aurora shooting

Police Say James Holmes Was ‘Detached’ and ‘Very Relaxed’ After Theater Massacre

James Holmes, 24, is charged with killing 12 people in a massacre during a showing of the Batman movie in a Colorado movie theater on July 20.
James Holmes. Photo: Arapahoe County/Splash News

During a preliminary hearing on Monday, police officers described the horrifying aftermath of the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting that left 12 people dead and 58 others wounded. Tear gas filled the air and dozens of abandoned cell phones went off as the injured screamed for help and tried to crawl out of the theater. Yet, outside alleged gunman James Holmes seemed completely calm. Officer Jason Oviatt testified that he followed a trail of blood outside the theater and came upon Holmes, clad in a gas mask and body armor, standing next to his car. At first he thought he was a fellow police officer, but as he got closer he realized he was mistaken and aimed his gun at Holmes, though it turned out that was unnecessary. “He was completely compliant. There wasn’t even normal tension in him,” said Oviatt. “He seemed very, very relaxed. It was like there weren’t normal emotional responses to anything.”

Holmes didn’t resist as he was handcuffed and searched. Oviatt said he found two knives and a semi-automatic handgun on top of the car, and ammunition rounds fell out of Holmes’s pockets. An assault rifle was found outside the theater’s emergency exit. The officer said Holmes became fidgety after they put him in a patrol car, so they stripped him down to his boxers because they were worried that they’d missed something during their initial search. When they asked if he had any other weapons Holmes said no, but he casually mentioned that he’d booby trapped his apartment with explosives.

Holmes also seemed detached in court today, and had no reaction as officers pointed him out. The courtroom was packed with about 40 survivors of the shooting and victims’ family members, along with the same number of journalists and more people watching a video feed of the testimony in another room. The week-long hearing is meant to determine if prosecutors have a strong enough case for a full trial, but if Holmes takes a plea deal, which many see as a strong possibility, this may be the only time the evidence is heard in court. Holmes has yet to enter a plea, but his lawyers have suggested that they’ll pursue an insanity defense. Witnesses may be called this week to discuss Holmes’s mental state, and in court today his lawyer highlighted the officers’ remarks about Holmes’s dilated eyes and bizarrely calm behavior following the shooting. 

Holmes Was ‘Relaxed’ After Theater Massacre