Holmes’ arsenal, horror detailed in hearing’s 2nd day


CENTENNIAL | The second emotional day of James Holmes’ preliminary hearing wrapped up Tuesday with testimony about the high-powered ammunition police say Holmes used during the theater rampage.

Aurora police Sgt. Matthew Fyles testified that the rifle ammunition Holmes used had a steel core that made the bullets particularly dangerous.

This courtroom sketch shows Aurora Police Detective Matthew Ingui pointing to a large photograph of the inside of the Century 16 theater as he testifies at a preliminary hearing for suspected Aurora theater shooter James Holmes at preliminary hearing in district court in Centennial, Colo., on Monday, Jan. 7, 2013. Holmes has been charged in the shooting at the Aurora theater on July 20 that killed twelve people and injured more than 50. (AP Photo/Bill Robles, Pool)

Unlike ammunition police use, the .223 ammunition Holmes loaded his AR-15 assault rifle with were designed not to break apart on impact.

Fyles said that means a single bullet likely injured multiple people.

“One bullet accounted for multiple holes, potential injuries,” he said.

Some of the bullets ripped through the theater wall and wounded three other people in adjacent theater.

In all, police say Holmes fired 65 shots from the .223 before a high-capacity drum magazine connected to the rifle jammed. Investigators found more than 200 rounds of ammunition for the rifle in the theater that had not been fired.

Holmes also fired six shots from a 12-gauge shotgun inside the theater. While he fired far fewer times with the shotgun, it accounted for a disproportionate amount of injuries. In all, at least 22 of the 58 people in the theater hit by gunfire were wounded by shotgun pellets. Among the 12 dead, three were killed by shotgun fire, the others from the rifle or Holmes’ .40 caliber pistol.

Another 12 people sustained injuries ranging from chemical irritation caused by the tear gas canister police say Holmes threw or from leg injuries as they fled the theater.

Before detailing Holmes’ ammunition, Fyles, a supervisor in the department’s major crime/homicide unit, fought back tears as he described for the court who was injured and how. Two officers also battled tears on Monday as they testified about the horror inside the theater.

In other testimony Tuesday, police said the investigation and response to the massacre was massive, and included these statistics:

• 444 police filed reports on the case, about two-thirds of the police force

• 56 crime-lab officials worked on the case

• 27 police agencies from outside Aurora worked on the case

• The FBI, ATF and U.S. Postal Service investigators worked on the case

• All told, more than 1,000 law enforcement officers have worked on the case.

• 129 police officers in 52 cars were on the scene of the shooting on July 20

Aurora police Detective Craig Appel, the lead detective on the case, said police did not order blood tests for Holmes after his arrest despite his bizarre behavior.

When Holmes was brought to the station, his hands were “bagged” so they could later be tested for gunpowder residue, police testified. At one point, Holmes sat alone in the interview room and began to talk to the paper bags on his hands as if they were hand puppets, Appel testified. After drinking water from a styrofoam coffee cup, Holmes began flipping the cup around the table. Later, he removed some kind of staple from the interview table and tried to stick the staple into an electrical outlet.

When cross-examined about why there was no blood draw to determine whether Holmes had taken drugs or alcohol, Appel told the court he didn’t think he could obtain a warrant for one, and didn’t believe Holmes was intoxicated.

“I saw no indication that he was under the influence of anything,” Appel said.

An FBI bomb technician testified that before Holmes opened fire on the packed movie theater, he filled his Paris Street apartment with booby trapped explosives, hoping it would divert police resources from the theater.

FBI Agent Garrett Gumbinner said he interviewed Holmes at the Aurora city jail a few hours after the shooting. Holmes told the FBI agent about an elaborate series of home-made bombs and other devices inside his apartment.

Holmes said his hope was that the devices would cause his apartment to either explode or catch fire at about the time of the theater rampage, forcing police to send officers there.

Gumbinner, a 13-year FBI vet who has been a bomb tech for the past seven years, said the first device police encountered was a trip wire stretching five feet across the apartment’s door. The wire was connected to a thermos full of glycerin. The thermos was perched at an angle so when someone opened the door, it would pour the chemical into a nearby frying pan.

The frying pan was full of potassium permanganate, which, when combined with the glycerin, would erupt in flames and sparks, Gumbinner said.

Holmes hoped the flames and sparks would touch his carpet, which he had saturated in gasoline and oil.

The flames from the carpet would then spark several fuses Holmes connected to three jars filled with home-made Napalm. Holmes made the Napalm by mixing gasoline with Styrofoam. On Holmes’ stove, police found the metal dish and paintbrushes Holmes used to mix the substance, Gumbinner said.

Mixed in with the Napalm were several rounds of .223 rifle ammunition and .40-caliber ammunition. On top of the jars were containers of smokeless gunpowder.

Holmes also made thermite by filing aluminum rods and mixing the powder with iron oxide. Gumbinner said the thermite could have been particularly dangerous because those fires are difficult to extinguish.

“You can’t put it out with water, it burns that hot,” he said.

Prosecutors showed pictures of Holmes’ living room that showed a tangle of wire and fuses running from the bombs to his kitchen. The pictures also showed 10, 2-liter Sprite bottles full of gasoline scattered across the room. There were also several fireworks shells packed with gunpowder.

Inside his kitchen, Holmes set up initiation devices designed to spark the fire. One of those devices could be controlled remotely.

Holmes set up an elaborate scheme to get someone else to use that remote. Outside his apartment, he put a boombox in a white garbage bag and stashed it near a Dumpster. On top of the bag, he placed a remote control toy car. Next to the car, he put a remote control that would set off the device in his kitchen.

In the boombox, Holmes put on a CD that would play 45 minutes of silence before playing loud music.

Gumbinner said Holmes hoped a passerby would hear the music, walk toward the boombox and see the toy car. Then, he hoped they’d try to use the remote to play with the car, setting off the devices in his apartment.

Police later said a passerby grabbed the boombox that night, but they don’t know what happened to the toy car or remote control.

Leading up to the July 20 shootings, police said Holmes made 16 different purchases, buying several weapons, thousands of rounds of ammunition, explosives, chemicals and body armor.

An ATF agent on Tuesday detailed Holmes’ purchases, which started May 10 and ended July 14, less than a week before the massacre.

ATF Agent Steven Beggs said federal investigators found 16 separate purchases that Holmes made from three Denver-area sporting goods stores and several online retailers.

Among the purchases, Holmes bought the AR-15 assault rifle, tactical shotgun and two Glock .40-caliber pistols, Beggs said.

For the assault rifle, he bought 3,370 rounds of .223 ammunition. For the pistols he bought 2,600 rounds and for the shotgun, he purchased 325 shells.

Holmes also bought plastic rounds for the weapons that are typically used by shooters who want to practice changing clips rapidly. He bought practice targets, too.

Holmes’ lawyer, Tamara Brady, pointed out during cross examination that Holmes bought all of the weapons, ammunition, body armor and chemicals legally. Also, she noted, there is no system in place that would bar a “severely mentally ill” person from buying those weapons.

Prosecutors argued that Holmes’ purchases show he deliberated about the shooting well before he opened fire.

Deputy District Attorney Rich Orman said Holmes’ online dating profiles also showed deliberation. On Match.com and AdultFriendFinder.com, police say Holmes posted a headline that said, “Will you visit me in prison?” He posted one of the headlines July 5.

“That is evidence of deliberation, he is planning on committing a crime that is going to put him in prison,” Orman said.

Also Tuesday, prosecutors played recordings of gut-wrenching 911 calls from inside the theater that night.

The first 911 call came in at 12:38 a.m. July 20, 18 minutes after the Batman movie started. The recording picked up 30 gunshots in just 27 seconds.

In the second call prosecutors played, a 13-year-old girl who was at the movie with her cousins Ashley Moser-Sullivan and Veronica Sullivan relayed the terror inside the theater. Throughout the four-minute call, which came in after the shooting stopped, the dispatcher tried to talk the girl through administering CPR for her wounded cousin. Moser-Sullivan was paralyzed in the attack and 6-year-old Veronica killed.

Prosecutors said at the end of Tuesday’s testimony that they would call Fyles back to the stand Wednesday, but he would be there last witness.

The defense has said in court filings that they may call witnesses as well.

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9 years ago

Why am I hearing a great deal about gun control and not very much about mental health issues? I fear, that the mental health aspect would affect the medical profession in a negative sense. It was known that Holmes was defective, and nothing was done, other than a notation to his so called instructor team. I believe that Colorado University should share in some of the blame. There would have been a good chance he would have been stopped if the authorities had been notified. There are no easy answers, but I see a sameness in the Sandy Hook killings with the Aurora tragedy.