Victims describe horror of 'Batman' theatre massacre

2015-04-29 08:43
(File, AP)

(File, AP)

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Centennial - Katie Medley was nine months' pregnant when she was caught up in the Batman movie theatre massacre in suburban Denver that left 12 people dead and her husband shot in the head.

Survivors of the bloodshed, including Medley, on Tuesday offered harrowing testimony in court about the mayhem that ensued when accused gunman James Holmes opened fire inside the packed auditorium.

The 27-year-old Holmes, who is also accused of wounding 70 others, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to the 166 counts of murder, attempted murder and explosives charges.

Medley, the first witness to take the stand in the long-awaited trial, was heavily pregnant when she, her husband Caleb and a female friend went to see The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado on July 20 2012.

About 15 minutes into the midnight showing, Medley noticed the exit on the right side of the auditorium open and a canister thrown into the air above the audience.

A gunman, wearing a mask and body armour, emerged through the door.

"As he stepped in, I thought something was very wrong. I put my arm around [friend] Ashley and threw her to the ground," Medley said. Gunfire began almost immediately.

Later, she looked up and saw her husband still sitting upright in his chair.

Bleeding all over

"I saw he had been shot in the head and I thought he was dead," she said, adding the air was thick and it was very hard to breathe.
'A lot of blood'

After the gunman walked past the row they had been seated in, Medley said she saw that Caleb was breathing again and had a lot of blood pouring into his mouth.

After another round of gunfire, she took his water bottle and tried to wash the blood from his face.

"I saw the exit open again, and I saw there were cops outside," Medley said. "I grabbed Caleb's hand and he squeezed my hand."

Thinking her husband was near death, "I told him I would protect our child if he didn't make it," she said.

Caleb Medley miraculously survived, although he underwent several surgeries to remove part of his brain while Katie Medley went into labour at the same hospital. She gave birth to a son, Hugo, while Caleb remained in a medically induced coma for a month.

Transferred to a rehabilitation hospital, the aspiring comedian has undergone intensive rehabilitation since the shooting. Today, he cannot walk and has difficulty speaking.
Dead friend

Holmes' attorneys meanwhile objected to letting the jury hear recordings of 911 calls made by another witness, saying the audio descriptions were too gruesome and would prejudice jurors.

"Given what this jury is going to see during the course of the trial, I don't find a reference to a bloody victim is prejudicial. That's what most people would use to describe what they see," judge Carlos Samour said.

On the recording, retail manager Chichi Spruel told a police dispatcher that someone in front of her and someone beside her were injured.

"Oh God, one of the guys who came with us is dead," Spruel is heard to say. "I see Jesse [Childress] lying face down in a pool of blood."

Spruel choked back tears at times as she recounted to attorneys the devastation she saw around her in the auditorium.

Aurora police sergeant Michael Hawkins was the first officer to testify. He tearfully described entering the theatre and finding a small girl who had been shot in the abdomen.

He picked her up and rushed her outside to an ambulance. The girl was "bleeding all over him," the officer said. "I laid her on the stretcher and I realised at that point that she had probably died," Hawkins said.

The little girl was six-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan, the youngest of the victims of the summertime massacre.

Kaylin Bailey, aged 16, was babysitting Veronica. "I remember stepping over a body and stepping in multiple pools of blood," as she fled the auditorium, she said.

Attorneys for the defendant, a failed graduate student, have not cross-examined any witnesses so far. Defence attorneys said in opening arguments on Monday that they would not contest anything that happened in the theatre.

Read more on:    james holmes  |  us  |  us shootings  |  us cinema attack

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