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Colo. shooting families listen to police testimony

This courtroom sketch shows Aurora Police Detective Matthew Ingui pointing to a large photograph of the inside of the Century 16 theater as he testifies at a preliminary hearing for suspected Aurora theater shooter James Holmes at preliminary hearing in district court in Centennial, Colo., on Monday.

This courtroom sketch shows Aurora Police Detective Matthew Ingui pointing to a large photograph of the inside of the Century 16 theater as he testifies at a preliminary hearing for suspected Aurora theater shooter James Holmes at preliminary hearing in district court in Centennial, Colo., on Monday. Photo by The Associated Press.

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) — The officers struggled to hold back the tears as they recalled the Colorado theater shooting: discovering a 6-year-old girl without a pulse, trying to keep a wounded man from jumping out of a moving police car to go back for his 7-year-old daughter, screaming at a gunshot victim not to die.

“After I saw what I saw in the theater — horrific — I didn’t want anyone else to die,” said Officer Justin Grizzle, who ferried the wounded to the hospital.

A bearded, disheveled James Holmes, the man accused of going on the deadly rampage, didn’t appear to show any emotion as Grizzle and the other officers testified Monday in a packed courtroom as survivors and families of those who died watched quietly. At one point, a woman buried her head in her hands when an officer recalled finding the 6-year-old girl.

“He’s heartless. He really is. He has no emotion. He has no feeling. I don’t know anybody can live that way,” said Sam Soudani afterward. His 23-year-old daughter survived after being hit by shrapnel from an explosive device at the theater.

On the first day of a hearing that will determine whether there’s enough evidence to put Holmes on trial, the testimony brought back the raw emotions from the days following the July 20 attack at the suburban Denver theater that left 12 people dead and dozens wounded.

Any new details to emerge this week — including Holmes’ mental state — will come amid the discussion over an array of proposals, including tougher gun laws, better psychiatric care and the arming of teachers.

A district judge forbade attorneys and investigators from discussing the case publicly, and many court documents have been under seal.

On Monday, prosecutors called on the first responders to testify about the shooting at the midnight showing of the latest Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises,” in Aurora. Investigators say Holmes, wearing body armor, tossed two gas canisters into the packed theater and then opened fire.

When officers arrived, they saw people running out of the theater and trying to drive away. Others walked. Some of the wounded tried to crawl out.

Officers found Holmes standing next to his car. At first, Officer Jason Oviatt said, he thought Holmes was a policeman because of how he was dressed but then realized he was just standing there and not rushing toward the theater.

Oviatt pointed his gun at him, handcuffed him and searched him. He said he found two knives and a semi-automatic handgun on top of Holmes’ car. An ammunition clip fell out of his pocket and Oviatt found another on the ground. He said Holmes was dripping in sweat and his pupils were wide open.

Holmes volunteered that his apartment had been booby trapped, the officers said.

Holmes, now 25, is charged with more than 160 counts, including murder and attempted murder. The hearing will allow the judge to determine whether the prosecution’s case is strong enough to warrant a trial but it’s rare for a judge not to order a trial if a case gets this far.

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