The defense in the trial of James Holmes, accused of killing 12 people and injuring 70 others in the July 12, 2012, rampage at an Aurora, Colo., theater, is not contesting that he is the shooter.
But until Wednesday, the witnesses describing the horrific scene have done so without identifying Holmes, sitting at the defense table. That is because the shooter was wearing what looked like a SWAT team outfit.
On the witness stand, Sgt. Gerald Jonsgaard of the Aurora Police Department described going to the back of the theater and spotting someone standing next to a white car.
“I thought, ‘How did the SWAT guy get here so quick?'” he said. There was a rifle next to the suspect, and Jonsgaard said that other officers approached him. Asked if he could identify the shooter again, Jonsgaard pointed to Holmes, wearing glasses and his hair colored brown, at the defense table. On the night he was arrested, his hair was colored orange. Officers arrested him and stripped him of his body armor.
In questions submitted by the jury, Jonsgaard was asked what the suspect’s demeanor was as he was being arrested. “It wasn’t aggressive. It wasn’t yelling. It wasn’t screaming,” he said. Instead, the suspect was “fairly wide-eyed.”
Holmes’ demeanor that night is expected to be a significant factor for the jury, as the defense has entered a plea of not guilty for reason of insanity.
The trial began on Monday in Arapahoe County Court.
Later in the morning, witness Joshua Nowlan, who suffered serious wounds to his left calf and right forearm, was asked by the prosecution to use his cane to mimic how the shooter held his weapon. “He was pointing down to the ground” as if he was “looking for other people,” Nowlan said.
“He was definitely moving slowly,” he added. “He was actually trying to search for people in the rows.” Defense attorneys objected to that part of his testimony on the grounds that Nowlan’s view was obstructed and he was asked to infer what was happening, but the judge overruled it.
He said that “it seemed like forever” before authorities arrived at the theater. “The Dark Knight Rises” was still screening, but the last thing that Nowlan remembered was a scene where Catwoman is trying to steal a necklace out of the safe.
As he was lying on his back in the row, he “looked behind me and there was a body. I could tell he was still alive but he was having a very hard time. I was screaming at him, ‘Stay with me. Stay with me.’ Because it looks like in a matter of minutes he could be gone.”