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Trip wires, Batman items found in theater shooting suspect's home

July 22, 2012|By Louis Sahagun and Alexandra Zavis

The apartment of the suspect in the Colorado theater rampage was decorated with Batman items and crisscrossed with waist-high trip wires attached to more than 30 improvised grenades strewn across the living room floor, a law enforcement official close to the case said Sunday. Nearby were 10 gallons of gasoline “to enhance the thermal effect.”

The suspect, James Holmes, 24, is accused of opening fire at a midnight showing of the latest Batman movie,"The Dark Knight Rises." Twelve people were killed in the attack; 58 were injured.

Investigators who served search warrants Saturday at Holmes' 850-square-foot, third-floor apartment in a rundown section of Aurora “found a Batman poster on a wall, a Batman mask and other Batman paraphernalia,” according to the official, who has not been identified because of the sensitivity of the case.

PHOTOS: 'Dark Knight Rises' shooting

The design and placement of the improvised explosive devices “seemed to mirror a chaotic state of mind,” the official said. “There was a level of sophistication to it all. It will be interesting to see what a post-mortem forensic analysis determines regarding the chemicals, powders and devices rigged up in there, and whether the firing train would have actually functioned.”

The apartment was earlier described as a death trap, designed to kill police or other first-responders.

Investigators discovered one “trip wire about waist-high and just inside the door, so that if the door opened it would push on the booby trap,” the official said.

WHO THEY WERE: Aurora movie theater victims

A second trip wire was found in another part of the apartment, he said, adding that it was connected to acids that would have been highly corrosive and explosive when combined.

The improvised grenades included 30 aerial shells that had been emptied and refilled with mixtures of explosive powders, jars containing explosive liquids and .223- and .40-caliber bullets. The devices were connected by wires to a “control box” in the kitchen, which on Saturday was neutralized and dismantled by authorities.

“Regarding the bullets in the jars — bullets don’t usually explode like that,” he said. “Overall, however, if the devices including the 10 gallons of gasoline had gone off, the fireball alone would have blown up and consumed the entire third floor of the apartment building.”

Items seized in the apartment on Saturday included chemical compounds, some of which had been purchased locally, and a desktop computer, the official said.

Police on Sunday concluded the processing and collecting of evidence from inside Holmes’ apartment, but chemical hazards remain,  Det. Shannon Youngquist-Lucy, a spokeswoman for the Aurora Police Department, said in a statement.

Building residents who were evacuated after the shooting are being allowed to retrieve personal items from their apartments, but Youngquist-Lucy could not say when it would be safe enough for them to move back home.

As for the theater where the shootings occurred, police had expected to return it to the owners on Wednesday but now say it could take up to a week to release the premises.

“This is for evidentiary purposes for case preparation,” Youngquist-Lucy said.

ALSO:

Who they were: Aurora movie theater victims

Guns, ammo in Colorado theater shooting were legal

For Colorado, theater shootings bring back memories of Columbine

louis.sahagun@latimes.com

alexandra.zavis@latimes.com

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