January 9, 2013 / 1:20 AM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 2-Gunshots and plea for help heard in 911 calls from Colorado movie shooting

* 13-year-old girl pleaded for assistance for two cousins

* Dispatcher sought to tell her how to administer CPR

* Guns and ammunition purchases began two months before

By Keith Coffman

CENTENNIAL, Colo., Jan 8 (Reuters) - A 13-year-old girl caught in last summer’s shooting rampage at a Colorado movie theater was heard frantically pleading for help for two gravely wounded relatives in a tape of her emergency 911 call played in court on Tuesday.

In it, the distraught girl could be heard telling an emergency dispatcher that her 6-year-old cousin, Veronica Moser-Sullivan, and Veronica’s pregnant mother, Ashley Moser, had been struck by gunfire. Veronica was the youngest of the 12 people killed in the attack.

“My two cousins have been shot,” Kaylan Bailey cried, as the dispatcher tried in vain to instruct her on how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The girl is heard telling the dispatcher, “It’s too loud ... I can’t hear you.”

The recording was one of two emergency calls played in court during the second day of a preliminary hearing for the accused 25-year-old gunman, James Holmes, in which prosecutors are seeking to persuade a judge they have enough evidence to put him on trial.

The former University of Colorado neuroscience doctoral student is charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder stemming from the July 20 rampage at a midnight screening of the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises” in the Denver suburb of Aurora.

In addition to the 12 people who died, 58 were wounded by gunfire, and prosecutors have counted a dozen others who suffered some other physical injury. Prosecutors have yet to decide whether they would seek the death penalty.

Should the judge order the case to proceed to trial, legal experts believe Holmes will plead not guilty by reason of insanity. His lawyers have said he suffers from an unspecified mental illness and are expected to call witnesses later this week to testify about his state of mind.

During cross-examination on Tuesday, defense lawyers sought to draw attention to Holmes’ erratic behavior while in custody.

Homicide detective Craig Appel acknowledged that during an initial interrogation at police headquarters, Holmes tried to insert a staple he found on a desktop into an electrical outlet.

During that interview, in which Holmes had plastic bags placed over his hands to preserve any traces of gunpowder residue, Holmes gestured with one of the bags as if it were a talking hand puppet, Appel testified.

Asked why blood samples were not taken of Holmes following his arrest, Appel added, “I saw no indication that he was under the influence of anything.”

Holmes, now with a full beard, sat quiet and expressionless at the defense table on Tuesday, shackled and dressed in red prison garb, as he has at previous hearings.


Police have testified that Holmes, who bought his movie ticket 12 days in advance, left the screening minutes after it began and re-entered Theater 9 at the Century 16 multiplex a short time later dressed in tactical body armor, a gas mask and helmet.

Armed with a semi-automatic rifle, shotgun and pistol, police say, he then lobbed a tear gas canister into the auditorium and sprayed the audience with bullets.

Later, in the parking lot, he surrendered without a struggle to the first police officers arriving on the scene and alerted them that his apartment had been booby-trapped with explosives.

Police have described encountering a nightmarish, bloody scene inside the darkened theater, where dozens of victims lay sprawled across the auditorium as the Batman film continued to play and emergency-alarm strobe lights flashed.

One officer choked up with emotion on Monday as he recounted hunching over the lifeless body of Veronica Moser-Sullivan trying to find her pulse. Her mother survived but was left paralyzed from the waist down and suffered a miscarriage.

The call from their cousin was made from inside the theater moments after the massacre.

A second call played in court by police detective Randy Hansen was placed during the shooting. In that tape, lasting 27 seconds, the distinct pop-pop-pop sound of 30 gunshots can be heard, though no voices are discernible.

FBI agent Garrett Gumbinner, an explosives expert, recounted on Tuesday that Holmes matter-of-factly described after the shooting how he had elaborately rigged his apartment with trip wires and homemade bombs.

Gumbinner said Holmes told authorities he had planned for the bombs to go off as a diversion to draw emergency personnel to his apartment while he carried out the theater attack a short distance away. Authorities managed to disarm the explosives.

Another federal agent, Steven Beggs of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, testified that Holmes began stocking up on guns, ammunition and other gear about two months before the shooting.

The three weapons he carried into the theater, and a pistol found in his car, as well as nearly 6,300 rounds of ammunition and tactical body armor, were all legally purchased from gun shops and online dealers, and he passed all required background checks, Beggs said.

Testimony on Tuesday from police detective Thomas Welton also confirmed earlier media reports that Holmes had posted profiles on two online dating sites weeks before the shooting, both with a headline that read: “Will you visit me in prison?”

The postings, which prosecutors say are evidence of criminal deliberation, were accompanied by a photo of Holmes sporting the bright, red-dyed hair he had when he was arrested.

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