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Witness identifies Holmes as gunman

Published 29/04/2015

A US flag waves outside the Arapahoe County Justice Centre where the trial of James Holmes is being held (AP)
A US flag waves outside the Arapahoe County Justice Centre where the trial of James Holmes is being held (AP)

A police sergeant who responded to the Colorado cinema shooting said he saw a suspect lying on the ground in the car park as two officers arrested him and stripped off his helmet and body armour.

Sgt Gerald Jonsgaard identified James Holmes as that person in court.

It was the first time in the trial that a witness described Holmes as the gunman. Previous witnesses either did not see Holmes at all or only saw a masked gunman.

Mr Jonsgaard did not use Holmes's name, instead describing his white shirt with blue squares and glasses and pointing out that he had longer hair that was bright orange at the time of the July 20 2012 attack which left 12 people dead and 70 injured.

Mr Jonsgaard also described a chaotic scene in the cinema, where sirens sounded and lights flashed.

"All the cellphones that were left were lying on the ground, were ringing. That kept going on all night long," he said.

Despite the confusion, he had a moment to do something compassionate: asking an officer to carry six-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan, who had been wounded, out of the cinema even though he did not think she was still alive.

"I wasn't keeping a child in a crime scene. I didn't want my officers stepping over her. I didn't want her at the scene," he said of the youngest person to die in the attack. Her pregnant mother was also wounded, miscarried and left paralysed.

Holmes's lawyers did not question Mr Jonsgaard, just as they did not question any of the 10 witnesses who gave evidence yesterday. Most of them were victims and people who had been watching the showing of a new Batman film.

They may be trying to avoid dragging out the gruesome details a minute longer than necessary. In opening statements on Monday, they acknowledged that Holmes was the killer and that the attack was horrific, but they said schizophrenia had taken over his mind and compelled him to kill.

Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. His lawyers hope to convince the jury that he did not know right from wrong at the time of the massacre and should be committed indefinitely to the state mental hospital.

Prosecutors aim to prove that Holmes knew what he was doing was illegal and immoral and should be sentenced to die.

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