes' intent.

"It was completely planned out, deliberate and calculating," she said.

Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2013

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