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Theater rampage recordings resound with booming shots, screams

January 08, 2013|By Jenny Deam and Michael Muskal
  • A sketch shows James Holmes, escorted by a deputy, arriving for a preliminary hearing in Centennial, Colo.
A sketch shows James Holmes, escorted by a deputy, arriving for a preliminary… (Bill Robles / Associated…)

CENTENNIAL, Colo. — The first moments of the shooting rampage in a suburban movie theater were chaos punctuated by the sounds of 30 booms as gunfire ripped through people and seats, according to police recordings of the 911 calls played Tuesday at the preliminary hearing for James E. Holmes, the accused gunman.

Some relatives of victims wept while hearing the accounts of the attack's first minutes.

An FBI bomb technician also took the stand to explain the elaborate booby-traps found in Holmes’ apartment, an explosive surprise apparently designed to draw emergency responders and resources from the deadly scene at the movie theater.

PHOTOS: Colorado movie theater shooting

With the hearing in its second day Tuesday, the prosecution used police evidence and the 911 tapes to portray Holmes as a man who acted in a deliberate and calculating fashion. The hearing is designed to determine if there is enough evidence to warrant a trial, but the prosecution also is hoping to present a strong case to blunt an expected insanity defense from Holmes’ lawyers.

Sitting in the courtroom in the Arapaho County courthouse, Holmes stared into space and showed no emotion as the tapes were played. He faces 166 criminal counts in connection with the shootings July 20 at Theater 9 in Aurora, where the Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises” was playing.

The most graphic call came from a 13-year-old girl whose cries stood out on the tape from the cacophony in the theater. Her call was 33rd of the 41 calls emergency operators received from the theater.

 WHO THEY WERE: Aurora theater shooting

“There’s been a shooting,” the girl says amid the commotion and screams in the background.

The operator asks about who was shot and the girl replies her two cousins were hit. “They’re not breathing,” she says.

The operator tries to gives instructions in how to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation, but the girl says she can’t hear.

TIMELINE: U.S. mass shootings 

“It’s too loud. ... I can't hear you. I'm so sorry,” she says.

The girl's cousins were 6-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan and Veronica's mother, Ashley Moser. Veronica was killed while her mother was partially paralyzed.

About 18 minutes after the movie began, police received the first call for help, according to Tuesday’s testimony. It came at 12:38 a.m. from Kevin Quinonez, whose voice was drowned out by 30 rhythmic thumping booms that police testified were the sounds of shots being fired.

Later Tuesday morning, Garrett Gumbinner, an FBI bomb technician, showed photographs taken inside Holmes’ booby-trapped apartment in Aurora.

According to Gumbinner, the apartment had an elaborate trap system including a trip wire set up from the door to a thermos of glycerin about five feet away. The carpet had been saturated with improvised napalm, smokeless powder and homemade fermite and a quick fuse, all designed to create a massive fire in the apartment.

Gumbinner, who said he interviewed Holmes on the afternoon of July 20, Holmes said he had hoped the fire would attract resources to his apartment rather than the theater.

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Deam reported from Centennial, Colo.; Muskal reported from Los Angeles. 

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