Aurora Theater Shooting Trial: Witness Describes Chilling Scene

Aurora Theater Shooting
Thomas Cooper/Getty

A witness to the Aurora, Colo., theater shootings described in chilling detail how she thought her husband would not survive after he was shot in the head during gunman James Holmes’ shooting spree that killed 12 people and injured 70 in July 2012.

Katie Medley, the first witness called to testify, said as police were shouting from an exit door for people to get outside the theater, she thought her husband Caleb “was going to die.” She was nine months’ pregnant, and what went through her mind was, “I had to save our unborn child.”

“I actually grabbed Caleb’s hand and I actually squeezed his hand and I told Caleb that I loved him, that I would take care of our baby if he didn’t make it,” she told the courtroom.

Holmes is facing the death penalty for the attack. During opening arguments on Monday in Arapahoe County Court, his defense team entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.

Caleb Medley survived the attack but suffered debilitating injuries. He uses a wheelchair and lost one of his eyes. He testified briefly and communicated with the court via an alphabet board.

Katie Medley testified that she saw the shooter throw two canisters in the air and, wearing gear that made him look like a SWAT team member, began shooting. She crouched down on the floor, and then noticed that her husband was still sitting in his seat. That was when she noticed blood “pouring from his face.” At first, she thought he was dead. She poured water on his face to try to clear the blood but, worried about their unborn child, decided to leave the theater.

The next time she saw her husband was when emergency personnel brought him outside the theater, as they struggled to treat his bleeding. He later went through multiple surgeries.

The July 2012 attack in the Century 16 Theater in Aurora, Colo., took place during a showing of “The Dark Knight Rises,” which was opening that weekend.

Update: Medley was just one of about a half dozen witnesses who testified on Tuesday.

In the afternoon, Kaylan Bailey, now 16, testified about the chaotic scene that unfolded. She was the babysitter of 6-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan, the youngest victim of the July 20, 2012 shooting.

She went to the movie with Veronica’s mother, Ashley, and her boyfriend Jamison Toews, as well as a friend, Hailey Hensley. Bailey described the movie starting and what seemed like a “rocket thing shooting across the theater.” After the audience started turning to see what it was, she heard “a lot of popping sounds.” Then Ashley Moser jumped on top of Veronica and fell to the floor, while Jamison, with blood tricking down his head, told people in the row behind him to get down on the floor before he got down.

“The movie was still playing and people were screaming,” she said.

At one point, Ashley Moser popped her head up to see what was happening “and she jolted.” She fell back on top of her daughter.

“I kept asking if she was OK, and she wasn’t responding,” Bailey recalled. “All she would do was moan.” She kept on screaming Veronica’s name, while Bailey kept her hand on the girl’s stomach to see if she was still breathing.

“I took my hand away for just a moment, and when I put my hand back …she wasn’t moving. She wasn’t breathing.”

Eventually police officers entered the theater, but “I just remember that everything seemed so slow. Nothing seemed to move fast enough. I remember stepping over a body and stepping over multiple pools of blood” on the way to the exit.

Ashley Moser, who was pregnant, miscarried and was paralyzed from the waist down. Toews survived his wounds to the head.

A 911 call that Bailey made was played for the jury, as she tried to take the operator’s instructions on administering CPR but is unable to hear from the moans and screams in the background. At one point, she complains that the sound of the movie made it difficult to hear.

Sgt. Michael Hawkins of the Aurora Police Department described arriving at the scene and entering the theater. On the ground he saw an assault rifle, the groudn nearby covered in blood. He picked up the six-year-old girl and rushed to an ambulance. “I looked down at her, and I realized she was gone,” he said.

He also described seeing the bodies of some of the victims, as well as a man outside the theater who was looking for his wife. Hawkins saw that the man had metal pieces sticking out of his face, but didn’t realize it.

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