P. SOLOMON BANDA
CENTENNIAL, Colo. — Their first look at a dazed-looking James Holmes with wildly dyed red hair stunned and angered some of the people he is accused of shooting and the kin of those killed that night in a Colorado movie theater.
“A coward,” said Tom Teves, whose son, Alex, was one of 12 people Holmes is accused of killing. Tom Teves stared at Holmes throughout the former graduate student’s first court appearance on Monday.
“Somebody had to be in the courtroom to say, ‘You know what? You went in with ballistic protection and guns, and you shot a 6-year-old,’” he said.
Another 58 people were wounded when authorities say Holmes opened fire at a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora. Seven remained in critical condition Tuesday.
“He doesn’t look surprised at any of it, but he seemed amazed at what was happening,” said Robert Blache, who watched video of Holmes with his injured daughter Christina, who was shot in both legs. “I’m pretty sure he’s not sane.”
Holmes is being held on suspicion of first-degree murder, and he could face additional counts of aggravated assault and weapons violations. He will be formally charged on Monday, and prosecutors say they may seek the death penalty.
David Sanchez said that would be appropriate if Holmes is convicted. His 21-year-old daughter, Katie Medley, escaped without injury and delivered a son Tuesday at the same hospital where her husband, Caleb, 23, was in critical condition with a head wound.
“When it’s your own daughter and she escaped death by mere seconds, I want to say it makes you angry,” Sanchez said.
Allie Young, 19, was shot in the neck, damaging her carotid artery and knocking her into an aisle of the theater. Her friend, Stephanie Davies, said she applied pressure to the wound and also managed to call 911.
“We were laying there in the mouth of hell — there’s smoke and explosions and guns, bats flying across the screen because the movie’s still playing. It’s dark. It’s every child’s worst nightmare,” said Davies, 21, a native of Hemet, Calif.
Both said the gunman shouted at several people before shooting them.
“He would shout, ‘What are you doing? I said stand up!’ And he would pick people up,” Davies said. “I saw him stand over someone. I just see hair and him holding the shirt, and ‘boom.”
Now the families of the dead are left to plan funerals.
A service for A.J. Boik, an 18-year-old high school graduate, was set for Friday in Aurora. The family has asked that news media stay away from the service.
A full military funeral and burial was planned Aug. 3 in Reno, Nev., for Jonathan Blunk, 26, who served three tours in the Middle East and planned to re-enlist with the goal of becoming a Navy SEAL.
Holmes’ prosecution is likely to be a long road. Police expect months of working with behavioral analysts and scrutinizing Holmes’ relationships to establish a motive. A trial might begin in a year or more, said prosecutor Carol Chambers.
Dr. Jeffrey Gardere, an assistant professor of behavioral medicine at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, said Holmes’ appearance suggested “a psychotic process going on, and we see that being acted out there.
“Or, there might be some sort of malingering going on. In other words, trying to make himself look worse than he actually is. Or maybe a combination of all of those things,” Gardere said.
In San Diego, where Holmes’ family lives, family attorney Lisa Damiani said that “everyone’s concerned” about the possibility of the death penalty. When asked if they stood by Holmes, Damiani said, “Yes, they do. He’s their son.”
In June, Holmes quit a 35-student Ph.D. program in neuroscience for reasons that aren’t clear. He had earlier taken an intense oral exam that marks the end of the first year, but University of Colorado Denver officials would not say if he passed, citing privacy concerns.
University officials have refused to answer questions about Holmes.
The judge has issued an order barring lawyers in the case from publicly commenting on matters including evidence, whether a plea deal is in the works or results of any examination or test.