Did James Holmes Have Help? Compelling Evidence, Eyewitness Testimony Linger as Case Nears Trial

Aurora Police Never Addressed Accomplice Evidence, Maintains That Holmes Acted Alone

On February 7th, The Denver Post reported that some victims in the Aurora theater shooting have been harassed by conspiracy theorists since the tragedy in Colorado on July 20th, 2012:
"Prosecutors in the Aurora theater-shooting case have re-iterated their request that victims' names be redacted from court documents, saying that victims and their families continue to suffer harassment from conspiracy theorists...

In the filing...prosecutors say victims 'have expressed concerns for their privacy, and personal safety.' Some victims are key witnesses in the case, the filing states."
In the wake of recent controversy surrounding the Sandy Hook conspiracy theory, many will roll their eyes at the thought of another conspiracy theory, and some are unsure what the Aurora conspiracy could even be—given that the evidence against James Holmes, the lone suspect, has seemed overwhelming from the start.

But when taking the time to examine the case further, as we'll do here, the truth isn't so clear-cut. That's because the official story—that Holmes acted alone in killing 13 and wounding 58 others—is contradicted by the following questions:

  • How do investigators account for two gas masks found at the scene that they say didn't belong to Holmes?
  • How do investigators explain an orange duffel bag, gas can, and second set of tactical gear found near where Holmes was arrested, but not worn or used by him?
  • How could Holmes have acted alone when multiple witnesses in Theater 9 said they saw or perceived multiple accomplices, and reported at least two descriptions of said accomplices to police?
  • How could Holmes have acted alone when multiple witnesses in adjacent Theater 8 reported the detonation of a gas canister that was coordinated with the attack in Theater 9?

Unusual Secrecy Around the Case

So why hasn't this accomplice evidence been reported widely since the shooting? For one, the Aurora police's high level of confidence in the lone-gunman angle effectively cemented the official story. Then, somewhat predictably, the mainstream media backed off from the hard line of questioning.

Moreover, the gag order that Judge William Blair Sylvester issued on the day of the shooting went a long way toward shrouding the court case in secrecy from the beginning. Sylvester has kept court documents and filings secret because he believes that "disclosure of the court records would be 'contrary to public interest' and 'could jeopardize the ongoing investigation.'"

Contrary to public interest? Judging by the level of local and national interest in the case, that couldn't be further from the truth.

Sylvester has since denied requests made by a consortium of 21 news organizations to lift the gag order, but did rule in August that he would release some documents in the case. As NBC News indicated, the consortium was "seeking access to a range of records...including affidavits of probable cause, arrest warrants, search warrants, and request for or court orders for production of records—citing the public’s right of access to public records."

Despite Sylvester's slight compromise, it's worth noting The Denver Post's incensed reaction a week after the gag order was issued, crying foul on the unprecedented level of secrecy in the case: 

"The case is proceeding under such sweeping secrecy rules that the public cannot even see the case docket, which is akin to a table of contents. The orders have gone far beyond the typical 'gag order.'

The secrecy in the case has been disturbing. Mandating that the University of Colorado, for instance, not release any records regarding the shooting suspect, James Eagan Holmes, is a step too far and one that appears unprecedented.

Ordering detectives and evidence technicians who are investigating the case to keep their mouths closed about what they've found is one thing. Telling an outside entity that has nothing to do with law enforcement to ignore public records laws is entirely another. It is unclear whether District Judge William Blair Sylvester even has the authority to do that.

But that's not the only disconcerting element of the shroud of secrecy that has descended on this case. The veil the court system has dropped on routine proceedings is so impenetrable, the public cannot even see the titles of the motions and other actions filed in the case, much less the contents.

That degree of secrecy is very unusual. Typically, a judge will consider such requests individually. If, for instance, the release of a particular document might be considered prejudicial to the defendant, its contents might remain under seal though the public could at least see its title."

Foreword to the Accomplice Theory

While the grander conspiracy theory behind the Aurora shooting entails a staged Manchurian Candidate-like attack with a government endgame of gun control, this post will focus on more direct evidence that contravenes the official lone-wolf narrative, in an attempt to support the probability that Holmes did not act alone.

This writer remains open to the possibility that Holmes may not have participated in the actual attack, but currently believes that in light of all known evidence, it's more likely that he was involved.

Whatever level of conspiracy that skeptics perceive, they should not be faulted for thinking critically, because true justice is only done when we have all the answers. And after looking objectively at all the evidence in this case, you can’t blame skeptics for trying to resolve a contradictory narrative on their own (short of harassing witnesses). So says Examiner.com's Jeffrey Phelps

"Perhaps the most startling and glaring aspect of these circumstances...has to do with the fact that, despite multiple eye-witnesses and official police audio, independent investigative journalists have been the ones that have had to piece together what happened at the scenes of each of these shootings...."
Before we delve into the accomplice theory, it's important to acknowledge that until more details become available to the public, we're working with limited information in a case where more will be forthcoming, according to The Denver Post
"...Holmes' attorneys countered that 'there is a great deal of information related to this case that was not presented at the preliminary hearing, and which has not yet been made public."
Therefore, the existence of unanswered questions and circumstantial evidence about the shooting do not inherently disprove the official story. But on the other hand, with much information being muzzled from the public, the fact that there is enough conflicting evidence out there so as to help construct a blog post of this size is a testament to the accomplice theory itself.

Physical Evidence Left at the Scene

The Four Gas Masks
When police found Holmes, they say he was standing calmly at his car in a gas mask and full tactical gear. According to the police-scanner audio, Holmes was found with at least one other gas mask, presumably in his car:

Officer 1: “311: Hold the air one second. Cars where that white car in the rear of the lot—is that a suspect?”

Officer 2: “Yes, we’ve got rifles, gas masks. He’s detained right now. I’ve got an open door going into the theater.”
So if Holmes had, say, two gas masks on him, what explanation is there for a third gas mask that was found toward the opposite end of the parking lot where Holmes was arrested, just beyond the one presumed security camera behind the theater?

This gas mask was not widely reported in the mainstream media, but was referenced in the above diagram from The Washington Post and in other crime-scene photos.

There's more. On September 1st, 2012, Denver Post court reporter Jessica Fender tweeted that four gas masks were found, but later deleted the tweet after the implication arose that policecompromised part of the crime scene.

At Holmes' preliminary hearing in January, word of the four gas masks re-emerged when Aurora police detective Sgt. Matthew Fyles took the stand. According to the article by Fender and fellowDenver Post crime reporter John Ingold: 

"The court also heard Wednesday about items found at the shooting scene. Fyles testified that police they found four gas masks, although only two belonged to Holmes."
Almost as remarkable as the official discovery of gas masks not belonging to Holmes was the noticeable silence and decision not to follow up on the revelation—by Fender and Ingold, or any other member of the mainstream media for that matter. Do they not see the potential game-changing implication here? Or is this simply a road that they don't want to go down?

Could the extra gas masks have been left behind by police, who needed them to enter Theater 9? If that's the case, how can the gas mask that was found a good distance away from Holmes' car be considered evidence? Its mere presence suggests that before fleeing the scene, an accomplice tossed his or her gas mask in an effort to not attract attention during their escape.

In the context of the lone-gunman story, there's simply no obvious answer as to why four gas masks are part of the crime scene.

The Second Set of Tactical Gear

One of the few members of the mainstream media to address the accomplice theory is Business Insider's Michael Kelley. In part of his article last August, "Police Audio Suggests There Were Multiple Shooters In The 'Dark Knight' Massacre," Kelley calls attention to this compelling evidence left at the scene by a presumable accomplice: 

"There has not yet been an official explanation of the orange duffel bag, gas can and ballistic gear found at a different part of the parking lot than the ballistic gear found near Holmes' car.

Based on the above picture, we can see that this gear was actually left in the same part of the parking lot where Holmes was detained, but not in the exact same spot. His tactical gear appearscloser to the dumpster in the picture below, and nowhere in any reports was a duffel bag or gas can reported.

So how can the official story account for a second set of tactical gear and two extra gas masks at a crime scene in which only one suspect was said to be involved? It doesn't add up.

The only obvious explanation is that there was more than one person involved in the attack, as multiple eyewitnesses attest to.

Witnessing the Attack in Theater 9

Studies have shown that witnesses to a crime aren’t always reliable because of distortions in human perception caused by various biases and stressors. It's the "fog of war"—what one person thinks they saw is not always what was actually seen. Moreover, even the most compelling eyewitness testimony can’t always prove that something did or didn’t happen.

But in the absence of more objective, undeniable evidence, it sure can paint a convincing picture.

From what can be ascertained from publicly available interviews, several witnesses in Theater 9 believe the shooter didn't act alone. While the dark, smoky, frantic atmosphere in the theater may have prevented most moviegoers from making out much, it's likely that there are more people who saw something similar to what the following witnesses did, but were never interviewed by police or the media after the shooting.

Eyewitness #1: Corbin Dates

The eyewitness whose testimony currently serves as the bedrock of the accomplice theory is Corbin Dates, a 23-year-old man from Aurora who sat in the second row of Theater 9 on July 20th. Inmultiple interviews, Dates describes a man with a goatee (not Holmes, who didn't have a goatee) who took a phone call about 20 minutes before the movie started, proceeded to the emergency exit door, and appeared to direct someone his way: 
Dates: "Prior to the movie even starting when I came and got my seat at the theater, a guy walked into the auditorium after me, sat into the very front first right row and got a phone call. Took his phone call towards the emergency exit—not the lobby—and had his foot propped open by the door. It seemed like he was making gestures—trying to find somebody or trying to have somebody come to his location to where he currently was. After that, I had already stepped out of the auditorium to bring my friend [eyewitness Jennifer Seeger] in, and when we came back, the movie was just starting, the lights were dimming, and that door seemed closed.

Chris Matthews: "You testified all this in court?"

Dates: "Yes."
One thing to note: Dates' account to The Washington Post says that the man with the goatee propped the door open with a stick, which contradicts Police Sgt. Gerald Jonsgaard's statement that "a small piece of plastic commonly used to hold tablecloths onto a picnic table" was used. However, it's unclear if this is a detail that Dates asserted, or if it was an assumption made by writer Eli Saslow.

Either way, it's unfortunate that Dates left his seat before seeing what became of the man with the goatee. The big question is: Did any other moviegoers also see this door propper and where he went?

Could it have been the man in this handheld video, who is seen with a small goatee and apparently wounded outside the theater next to what looks like a gas mask?

Although the timing seems uncanny, it is possible that the man who Dates saw had no involvement in the shooting. Although his out-of-the-ordinary actions correlate with providing the gunman outside access to the theater shortly thereafter, there could be another explanation for the man with the goatee's actions: He was trying to sneak a friend in to see the highly anticipated new Batman movie.

That could be how investigators would explain away Dates' testimony if they ever publicly address it.

And although investigators haven't cited sources, they believe that Holmes was the one who propped the emergency exit door open: 

"Video from the theater shows a man [prosecutors] say is Holmes -- wearing dark pants, a light-colored shirt and a dark stocking cap covering his orange hair -- entering the multiplex before the movie begins.

The recordings show him going into Theater No. 9, a different theater from the one listed on his ticket. While witnesses have not detailed in this week's preliminary hearing what investigators believe Holmes did once inside the theater, sources have said they believe he propped open the theater's back door and went to his car to put on body armor and arm himself. Authorities believe Holmes then re-entered the theater, tossing gas canisters before opening fire about 18 minutes into the movie, according to sources."
So we know that someone propped open the exit door to allow the gunman entrance from the outside, but it's not clear who. At this point, you can't rule out anyone—Holmes, the man who Dates saw, or an unknown third party.

But what's odd is that not one other witness has publicly stated that they saw Holmes or the man with the goatee prop the door open and/or walk out the emergency exit. Yet in the courtroom of public opinion, Holmes has been guilty from the start.

Eyewitnesses #2 and 3: Fassil Eyayou and Evan Morrison

Two more key Theater 9 witnesses are Fassil Eyayou and Evan Morrison, who described their unique perspective on the attack to reporter Matt Flener of 9NEWS, the NBC affiliate in Denver: 

Eyayou: "We were just watching the movie. It was about 15 minutes into it, and as we were doing that, someone completely dressed in black started to walk in from the bottom emergency exit on the right. And we saw something getting thrown from the back of the theater, and then from his side. [Something] looked like a canister in it. It went off. Loud popping noises and tear gas, and then he started shooting."

Flener: "So you said you saw something come from the back of the theater as well, and then the front as well?"

Eyayou: “They both were thrown. They popped one after the other, and after they did, he started shooting.”

Flener [turning to Evan Morrison]: “Tell me what else you saw.”

Morrison: “The same thing. I saw the first thing come from the middle. It appeared to be an unidentified object....”

Flener: “How do you make sense of what’s happened over the past four, four-and-a-half hours here?”

Eyayou: “We don’t know, we have ideas. From what we saw, he wasn’t alone—he had someone with him because the second can of tear gas didn’t come from his side... We can only assume that someone got him in, because whatever he was wearing seemed thick, so I’d think he’d stand out in a crowd.”
Eyayou contradicts himself regarding which gas canister was thrown first, but the point here is that both he and Morrison recognized that someone other than the gunman threw a tear-gas projectile in Theater 9.

So, again, how many other witnesses in the theater saw the same thing?

Eyewitness #3: Devon Suits
There doesn't appear to be public video testimony from Devon Suits, an 18-year-old who was in the theater with four of his friends that night. But his account given to Denver Post sports columnist Woody Paige is consistent with what Eyayou and Morrison believe they saw [emphasis added]: 

"'That was the tear gas (canisters.) My eyes began burning. There was smoke, and the flashes and bullets flying, screaming, and it was surreal. Everybody was freaking out. I didn't even know that the movie kept playing. I thought there were two gunmen—the one throwing the gas and the other shooting. I lost it....'

Why hadn't anybody rushed the shooter? 'I was terrified. We didn't know how many (gunmen) there were. We didn't have time to think. We reacted. I just wanted to get away with my friends and not die.'"
Eyewitness #4: Century 16 Employee

This Theater 9 witness is a Century 16 employee who recalls what she saw that night from the top-back of the theater. The raw quality of her testimony makes it seem less official than the previous witnesses, but what she says shouldn’t be ignored because it supports the theory that the shooter got help from the inside.

In the beginning of the clip, she and her friend who was with her also believe that the attack involved multiple people: 

“…next to the exit sign there’s two doors that lead outside directly. So, what I heard from him (another eyewitness)—he was sitting in the third row—they came from the exit doors from the outside, so somebody with tickets probably let them in....
It's a little surprising that she, as a Century 16 employee, says there are two emergency exit doors that lead outside, when there is only one. Perhaps she was thinking of a double set of exit doors in a different theater? Fog of war?

Toward the end of the clip, she reiterates her perception that multiple attackers were involved, though it's unclear if she's suggesting a total of three or five: 

"They do have a guy in custody according to the news. And I think there’s at least three people 'cause I saw a silhouette of a guy—and all I could see was the light from the exit lights. I saw a silhouette of a guy, and he was in all black... And there’s two people on each side of him, but I think there was only one gun going off at the time. But they definitely threw fuckin’ smoke bomb, and they threw one other thing… And either they were hiding behind the screen, which there is....” [clip ends]
When the clip ends, she starts to say that there is space to hide behind the movie screen in the theater, which an officer confirmed here on the police radio scanner following the attack:
"Lincoln 25: Everybody inside, realize that behind the screens, those are open venues, so you need to check behind those screens also."
Eyewitness #5: "They Set Gas Bombs"

CNN does not disclose the name of this witness, but in the following short statement, she mentions multiple attackers three times [emphasis added]:
"As they were leaving, he witnessed a baby—an infant—get shot. But yeah, theyset gas bombs, um, as they were leaving, and just gunshots all over the place."
A Witness Who Saw Holmes with Another Man Before the Shooting

Abigail Quezada, who lives across the street from Holmes' apartment, told Fox News' Grif Jenkinswhat she saw around 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 19th, roughly five hours before the shooting: 

Quezada: “Two persons—uh, James, what is the name?"

Jenkins: "James Holmes?"

Quezada: "Yeah, [and] another guy. They started running down 17th [Avenue] tohis apartment."
While Quezada's testimony lacks depth and articulation, it does lend some credence to the possibility that Holmes may have been working with someone to plan and possibly execute the shooting shortly before it happened.

So who is this person of interest? Why the two of them were running is anyone's guess.

A Coordinated Attack in Theater 8

Despite Theater 9 testimony supporting the presence of at least one accomplice, the more-overlooked testimony is from witnesses in Theater 8, who reveal more of a smoking gun for the accomplice theory. Although no witnesses have publicly stated that they actually saw someone set off a gas canister, they did see a flash of light moments before bullets began streaming in from the adjoining wall of Theater 9.

In addition to the witnesses who describe this attack, we have this audio from the police scanner that night, which indicates the perceived presence of an assailant in Theater 8 who detonated a gas canister: 

“Uh, yeah, I don’t know if this information’s already been put out, but I’m talking to people making a statement. It sounds like we have possibly two shooters: One that was in Theater 8, seated, another one that came in from the outside into Theater 9. Sounded like it was a coordinated attack.”
The word to note from this transmission is "seated," which at least one witness either directly reported, or the reporting officer inferred from the account(s). The mere mention of this word reduces the likelihood of a timed tear-gas detonation that was programmed to go off in advance.

Eyewitness #1: Steve Ostergaard
Teacher Steve Ostergaard was sitting on the right side of Theater 8 with 10 of his students that night: 

“About 20 minutes into the movie, there was a scene where they were in a bar and there was gunfire about to start erupting. At that point, to the right of us—right by the stairwell—all 12 of us heard hissing and then started seeing smoke and we saw a boom and a flash. At that point we heard what we thought were firecrackers.”
Ostergaard continues
“Was part of the stairwell blown off like I thought I saw? Because I saw an explosion. So what really happened? Because it was dark in there.”
Eyewitness #2: Rachel Fedeli
Rachel Fedeili was also in Theater 8. Here’s her account

“We had heard about two pops, and then there was a big cloud of smoke. And then there was another pop and more smoke....”
Later in the same clip, she mentions an important point that supports the idea that the gas canister(s) thrown in Theater 8 were indeed separate from the gas canister(s) thrown in Theater 9: 
“We had no idea at all that there was anything happening in Theater 9—we thought it was just in our theater. No one knew that there was something else happening in the theater next to us.”
Eyewitness #3: Alex Milano
Theater 8 witness Alex Milano told 9NEWS’ Brandon Rittiman: 

“We were watching a scene in the movie—it was a shootout scene—there were guns firing. And then a loud bangs came from the right of the theater. Smoke took over the entire theater. It was really thick, and no one could really see anything.”
Eyewitness #4: Obed Sanchez
It’s unclear where Obed Sanchez was sitting in Theater 8, but he also describes an explosion that took place inside his theater: 

"There were explosions behind me, and there was dust, but I thought it was just a normal practical joke—fireworks or something.”
Eyewitness #5: Quentin Caldwell
Testimony from Theater 8 moviegoer Quentin Caldwell reinforces the idea that there may have been two gunmen: 

“You know, right before we tried to exit the theater, and then all of the sudden somebody ran in and said, 'Don't go in the lobby—he's in the lobby.' And somebody else tried to go outside, and they shut the doors. I don't know why, but they said, 'He's outside.' So we were scared—we didn't know if there was more than one.”

What the Police Scanner Picked Up

Supporting the accomplice theory is telling audio from the police radio scanner in the early morning hours of July 20th.

Before going through its revelations, a few things should be known. First, Aurora police indicated that after ads and trailers, the 12:05 a.m. screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Theater 9 actually began at 12:20 a.m., with the shooting occurring approximately 18 minutes into the movie, at 12:38 a.m.

Secondly, the map below will help put the radio transmissions in context. Holmes was detained in the back of the theater, which the police refer to as the east/Sable Boulevard side.

Detaining Holmes 

4:18 mark of the police-scanner audio
“11: We’ve got the back covered and the south side covered.”

“Lincoln 25: I’m being told that he’s in Theater 9.”

[unintelligible officer identifier]: I need a marked car behind the theaters, Sable side. Got a suspect in a gas mask.”

“Is that the dude in the white car you're by?”

Officer 1: “311: Hold the air one second. Cars where that white car in the rear of the lot—is that a suspect?”

Officer 2: “Yes, we’ve got rifles, gas masks. He’s detained right now. I’ve got an open door going into the theater.”

Officer 1: “OK, hold that position. Hold your suspect.”
THE TAKEAWAY: Based on what one officer says, it sounds like Holmes may have been in his car when police found him. But according to recent courtroom testimony, Officer Jason Oviatt says he found him standing outside the driver-side door in full tactical gear, initially mistaking him for a fellow officer. Although the "in the car" question remains unreconciled, the police audio indicates that Holmes was apprehended about two minutes after an officer radioed that they had the back of the theater secure.

But this raises more questions. If police had the back side of the theater secure before they discovered Homes, did they not initially see him because he was still inside the theater? Or was he somewhat concealed in the confines of his car? The third possibility would be that he was already at his car, but mistaken as another cop by the first officers on the scene.

Skeptics who believe that Holmes was inside his car when police found him, possibly drugged up as a patsy, cite the the broken passenger-side windows on Holmes' car, as well as a spine boardbeneath the car for medical transport.

Then in the above image, there's the package that appears on the passenger seat, which, in the context of a planned shooting, seems a bit out of place, except when factored in to the subsequent discovery that a notebook detailing the attack was mailed to Holmes' psychiatrist a week before the shooting.

Back to the police scanner....

Mention of Other Possible Suspects 

Officer: “321: One of the shooters may be wearing a white and blue plaid shirt.”

Dispatcher: “Copy. Outstanding shooter possibly wearing a white and blue plaid shirt.”

"Suspect’s saying he’s the only one, but I’m getting conflicting suspect descriptions from the witnesses out here.”

"Cruiser 49: I’m already identifying parties who saw the entire thing as it unfolded. So, cars, continue to stop people and ask questions as to what they saw.”

“Tac 16—sorry—Tac 21, Denver Tac 21: One of the construction workers said somebody just came booking out of the parking lot. Male, red backpack was all they saw. Was headed towards Alameda.

Officer: “Victor 1: We have an RP for a male dressed in black with a black backpack going to the northeast.

Dispatcher: “Copy, all units on Blue Southwest. Denver Tac 21 stating a male with a red backpack and another one, possibly in black clothing, headed towards Alameda.”

“K, suspect is gonna be a male, unknown race, black camo-type outfit, believed to be wearing a vest, gas mask, and multiple long guns.”

“Updated version: Suspect in all black. Black tactical vest. Black tactical helmet. [unintelligible] gas masks. Full tactical gear with at least one handgun, possible shotgun, and possible one other long gun.”

“Metro 10 to people with those key witnesses that were inside the theater: We need to start quickly as possible getting suspect descriptions because we initially got some conflicting information. I wanna make sure we’re not looking for anybody else.”

“321: I had another witness say ‘green camouflage pants.’”

“Uh, yeah, I don’t know if this information’s already been put out, but I’m talking to people making a statement. It sounds like we have possibly two shooters: One that was in Theater 8, seated, another one that came in from the outside into Theater 9. Sounded like it was a coordinated attack.”

Officer: “[unintelligible officer ID]: I just wasn’t sure if we have the information out that there’s possibly two shooters?”

Dispatcher: “Negative—that is new. Newsbreak: Every unit on Blue Southeast: Possible second shooter still at large.”
THE TAKEAWAY: Multiple witnesses describe at least two suspects other than the gunman. There could be more than two, depending on permutations of clothing: 
  1. One wearing a white-and-blue plaid shirt
  2. One in green camouflage pants
  3. A male with a red backpack running toward Alameda Avenue
  4. A male dressed in black with a black backpack heading to the northeast of the theater (Alameda Avenue and Sable Boulevard)
Police Continue Searching in Nearby Aurora Mall
Officer: “We have a siren and a red light outside here.”

Dispatcher: “Copy. Let me double-check with my primaries… It looks like we did have one alarm an hour ago at Macy’s. But since you went inside, it has been cleared out.”

"Arapahoe County: I guess they wanna bring out that floor cleaner/suspect out that JC Penney door. You ready for that?"
THE TAKEAWAY: An alarm at Macy's in the nearby Town Center mall was possibly triggered by a fleeing suspect, and the mall's janitor was detained by police for questioning.

The Media Reported a Suspect on the Loose

Some of the news reports from that morning were consistent with what can be heard on the police scanner. 9NEWS’ Brandon Rittiman reported this before interviewing Theater 8 witness Alex Milan: 

“We are still waiting for police to confirm any numbers or details of exactly how many folks were shot or whether someone is still on the loose. I can tell you there’s a helicopter out here actively searching for somebody.”
ABC News initially reported this as it happened: 
“One suspect has been taken into custody, [Aurora police] believes that there’s one more on the loose."
And here’s what Theater 8 moviegoer Quentin Caldwell told CNN
“As we were leaving, we heard the police saying back and forth all across the radios, and just with general chatter, that they had him cornered in Theater 9, and that there might be a second shooter that they didn’t know.”
Caldwell's statement is interesting because he says "cornered in", implying something different than police detaining Holmes outside Theater 9 without resistance. In all likelihood, his account can probably be explained by an incorrect preposition. What's more important is Caldwell's confirmation that police were looking for a second suspect.

The Initial Police Investigation: Cementing the Lone-Gunman Narrative

In the later morning hours of July 20th, Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates spoke during the first press conference to the media. Despite reports of possible accomplices and incriminating evidence left behind at the scene just hours earlier, it's surprising how confident he is in asserting that Holmes acted alone.

Perhaps the show of assurance was done to best represent the valiant efforts of first responders without injecting more drama into an already dramatic situation. Imagine the local paranoia emanating from headlines like, "Second Aurora gunman still on the loose" and "Police looking for second suspect at large". Short of any related leads, the police's chances of finding these suspects weren't great, considering the general descriptions they had to go on and possibly limited resources in pursuing them.

In the first press conference, note that each time Oates is asked about the possibility of accomplices, he looks uncomfortable and perturbed, then all but avoids the questions, including a repeated one about the presence of security cameras: 

Oates: "We are not looking for any other suspects. We are confident that he acted alone. However, we will do a thorough investigation to be absolutely sure that that is the case. But at this time, we are confident that he acted alone."

Reporter 1: "We had a witness [presumably Corbin Dates] tell us that he saw a suspicious person in the front aisle that was lingering near the exit where the shooter came in. And I'm wondering if you’ve looked into that, because you said you believe he acted alone. So is that something you think played a part in allowing him to get in?"

Oates [collecting his thoughts]: "We have information as to what occurred in the theater based on the roughly 200 interviews that we have made. And we have ballistic evidence inside that suggests how the shooting went down. But we haveso much investigation to do, and that's the kind of evidence for a prosecution—not for a discussion at this time."

Reporter 2: "Are there cameras in those theaters?"

Reporter 3: "That door—you couldn't access that door from the outside—it has to be opened from the inside."

Oates [choosing his next words]: "We're not prepared to discuss any theories about how that he got in there with the weapons, but we will tell you that his car was parked right outside the back door."

Reporter 2: "Are there cameras in those theaters?"
On the evening of July 20th, Oates held a second press conference in which he somehow maintained that there was no evidence of a second gunman
Reporter: "Chief, can you say anything about search for a second person? There were a lot of reports there was someone else involved."

Oates: "We have not been able to confirm that. We have no evidence to support that right now. But we are obviously very concerned about the possibility of that, and we are working that angle right now. But as of right now, we have no evidence of a second gunman."

Two days after the shooting, Oates admitted to Bob Schieffer on CBS' Face the Nation that he was hardly up-to-date with evidence in the case, but nevertheless showed an early commitment to the lone-gunman story: 

Schieffer: "As far as you know at this time, this involves only one person?"

Oates: "All the evidence we have—every single indicator—is that this is all Mr. Holmes' activity, and he that wasn't particularly aided by anyone else."

Oates: "We're building a case to show that this was a deliberative process by a very intelligent man who wanted to do this. So it will take quite a bit of time. There are so many loose ends, and we've been so busy dealing with the families and the aftermath of this, and the dangers of the apartment, that I haven't even been briefed by my investigators on probably 90% of what they know. That kind of work will take place in the next couple of days, I'll be more up to speed."
Oates' admission that he had been briefed on roughly 10% of the case could explain why he believed there were no accomplices. But conversely, it makes you wonder how he could be so confident that Holmes acted alone. Even so, Oates was aware that police had already interviewed about 200 witnesses, and witness testimony alone should have been enough to shake his confidence that Holmes was the only suspect. But Oates' belief was unwavering.

In a same-day interview with Fox News' Jon Scott, Oates did indicate some open-mindedness when asked about a possible second suspect, and also addressed a person of interest in the investigation: 

Scott: "There was word overnight—some confusion overnight—that there might be a second person involved, a second suspect. Can you clear that up for us?"

Oates [collecting his thoughts]: "Sure, and I'd like to correct something. Rather than insist that he worked and acted alone, we have no information that he acted with anyone else at this time.

Now there was a report overnight about a person who was an acquaintance of Mr. Holmes. We've since contacted that person. We're trying to contact every person who was an acquaintance of Mr. Holmes to find out as much about Holmes as we can... But we did speak to that person last night, and it's part of a massive investigation."
So far, the closest thing to an official second suspect was the person of interest, but his name was soon cleared.

Question: Just hours into a tragic shooting, what kind of "massive investigation" doesn't take all of the evidence into account—especially one in which multiple threads suggest the presence of at least one accomplice? And once Oates did get up to speed on all the evidence, how could the narrative have remained unchanged?

Put another way—Two extra gas masks, a second set of tactical gear, a tear gas canister in Theater 8, and at least three different suspect descriptions made Oates feel confident that only one person was involved, and it was Holmes.

And again, how would the public have reacted if the police stated that at least one accomplice was still unaccounted for? Something that can't be ignored.

Was Holmes On Something? We'll Never Know

Is there anything else that Aurora police didn't seem to follow through on immediately following the shooting?

Look no further than its decision not to drug-test their prime suspect, who looked and behaved like someone on drugs upon his arrest [emphasis added]:

"Holmes 'was very relaxed' when police found him outside the Century 16 theater that night, his hands on top of his car beside a handgun, said Officer Jason Oviatt: 'It was like there weren't normal emotional responses.'"

The Denver Post
"'Holmes was "just standing there,' Oviatt testified. 'Not doing anything. Not in any hurry. Not excited.' Oviatt's reports from that day note Holmes 'simply stared off into the distance' and 'seemed to be out of it and disoriented.'

On the stand, Oviatt said Holmes...showed no normal emotional responses but understood directions and cooperated. Oviatt testified he saw no signs of drug use, despite noting in reports that Holmes' pupils were 'huge.'"

USA Today
"[Officer Aaron] Blue said once they got Holmes into the back of a police car, he became fidgety, was sweating profusely and reeked of body odor."

The Denver Channel
"Sources told CALL7 Investigator John Ferrugia that when Holmes...was brought in...he sat wide-eyed, with his eyebrows twitching as detectives watched him...

Sources also said detectives put bags over his hands to preserve any gunshot residue. Sources told CALL7 that Holmes began playing with the bags pretending they were two puppets."

Huffington Post
"It was just hours after a deadly Colorado theater shooting, and James Holmes was not acting like a man accused of methodically planning the attack and booby trapping his apartment... As police detective Craig Appel interviewed the suspect they'd picked up outside the theater...the former neuroscience graduate student tried to jam a staple into an electrical outlet. He played with a cup on the table. Appel noted that his eyes were dilated...."

"Asked by a defense attorney whether he had ordered a blood test for Holmes, Appel said he had not.

'There were no indications that he was under the influence of anything,' he said."
Holmes told police that he took 100 mg of Vicodin about two-and-a-half hours before the shooting. This is despite the fact that Vicodin is known to constrict pupils rather than dilate them, and the effects from that low of a dose are unlikely to sustain themselves three days later when Holmes appeared completely out of it at his first court hearing.

So was Holmes on something else? Thanks to the inaction of investigators, we'll never know for sure, even if the names of his four prescriptions found at his apartment are ever released.

Can we chalk up Holmes' strange behavior to simply being mentally ill? It's not unreasonable, considering that Holmes' earlier self-diagnosis of dysphoric mania is consistent with symptoms he  exhibited in the courtroom.

But the larger point here is how police didn't attempt to resolve apparent contradictory observations in their prime suspect. Even if they didn't think he was under the influence of common drugs or alcohol, as they say, it would have been fully diligent to prove their assessment.

Where's the Surveillance Video?

What's kept the accomplice theory alive since the shooting is the absence of any outside security footage released from Century 16. If video from a posterior parking-lot camera exists and is ever released, it could immediately put an end to any speculation about the tragedy.

Although the mainstream media have puzzlingly not asked about the presence of external security cameras, it appears that Century 16 had at least one camera at the back of the theater on July 20th:

Oddly enough, that camera is apparently no longer there:

What we do know for sure is that there are at least two cameras in the front of the theater:

We also know that Century 16 does have at least 11 security cameras, but none in any of its theaters. To date, the only known video footage was screened at Holmes' preliminary hearing in January, in which the following was revealed [sources amalgamated]:

"The prosecution also showed surveillance video of Holmes entering the theater complex just past midnight[1]. Holmes watched intently as one detective showed a surveillance video of him calmly entering the theater lobby, holding the door open for a couple behind him, and printing out tickets to the midnight showing of 'The Dark Knight Rises' that he purchased electronically[2] 12 days earlier[1]. The chilling, soundless video shows Holmes redeeming his ticket at a kiosk, giving it to a ticket taker, then lingering near the concession stand for a few minutes before turning toward Theater 9[3], a different theater from the one listed on his ticket[4]. The lone suspect...entered along with the crowd, investigators believe.

Then he walked out of the theater's emergency door unnoticed, investigators said, propping it open. The suspect, later identified as Holmes, allegedly returned through the same door minutes later, clad in black ballistic gear, and opened fire."[3]
With regard to whether Holmes propped open the emergency exit door, it's still unclear if this belief by investigators is based on confided eyewitness accounts or simply their own conjecture that fits the official story. Because there are no cameras in the individual theaters, and without seeing the inside footage personally, it's not 100% clear if Holmes ever exited the complex through a non-emergency exit door.

Admittedly, Holmes' mere presence inside Century 16—assuming it is indeed him—seems unnecessary if an accomplice had already propped open the door for him to enter from the outside. But there could be an explanation, such as Holmes wanting to scope out the scene before going through with an attack that he'd apparently planned for two months.

The Accomplice Theory: Final Questions

  1. If there's video footage of the back parking lot, why haven't investigators mentioned it, and why hasn't the media asked about it? And why does Century 16's rear camera no longer appear on Google Maps?
  2. How can one suspect account for two gas masks and a second set of tactical gear that aren't his?
  3. Are there any witnesses who saw Holmes in the theater or the man Corbin Dates saw who propped open the emergency exit door before the movie began?
  4. Who set off the gas canister in Theater 8?
  5. Who threw the second gas canister in Theater 9?
  6. What became of at least two possible suspects reported on the police scanner?
  7. Who was running with James Holmes near his apartment just hours before the shooting?
  8. Why did Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates insist so early on that Holmes acted alone, despite evidence suggesting otherwise?
  9. Why didn't Aurora police drug-test their prime suspect, who behaved strangely from the time of his arrest to his first court hearing three days later?
  10. Why has almost the entire mass media not asked these same questions?

A Truth We May Never Know

Given the compelling evidence supporting the presence of at least one accomplice in the Aurora shooting, I was a little surprised that Holmes' defense team did not call any witnesses to the stand at the preliminary hearing in January—witnesses who could blow up the entire lone-gunman story.

This indicates two things that could be true. One, any evidence of an accomplice doesn’t change the fact that Holmes participated in the attack. And two, the FBI and/or Aurora police may not want the defense to reveal this kind of information. We can only speculate why.

When Holmes faces trial in March, the expectation is that he’ll plead not guilty by reason of insanity. His defense team does plan on calling two witnesses to the stand, but not ones who were involved in the shooting. The expectation is that they'll testify to Holmes’ supposedly ill mental state.

"This is not a whodunit case," says attorney Dan Recht. "The issue in this case is going to be ultimately whether Holmes is sane or not sane."

That’s quite a shame, because even if Holmes is guilty in all scenarios, failure to address all of the evidence in court is a failure to do justice, which is truly criminal.

So wherever the truth lies, don’t hold your breath for the word "accomplice" to come up in the courtroom.

But the notion did surface at Holmes’ preliminary hearing. Officer Justin Grizzle testified that after Holmes was arrested, he asked if anyone had helped him with the attack. Holmes responded nonverbally with an enigmatic half-answer that could be met with an eerie sense of conspiratorial wonder:

"He just looked at me and smiled. It was a smirk."


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