DAY 1: Theater shooting hearing starts, officers testify, shooting suspect James Holmes bought tickets weeks in advance of the showing

10:57 PM, Jan 7, 2013   |    comments
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A week-long preliminary hearing, essentially a dress rehearsal for trial, will include graphic details never before revealed to the public. Monday marked the first day of the preliminary hearing.

A couple of the officers who took the stand on Monday got quite emotional, often holding back tears as they described a chaotic scene with bloody victims and a parking lot so packed that ambulances could not get access. Holmes sat motionless and silent during all the testimony.


Officer Jason Oviatt found 24-year-old James Holmes behind the theater "just standing there" next to Holmes' car. Oviatt said he thought, at first, that Holmes was a police officer. As he got closer, he discovered that was not the case. 

Oviatt said he placed Holmes under arrest, and Holmes fully cooperated. Oviatt described Holmes as being "detached" during the arrest. He added that Holmes was wearing a gas mask, helmet and body armor. He was dripping with sweat, had enlarged pupils and "smelled," according to Oviatt. 

Holmes' demeanor was described as "relaxed" and non-resistant, obeying every command given to him. Oviatt said Holmes "didn't have normal emotional responses, seemed very detached from it all. Holmes simply starred off into the distance."

During the arrest he told authorities there were explosives set at his apartment. The officer said he found two magazine clips in his pocket, was wearing soft body armor and had two knives - one in his pocket and the other in his belt. After he was searched, Oviatt testified that Holmes told police there were "improvised explosive devices at [his] house ... [that were] set to go off if [they tripped] them."


Officer Aaron Blue testified second. He helped searching Holmes with Oviatt. Blue said after the search was complete, he noticed another officer pulling out a woman who was shot in the head and the leg. Blue noted that woman was Jessica Ghawi. Jessica "Redfield" Ghawi was one of 12 killed in the July 20 theater shooting. According to Blue, every time they moved Ghawi, she stopped breathing. He helped the other officer get Ghawi into a patrol car and helped take her to University Hospital. 

Blue returned to the theater after dropping off Ghawi at the hospital. Blue said he asked Holmes if there was another shooter, and Holmes smirked and said he acted alone and had four guns on him. 

Blue mentioned when he first arrived on the scene, there was only one fire truck and they were "overwhelmed."


Officer Justin Grizzle took the stand after the first break in the preliminary hearing.

Grizzle described the horrifying scene he encountered when he went to the theater.

Grizzle helped place Holmes in custody, but heard people screaming in the theater, so he went in to help.

He had to step over an assault rifle with a magazine in it as he entered the theater. He almost fell because he slipped in blood on the floor. He testified that he heard an alarm going off and cellphones ringing off the hook throughout the theater. Tear gas filled the theater and made him start crying.

Grizzle said he saw "several bodies throughout the theater lying motionless." He said there were other officers in the theater trying to help victims, "but some gunshot victims were just crawling to get out." Grizzle said the injuries he saw were horrific.

He and a sergeant helped transport victims to area hospitals. In total, he said he made four trips and took six people to hospitals.

The first couple he took were Ashley Moser and her husband. Grizzle said the whole time, Moser's boyfriend Jamison Toews - kept asking "That's my wife, is my wife going to live?"

Toews was shot in the head, and Ashley was shot in the head and the abdomen. Toews kept asking "Where is my 7-year-old daughter? Where is she?" Toews asked Grizzle to turn the car around to go back and search for his daughter. When Grizzle refused, Toews tried to jump out of the moving squad car. Grizzle had to hold him down by his shoulder to prevent him from jumping out.

Grizzle took them both to Medical Center of Aurora - South.

Grizzle went back to the theater and took two more victims to Aurora South.

The third trip, Grizzle transported Caleb Medley - a local comedian who was shot in the theater. He had trauma to his face, and Grizzle testified he "thought he was going to die." Medley kept making terrible noises while he drove. Grizzle would tell him "don't f-ing die on me" whenever Medley would stop breathing. Grizzle took him to University Hospital because he was worried Aurora South was too busy.

Grizzle went back to the theater again and took another patient to the hospital. After dropping off the patient at University Hospital, he radio'd back to the theater, and they told him they thought all the critical patients were at hospitals now. 

When he drove back to the theater, Grizzle said he noticed his squad car was covered in blood. 

"I could hear blood sloshing in the back of my car," Grizzle testified.


Aurora Police Officer Gerald Jonsgaard testified fourth on Monday. He said he saw two guns on the ground of the movie theater when he entered. According to Jonsgaard, one of the guns was an AR-15 by the theater exit. He also noticed a Remington Model 870 pump-action shotgun with an extended magazine on it. Jonsgaard said since it had an extended magazine on it, he knew it wasn't a police weapon.

While testifying about what he saw inside the theater, he started crying on the stand. He began to talk about Veronica Moser-Sullivan - the 7-year-old girl who died in the theater shooting. He said he checked Veronica's pulse, but did not feel one. Another officer carried her out of the theater.


Officer Ingui responded around 2 a.m. He first went to Gateway High School to interview witnesses.

"It was terrible," Ingui testified.

He interviewed a number of witnesses who described shots being fired, including witnesses who were near people who died in the shooting. One of the witnesses described Holmes as being "calm and moved with purpose." After the interviews were over, Ingui went to the movie theater.

Theater 9 has 415 seats in it. He went row by row, describing to the court where each of the victims were found dead. When he was describing the location of each victim, some of the victims' families were sobbing in court. 

Ingui also went through 140 hours of video surveillance from the theater, which included shots of the lobby, entryway, concession stand, office and some hallways. Ingui said Holmes used his phone to scan his ticket three times: once at 12:03 a.m. and twice more at 12:04 a.m.

It was revealed during Ingui's testimony that Holmes purchased his ticket for the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises on July 8 - nearly two weeks before the shooting. According to Ingui, Holmes spent some time in the concession stand, but did not buy anything. 

Later on in the footage, Ingui said you could see dozens of people running across the screen from theater 9 to the doors of the theater building. 


Many of the details revealed this week will be brand new because of the gag order in the theater shooting case.

Survivors, families, and the media gathered at the Arapahoe County Justice Center Monday morning.

Without question there is enormous public interest in this case. News outlets from around the country are in Colorado.

Victims' families have flown in from across the country and they expect this to be a very difficult week.

Many have never stepped foot in the courthouse or been in the same room with the suspect.

"We're all going to get through this process. It's very traumatizing," said Jessica Watts, who lost her cousin Jonathan Blunk on July 20.

Blunk is one of the 12 people who died, while 58 others were injured.

"It's almost like an extended family. We'll definitely be sitting together in court," Watts said.

Watts is trying to prepare the others who haven't been to court.

"The main shock will definitely be them seeing him for the first time," Watts said.

Another shock for the families will be the evidence revealed in court.

"[There will be] a lot more detail about that night," Watts said.

Watts says they've been told to expect video and photos from inside the theater.

"They are going to be of the wounded and of the dead," Watts said.

Watts has tried to prepare herself by reading the coroner's report, which says her cousin was shot four times with four guns, yet somehow stayed alive for 46 minutes.


9NEWS legal analyst Scott Robinson says families should expect many more details than are typically revealed in a preliminary hearing.

"The evidence is going to be pretty awful to listen to. I anticipate that this will be enormously traumatizing for anyone who had a loved one in that theater," Robinson said.

Robinson says both sides will lay out their strategies.

Expect the prosecution to reveal key evidence and the defense to lay the groundwork for a possible insanity plea.

"Because of the dozens and dozens of people directly affected by this shooting incident, I expect it'll be more of a mini trial," Robinson said.

Robinson says the evidence against the suspect is so strong, there's a chance he could accept a plea deal.

If that were to happen, this may be the closest to a trial these families, and all of us, will ever see.

Watts says the Arapahoe County District Attorney asked that the families not be alone this week.

"I'm going to go in there with a blank mind. It's definitely going to be emotional but I'm hoping that I'm going to get some answers," Watts said.

Watts wants answers about that night and how it played out.

Nearly six months after the shootings, this week marks a painful new chapter for these families who have already been through so much.

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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