Prosecutors will likely wrap up their portion of the preliminary hearing for accused Aurora movie theater shooter James Holmes Wednesday. They’d originally said they’d need five full days to present evidence that the case should go to trial, but by Tuesday afternoon prosecutors had called their last witness. Colorado Public Radio’s Megan Verlee reports Tuesday's testimony ended with a reading of the names of all 70 people injured in the attack.
Sergeant Matthew Fyles, the Aurora Police sergeant in charge of the case, cried as he read through the list of people Holmes is accused of attempting to murder. 58 were wounded by bullets during the attack. An additional 12 suffered other injuries. Some victims lost an eye or a finger; others are paralyzed or suffering nerve damage.
Tuesday gave the public a chance to actually hear from two of the people at the theater during the attack, through their calls to 911. Prosecutors played the first of the 41 emergency calls that came in during the first ten minutes of the shooting. The caller, Kevin Quinonez, can't be heard on the tape. Instead, he's drowned out by the bangs of gunfire, sounding like a muffled hammer on the recording. Durinig the 27-second call, police counted at least 30 shots fired.
The second call played, which came in after the attack stopped, was from Kaylan Bailey, crying that two of her cousins had been shot and one of them wasn't breathing. A dispatcher tries to instruct Bailey in CPR, but she keeps saying it's too loud in the theater to hear. The four-minute call ends with Bailey saying the police have gotten to her. The cousin she was trying to help was 6-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan, the attack's youngest fatality.
Also on Tuesday, prosecutors called Garret Gumbinner, an FBI bomb technician, to describe the intricate maze of explosives he found wired inside Holmes' apartment. The array included jars of ammunition and homemade napalm, bottles of gasoline, and bowls of improvised thermite, a substance that can’t be put out with water when it burns.
Holmes allegedly rigged up three different triggering systems, two with remote controls and one that would be set off by someone opening his front door. Gumbinner described an eloborate ruse Holmes told him he'd set up to hide the remote control for one of the other systems. He allegedly left it near a dumpster outside his apartment, next to a remote control car and near a boombox set to start playing music. According Gumbinner, Holmes hoped the music would attract someone who would try to play with the car and accidentally set off the bombs with the remote.
Police were able to recover the boombox, but never located a toy car or remote.
Gumbinner said Holmes told him also he’d programmed his computer to start playing loud music after he left the apartment, hoping to cause a noise complaint. When police arrived, Holmes believed the resulting fire would distract first responders from going to the theater.
On the defense side, Holmes’ attorneys tried to suggest his alleged actions could have been carried out by someone deeply mentally disturbed. After ATF agent Steven Beggs unfolded a detailed timeline of Holmes' weapons and ammunition purchases, defense attorney Tamara Brady pressed him, "Is there any process in Colorado to screen out whether a severely mentally ill person is purchasing these items?"
Beggs answered, "No, ma'am."
During another cross-examination, Detective Craig Apple described Holmes playing with paper bags after his arrest, as if they were hand puppets. The officer also said Holmes removed a staple from a table in the room where he was being held and tried to put it in an electrical outlet.
Once the prosecution rests, it’s unclear whether the defense will call any witnesses of its own. That would be unusual for a preliminary hearing.
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