Documents unsealed in Aurora theater shooting case
DENVER – A slew of previously sealed documents in the case against suspected Aurora theater shooter James Holmes was ordered released to the public late Thursday.
Numerous media outlets (including FOX31 Denver) petitioned for the documents. Judge Carlos Samour Jr. decided to release the records which were originally sealed by Chief Judge William Sylvester just days after the July 20 shooting. Sylvester has since stepped down from the case.
Prosecutors and Holmes’ own defense attorneys had asked that the documents remain sealed, but Samour wrote in a ruling that “the defendant’s interest in keeping the affidavits and records warrants sealed are outweighed by the First Amendment rights of media petitioners and the public in having those documents released.”
The documents include arrest affidavits, search warrants, eyewitness testimony and records from the case. They detail how two Aurora police officers arrested Holmes after the shooting rampage at the Aurora Century 16 Theater, the items they found on him as well as the explosives he allegedly planted in his apartment.
They also list evidence collected in the case including a Fandango movie receipt, a Batman mask, index cards with chemical formulas written on them and a supply list. Police also found anti-anxiety pills including clonazepam and the antidepressant sertraline, the generic version of the antidepressant Zoloft.
Much of the information in the documents was made public during testimony by Aurora police officers and witnesses to the shooting at a preliminary hearing for Holmes in early January. The hearing was when Sylvester determined Holmes should stand trial for the shooting.
Holmes is charged with a total of 166 counts of murder, attempted murder and other charges. Twelve people were killed, 58 were wounded and 12 others were hurt during the shooting.
Authorities say he booby-trapped his apartment with explosives, then traveled to the movie theater armed with four weapons, tear gas and body armor planning to kill audience members during a screening of “Batman: The Dark Knight Rises.”
Witnesses said the gunman roamed the theater, shooting randomly as people tried to scramble away or cowered between seats.
Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty against Holmes.
Psychologist warned CU police about Holmes including threats to herself
One new detail in the newly released documents came from an affidavit that accompanied a request to search Holmes’ Gmail account.
Holmes was a graduate student at CU’s Anschutz medical campus in Aurora where he studied neuroscience. Holmes dropped out in June, about a month before the theater shooting.
According to the affidavit, University of Colorado Police Officer Lynn Whitten told Aurora police that he had received a report on June 12 from Dr. Lynn Fenton, a psychologist at CU who had been treating Holmes.
“Fenton described James E. Holmes as having Homicidal thoughts and also stated that James E. Holmes had threatened and harassed her via e-mail/text messages,” the affidavit said.
Whitten said that she immediately deactivated Holmes student I.D., which he would use to enter locked campus buildings.
Fenton declined to place a psychiatric hold on Holmes because he was soon due to leave the university after failing oral exams on June 7.
The documents also describe the notebook Holmes mailed to Fenton at her CU office the day before the shooting. According to a report by FOX News, the notebook is alleged to have detailed plans about the shooting.
Holmes had assault rifles, body armor, gas mask when arrested
According to an affidavit filed with a warrant to search Holmes’ Aurora home, police officers Jason Sweeney and Jason Oviatt were among the first to arrive at the theater around 12:40 a.m. and saw “numerous people fleeting the theater.”
They saw a white Hyundai with a man, later identified as Holmes, standing nearby wearing “ballistic protection, including a ballistics helmet and gas mask,” Detective Mark Yacano wrote in the affidavit.
Sweeney said he initially thought the man was a police officer, but noticed the gas mask was an older version that was no longer used by police. Both officers told Holmes to raise his hands and surrender.
As the officers arrested Holmes, he told them he was working alone and “that there were bombs inside his apartment and they would go off if the wires were tripped,” the affidavit said.
Sweeney said he saw a “black semi-auto pistol with a green laser sight on the roof” of Holmes’ Hyundai. Officers searched Holmes and found a pair of black military style boots, a black coat, black body armor, a black ballistic helmet, a gas mask, a magazine carrier with nine magazines containing live rounds, a magazine for a pistol and a green colored plastic doorstop.”
Police also found a silver cell phone and a black assault type rifle near the back door to the building. Sweeney also saw “a great deal of blood on the sidewalk outside the door as numerous victims exited the theater through this door,” the affidavit said.
Inside the theater, police found more guns, which had been allegedly left behind by Holmes.
Holmes was taken to police headquarters where he was advised of his Miranda rights. Holmes was briefly questioned by police, but then asked for an attorney. The documents do not detail what he said.