CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) – James Holmes seemed keenly interested in the aftermath of his attack on a Colorado theater, peering out the window of a squad car as badly injured victims were being treated nearby, police officers testified Thursday.
Holmes first wore a vacant expression and seemed calm and detached – but sweaty and smelly – after police handcuffed him in the parking lot behind the theater, the officers said.
But when they placed him in the back of a police car near a back door to the theater, “he would look around like he was taking it all in,” Aurora police officer Jason Oviatt said.
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Victims were still escaping from the theater as Holmes was arrested, some crawling, leaving a trail of blood, officers said. It was a tumultuous scene, with emergency responders treating the wounded and loading them into police cars to be rushed to hospitals because no ambulances had arrived.
“He would sort of look around whenever a car went speeding past or when there was something else going on, somebody shouting outside the car,” Oviatt said.
Police Sgt. Stephen Redfearn said Holmes “seemed very interested in what was going on around where we were.”
Holmes has admitted he was the gunman who killed 12 people and injured 70 in the suburban Denver theater on July 20, 2012. But his attorneys say Holmes is severely mentally ill and didn’t know right from wrong.
They’re asking jurors to find him not guilty by reason of insanity, which would bring an indefinite commitment to the state mental hospital.
Prosecutors have described Holmes as calculating and smart, and they say he believed killing others increased his self-worth. They are asking jurors to convict him of murder and sentence him to be executed.
On Thursday, prosecutors called four police officers, a detective and a police sergeant as witnesses in his trial. For the first time since testimony began on Tuesday, the defense cross-examined some of them.
Defense lawyer Daniel King questioned officers about Holmes’ strange appearance and peculiar behavior. The officers said he had disheveled, reddish-orange hair, his pupils were extremely dilated, and he appeared disoriented and stared off into space when he was first arrested.
King’s questions mirrored an argument the defense made in opening statements, that Holmes’ behavior was shaped by his mental illness.
King didn’t cross-examine officer Justin Grizzle, who was overwhelmed by emotion as he told of rushing two victims to the hospital in his police car, including Caleb Medley.
Medley’s face was mangled by a shotgun blast, and Grizzle could hear him struggling for breath, sometimes lapsing into stillness. Grizzle pleaded emphatically with him not to die.
Medley survived but lost an eye and suffered brain damage. He can’t walk and can barely speak but testified briefly Tuesday.
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Later Thursday, prosecutors showed jurors graphic photos of some of the dead where they lay in the theater. The photos weren’t visible on the live video stream of the trial made available to news organizations.
At one point Thursday, Holmes’ mother, Arlene, attempted to pass a note to the defense table from her seat nearby in the gallery, but a deputy intercepted it.
Arlene Holmes then left the courtroom with her husband, Bob, and defense attorney Tamara Brady. It wasn’t clear what the note said or why they left.
– By Sadie Gurman, AP Writer
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