Aurora massacre response: 129 officers in 90 seconds, sergeant testifies

Aurora massacre response: 129 officers in 90 seconds, sergeant testifies
Tom Sullivan, who lost his son, Alex, in the Aurora massacre, leaves the courthouse in Centennial, Colo., on April 28. "We live and deal with his death every day," he told The Times. (David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

Moments after the first 911 call that a gunman was shooting up an Aurora, Colo., multiplex, so many police officers and cruisers filled the Century 16 theater site that later responders were hard pressed to get to the scene of the massacre.

Aurora police Sgt. Matthew Fyles testified Monday about the rapid response on the fifth day of James E. Holmes' trial for killing 12 people and wounding 70 others during the July 20, 2012, rampage.


Holmes, 27, faces 166 charges, including first-degree murder. He has acknowledged that he was the gunman who wrapped himself in protective gear and attacked moviegoers at a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises." But he has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

"In the first 90 seconds, we had 52 police vehicles and 129 officers that responded to the theater," Fyles said. "I was pulling into the area just after 1 a.m. and it took me quite some time to get to the command post. I could see the sea of police vehicles."

In all, about 440 officers from the Aurora Police Department alone wrote reports in the case, Fyles said, although some of those officers have since retired. And then there were staff members from crime labs and other agencies who also responded to the attack.

Fyles testified that personnel from 27 local agencies and four federal ones  converged on the multiplex to secure the theater, treat and transport the wounded, carry off the dead and investigate the crime.

Monday's testimony was less fraught than the first week of the trial, during which a steady stream of victims described their pain and terror and loss, and uniformed law enforcement agents cried on the stand, recounting the chaos and carnage.

For Tom Sullivan, whose son, Alex, was killed on his 27th birthday in the multiplex's Theater 9, the trial's start has brought some clarity.

"We live and deal with his death every day," said Sullivan, who was in the courtroom a week ago for opening statements with his wife, Terry, and daughter, Megan.

"I will be talking about this shooting the rest of my life," Sullivan told the Los Angeles Times, "so to hear some of the testimony has been heartbreaking, but it confronts head-on the story of what happened inside the theater."

Only two victims testified Monday: Jennifer Kristine Avila Arredondo, who had shrapnel embedded in her scalp, and her husband, Adan Avila Arredondo, who was shot in the leg and arm and suffered shrapnel wounds to the back.

Adan Avila Arredondo testified that while he was trying to escape from the theater with his wife and friends, he collapsed.

"My leg was shot," he said. "A large portion of my leg was missing. I felt like my back was burning and I was thinking I got shot in the back as well."

His first surgery on his wounded right leg, performed just minutes after he arrived at the hospital, failed at saving the limb. His second surgery was an amputation. Over the objections of defense attorneys, prosecutors instructed Avila Arredondo to show the jury the results of Holmes' rampage.

So he stepped down from the witness box, bent over and pulled up his pants leg. On display was the prosthesis that replaced the shattered limb. Prosecutors also flashed photographs of his injuries onto the three flat screens that hang in Division 201.

Avila Arredondo said he remembers getting shot. He also remembers what he was thinking as the massacre played out around him, he told the jury Monday:


"I don't want to die."

Times staff writer Kurtis Lee in Los Angeles contributed to this report

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