News Column

Aurora Police Tell of Grim Scene, Suspect's Arrest

Jan 8, 2013

By Gary Strauss

Officers who arrived at the Aurora, Colo., movie theater massacre site found suspect James Holmes "completely compliant" and clad in what resembled police-issued armor and equipment.

Aurora police officer Jason Obiatt said Monday in a preliminary court hearing that at first he thought Holmes was a fellow officer because he was dressed in full body armor and wore a gas mask and helmet.

Holmes, alleged to have killed 12 people, was standing outside the movie theater with his hands on top of his car when police arrived.

"He was just standing there not doing anything, not urgent about anything," Obiatt testified as Holmes, dressed in a red jumpsuit and with a full beard and dark, brown hair, sat passively next to his defense team -- occasionally looking at the two officers during their testimony.

Prosecutors on Monday began laying out their case against the accused mass murderer at a five-day preliminary hearing at Arapahoe County District Court here.

The hearing is likely to include the first extensive public disclosure of details of the attack.

Holmes, 24, faces 166 counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder in the July 20 shooting rampage at a suburban Denver movie theater that left 12 people dead and 57 wounded. The preliminary hearing will determine whether there is sufficient evidence to put Holmes on trial.

The testimony was wrenching for victims such as Farrah Soudari, 23, who watched from an adjacent hearing room with her father, Sam Soudari. Farrah Soudari lost a kidney and spleen and suffered other injuries from an exploding tear gas grenade. She underwent four surgeries and will need at least one more.

"She doesn't want to see him," her father said, wiping away tears as the testimony continued. "Part of me wants to rip his head off -- but you see him sitting there and (he) just seems lifeless."

Obiatt testified that he ordered Holmes onto the ground, handcuffed him and then dragged him a few feet away from the white sedan so he could safely search him for weapons.

Holmes, he said, didn't resist, "not in the slightest. He was completely compliant."

As he was pulling Holmes, a handgun magazine fell out of Holmes' pocket. He also found a knife in his belt and another knife in his pocket.

Aaron Blue, a fellow officer, testified that he took out a knife and cut away Holmes' protective gear to search for other weapons.

Blue said he asked Holmes whether he had any explosives, and Holmes told him that improvised devices were in place at his apartment and would go off if triggered.

Blue described a scene of mayhem, with victims fleeing the theater as he tried to maneuver his police car to the rear of the building.

He said once they got Holmes into the back of a police car, he became fidgety, was sweating profusely and reeked of body odor.

A third officer, Justin Grizzle, described in emotional detail his transportation of six shooting victims to the hospital on four separate trips.

"There was so much blood," he said. "I could hear it sloshing around in the back of my car."

One of the victims was Caleb Medley, who was shot in the head. Grizzle, using profanity, implored the budding stand-up comic not to die on the way to the hospital. He later died.

Aurora detective Matthew Ingui testified that most of the 12 murder victims were in rows 8 through 18. He added that eyewitnesses told him the shooter moved in a calm, deliberate manner as he sprayed rounds from an assault-style weapon.

The attack ranks among the largest mass shootings in U.S. history but lately has been overshadowed by the massacre in Newtown, Conn., last month of 20 Sandy Hook Elementary School students and six school employees.

Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2013

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