The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

January 9, 2013

Police: Colo. shooting suspect planned massacre

— CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) — As officials this week laid out the most detailed portrait yet of last year's Aurora movie theater massacre, they also mapped sometimes paradoxical behavior by the man accused of the rampage, James Holmes.

At a hearing to determine whether the former neuroscience graduate student should stand trial for the shooting, detectives Tuesday testified that Holmes spent more than two months assembling an arsenal for the assault on a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Returns."

He bought his tickets nearly two weeks before the July 20 massacre. He rigged an elaborate booby-trap system in his apartment to distract police from the carnage at the theater, though the trap was never sprung, they testified.

But after police arrested him leaving the scene clad in body armor, Holmes showed less focus. He played with the paper bags they placed on his hand to preserve gunpowder evidence, pretending they were puppets, Aurora Det. Craig Appel testified. Holmes played with a cup and tried to jam a staple into an electrical outlet.

Holmes' lawyers were expected to present an insanity defense. They have previously stated that Holmes, 25, is mentally ill. Defense lawyer Tamara Brady pointedly asked an ATF agent in court Tuesday whether any Colorado law prevented "a severely mentally ill person" from buying the 6,295 rounds of ammunition, body armor and handcuffs that Holmes purchased online.

There is not, the agent replied.

Holmes' mental state is expected to be the focus of future legal arguments and possibly the latter part of the hearing, when defense attorneys have said they might present witnesses to describe his mental health. Prosecutors on Tuesday called their final witness, who was expected to continue his testimony Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the case was dominated by the litany of Holmes' preparations. Law enforcement officers said Holmes' first recorded purchase was of two tear gas grenades, ordered online May 10.

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