Colorado massacre suspect mum in first court appearance

James Holmes did not speak during the brief hearing

Written by Associated Press | Aurora | Published: July 24, 2012 1:00:04 am

Looking dazed and with reddish-orange dyed hair,the man accused of killing 12 and wounding 58 in a shooting rampage at a Colorado theatre appeared in court on Monday for the first time.

James Holmes,wide-eyed and unshaven,his head bobbing slightly,did not speak during the brief hearing. He will be formally charged on July 30,and it will be months before he would face trial.

Authorities say the 24-year-old former graduate student is refusing to co-operate,and it could take months to learn what prompted one of the worst mass shootings in US history.

A prosecutor said her office was considering pursuing the death penalty. “A decision will be made in consultation with the victims’ families,and that could take months,” Eighteenth Judicial District Attorney Carol Chambers said.

Holmes has been held in solitary confinement since the shooting. He is being held on suspicion of first-degree murder,and he could face additional counts of aggravated assault and weapons violations.

In response to Holmes’ demeanour in the courtroom,Chambers said she had no information on whether he was on medication.

Relatives of the shooting victims leaned forward in their seats to catch their first glimpse of Holmes. Some stared at him the entire hearing.

David Sanchez,who waited outside the courthouse during the hearing,said his pregnant daughter escaped uninjured but her husband was shot in the head and was critical.

Asked what punishment Holmes should get if convicted,Sanchez said,“I think death is.’’

During the attack,Holmes allegedly set off gas canisters and used a semi-automatic rifle,a shotgun and a pistol to open fire,Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said. Holmes began buying guns nearly two months before the shooting and recently bought 6,000 rounds of ammunition over the Internet,Oates said.

The assault rifle jammed during the attack,forcing the gunman to switch to another gun with less firepower,a federal law enforcement official said. That malfunction and weapons switch might have saved some lives.

Holmes’ apartment was filled with trip wires,explosive devices and unknown liquids,requiring police,FBI officials and bomb squad technicians to evacuate surrounding buildings while spending most of Saturday disabling the booby traps.

Investigators have said they found a Batman mask inside the apartment.

As authorities rushed to piece together Holmes’ background,the owner of a gun range said Holmes applied to join the club last month but never became a member because of his behavior and a “bizarre” message on his voicemail,that was “guttural,freakish at best”.

Officials at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus were looking into whether Holmes,a former doctoral student in neuroscience,used his position in a graduate programme to collect hazardous materials.

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