CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) — Officers who rushed to the scene of the Colorado theater shooting entered a hellish world of bloody victims, noxious smells and blaring sounds — a gloomy darkness pierced by bright flashes from a fire alarm, police testified Wednesday.
“It was dim, the movie was still playing, the alarm was going off,” Aurora police officer Annette Brook told jurors in the trial of gunman James Holmes. “I began to notice the bodies, the live victims, the blood.”
Prosecutors called Brook and two other officers as witnesses Wednesday, and their descriptions of the chaos of inside the suburban Denver theater intensified the already disturbing scene described a day earlier by moviegoers who were badly wounded or saw loved ones gunned down in the July 20, 2012, attack.
Twelve people died and 70 were hurt. Holmes is charged with multiple counts of murder and attempted murder.
He admits he was the shooter, his defense attorneys say, but schizophrenia had taken control of his mind and compelled him to kill. They are asking the jury to find him not guilty by reason of insanity, which would send him to the state mental hospital indefinitely.
Prosecutors argue Holmes was sane and fully aware that what he was doing was wrong. They want the jury to convict him and sentence him to die.
In the opening days of the trial, prosecutors have appeared intent on planting a deeply upsetting image in the jurors’ minds.
“It smelled very, very bad,” officer Tomas Campagna testified Wednesday, describing the mixed odors of blood, sweat, urine and feces. “It’s hard to imagine unless you’ve been there.”
Spent cartridges and casings from a shotgun, a rifle and a handgun littered the ground, so thick that officers couldn’t avoid stepping on them, Campagna said. In places, the floor looked like it had been painted in blood, he said.
Cellphones left behind by the victims rang long into the night.
Aurora Fire Department Lt. Bernd Hoefler said he and a colleague found 10 bodies in the theater.
“Some were trampled. Some had missing parts of their head,” he testified.
Hoefler said under other circumstances, he would have tried to revive one of the dying, a man who was still warm, but too many other victims needed attention. District Attorney George Brauchler asked what he did. Hoefler said, “Tag him black,” the code for dead.
More victims testified Wednesday, describing the booms and the brilliant flashes of light that burst from the muzzles of the weapons aimed at them and the hot pain of being shot. None said they saw Holmes’ face, but one of the police officers did.
Police Sgt. Spc. Gerald Jonsgaard testified he saw Holmes lying on the ground in the parking lot outside the theater as two officers arrested him.
Jonsgaard didn’t identify Holmes by name Wednesday but said he was sitting at the defense table.
Holmes’ lawyers have not cross-examined any of the 20 prosecution witnesses who have testified so far. They will call their own witnesses after the prosecution rests.