Officer recounts finding, arresting gunman James Holmes after Colorado theater shooting


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Officers who rushed to the scene of the Colorado theater shooting entered a hellish world of bloody victims, noxious smells and blaring sounds -- a gloomy darkness pierced by bright flashes from a fire alarm, police testified Wednesday. (April 29)

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CENTENNIAL, Colorado — A police officer testified in the Colorado theater shooting trial that he was in a parking lot just 20 feet from James Holmes when he realized Holmes was involved in the attack.

Aurora Officer Jason Oviatt was the first witness called Thursday on the trial's fourth day.

Oviatt said he first thought Holmes was another officer because he wore a gas mask and helmet, and police had been warned to wear masks because of gas inside.

But he said the other officers were looking for a way into the theater while Holmes was standing beside a car, looking relaxed.

Oviatt and another officer arrested Holmes.

Holmes is charged with killing 12 people and injuring 70 in the July 2012 shootings. Defense lawyers say Holmes acknowledged he was the shooter, but they say schizophrenia had so distorted his mind that he couldn't tell right from wrong. The defense is asking the jury to find Holmes not guilty by reason of insanity, and if they do, he would be committed indefinitely to the state mental hospital.

Prosecutors say Holmes was mentally ill but intelligent and calculating and that he knew what he was doing was wrong. They want the jury to convict him of murder and sentence him to die.

Police officers called by the prosecution on Wednesday recounted a nightmarish scene with bloody victims, noxious smells and blaring noise. Moviegoers recalled the roar and flash of gunfire and the searing pain of being shot.

Prosecutors have appeared intent on planting a deeply upsetting image of the attack in jurors' minds. Witnesses have described watching loved ones being gunned down and being trampled by others trying to escape the theater.

Elliott reported from Denver.

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