Will Colorado shootings suspect James Eagan Holmes ever face trial?

Will Colorado shootings suspect James Eagan Holmes ever face trial?

By M. Alex Johnson, NBC News

When James Eagan Holmes, the suspect in the Colorado movie theater shootings, enters court for the first time Monday, he will be taking the first step in a long legal journey likely to center on two issues: Is he competent to stand trial? And will prosecutors seek the death penalty?

M. Alex Johnson is a reporter for NBC News. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Police identified Holmes, 24, a graduate student at the University of Colorado-Denver medical school, as the suspect in the shootings at a screening of “Batman: The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colo., shortly after midnight Friday morning. Twelve people were killed, including a 6-year-old girl, and 58 others were injured.

Holmes will appear before a judge at 9:30 a.m. on Monday in Arapahoe County District Court in nearby Centennial. Charges aren’t expected to be filed at this early stage; the hearing is intended to advise Holmes that he is the focus of the investigation and to set conditions for his continued detention.

Carol Chambers, district attorney for the 18th Judicial District, which includes Arapahoe County, wouldn’t address potential charges, telling reporters Friday that her focus was on providing information and resources to the victims and their families.

Eventually, Holmes will almost certainly be charged and he will have to enter a plea. If he pleads not guilty by reason of insanity, or if his attorneys argue that he is incompetent to stand trial, proceedings could stretch out for months or years — even indefinitely.

If Holmes’ lawyers believe he isn’t competent, they have “an absolute duty to raise competency and [request] a competency evaluation,” said Scott H. Robinson, a prominent Denver criminal defense attorney.

A defendant is considered incompetent if he’s unable to understand the charges against him or to assist in his own defense. Legal proceedings must stop until the defendant is restored to competency.

“Only down the road do we consider the question of ‘not guilty by reason of insanity,”’ Robinson told NBC station KUSA of Denver.

Then there’s the question of whether Chambers would seek the death penalty.

“This is a unique type of situation,” said Robinson, who noted that Chambers is term-limited and may not want to be saddled with that decision as she leaves office — especially since it would be a non-issue if Holmes is found incompetent or not guilty by reason of insanity.

Instead, that decision could be made by Chambers’ successor, Republican George Brauchler or Democrat Ethan Feldman, one of whom voters will elect in November.

James Alan Fox, a criminal justice professor at Northeastern University in Boston, said people who commit mass murders usually aren’t mentally ill.

“It takes a certain degree of clear-headedness to plan and execute a crime like this,” Fox told NBC News.

“Contrary to the common misperception that these guys suddenly snap and go berserk, these are well-planned executions,” he said.

Clint Van Zandt, president of the security firm Van Zandt Associates and a former criminal profile expert for the FBI, also cautioned against rushing to any judgment.

“We’ve got to be careful,” Van Zandt said in an interview on TODAY, criticizing commentators who he said were going on TV and “flippantly saying, ‘Well, he’s a sociopath, he’s a psychopath.'”

“We all want to put a label on somebody,” Van Zandt said. “We want to say, ‘What is the cause, and what is the cure?’

“We want that real quick,” but the human mind is too “complex” for such an easy answer, he said.

Maggie Fox of NBC News and NBC station KUSA of Denver contributed to this report.

6-year-old girl, sailor, aspiring broadcaster among Colorado shooting victims

6-year-old girl, sailor, aspiring broadcaster among Colorado shooting victims

By Martin Wolk, NBC News

Updated July 23, 10:45 a.m. EDT: An aspiring sportscaster. A 6-year-old girl. A man celebrating his 27th birthday. College students who moved to Colorado to blaze paths for their futures.

The names and lives of the victims killed in a horrific mass shooting at a Denver-area movie theater emerged Saturday as families and friends learned the fates of their loved ones.

The Arapahoe County coroner released the identities of the dozen victims who were killed in the attack at a midnight premiere of “Batman: The Dark Knight Rises” early Friday in Aurora, Colo.

“The cause of death in all cases is related to gunshot wounds,” said the coroner, Dr. Michael Doberson. The manner of death is homicide.”

Officials said 58 other people were injured in the rampage. On Saturday night, 26 remained hospitalized, nine in critical condition.

James Eagan Holmes, 24, a graduate student at the University of Colorado-Denver, was arrested outside the theater, clad in black body armor and armed with three weapons.

Survivors of the midnight screening shootings were allowed to return to the theater Saturday to retrieve their automobiles, which were left behind during the evacuation and subsequent investigation. Some of them left flowers and flags as tributes to the dead.

The youngest victim to die in the shooting rampage was Veronica Moser-Sullivan, 6, her great-aunt, Annie Dalton, told NBC News.

Veronica’s mother, Ashley Moser, 25, was shot in the throat and the abdomen. She remained paralyzed in critical condition and hadn’t been told of her daughter’s death, Dalton said.

“This is just a nightmare right now,” Dalton said. “It’s a nightmare. “Everything’s surreal. It’s just surreal.”

Residents of Aurora gathered late Sunday and vowed to remember the victims. President Barack Obama visited with survivors and family members of victims.

Here are profiles of others confirmed dead:

Jessica Ghawi, 24 A hockey blogger and aspiring sportscaster, Ghawi had recently moved to Denver from San Antonio to pursue her dream and was working as an intern at a Denver sports radio station.

“One of the things that she had been working on with all the fires in Colorado was she had asked everybody to donate sports equipment for people because she knows how sports brings such joy,” her friend Mike Lavender told MSNBC-TV.

Ghawi had escaped a shooting at a mall in Toronto in June, writing in her blog that an “odd feeling” compelled her to leave the shopping center minutes before a shooting that left two people dead.

Before the movie she had exchanged excited tweets with her friends about the midnight showing from her Twitter handle, @JessicaRedfield.

“Of course we’re seeing Dark Knight. Redheaded Texan spitfire, people should never argue with me. Maybe I should get in on those NHL talks…”

Alex Sullivan, 27 Sullivan had planned to celebrate his 27th birthday Friday, beginning with the midnight showing of the new Batman movie.


“Oh man one hour till the movie and its going to be the best BIRTHDAY ever,” he tweeted before heading to the theater where a black-clad gunman wearing body armor opened fire, killing 12 people and injuring 58.

That was the last his friends and family heard from him.

Heartbreaking photos showed his father, Tom Sullivan, in the nearby Gateway High School parking lot, waving a picture of his son and yelling, “Find my son!”

Late Friday, the family got confirmation of his death.

Jonathan Blunk, 26 Blunk always wanted to be a hero, according to his friends and family.

“He always talked about if he were going to die, he wanted to die a hero,” his estranged wife, Chantel Blunk, told NBC News from Reno, Nev.


Blunk attended the movie with a friend, Jansen Young, who credited him with saving her life.

When the shooting broke out, Young said Blunk, a military veteran, threw her to the ground and told her to stay down.

“Jon just took a bullet for me,” Young told TODAY.

Chantel Blunk said her husband graduated from Reno’s Procter Hug High School in 2004 and enlisted in the Navy, serving out of San Diego aboard the USS Nimitz. The couple, who met in high school, married in 2007.

He left the service in 2009 and after separating from his wife moved to Colorado, where he worked for a hardware store. After a franctic day of trying to get information about her husband’s fate, Chantel said FBI agents arrived at her home Friday evening and confirmed her worst fears.

In addition to his wife, Blunk leaves behind two young children, a girl, 4, and a boy, 2.

Chantel said she plans to bring the body home to Reno, where he will be buried with military honors. She has set up an account through Wells Fargo to raise money for the funeral and transportation costs.

John Larimer, 27 Petty Officer Third Class John Larimer, of Crystal Lake, Ill., attended the opening with another sailor, who was injured in the attack

“I am incredibly saddened by the loss of Petty Officer John Larimer — he was an outstanding shipmate, “said Cmdr. Jeffrey Jakuboski, Larimer’s commanding officer. “A valued member of our Navy team, he will be missed by all who knew him. My heart goes out to John’s family, friends and loved ones, as well as to all victims of this horrible tragedy.”

Larimer, a cryptologic technician, joined the Navy in June 2011 and had been stationed at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora since October.

His family said they were making arrangments to bring the remains back to Illinois.

“We respectfully ask that the family and friends of John be allowed time and privacy to grieve for John and we send our thoughts and prayers out to the families of the other victims and those still recovering in the hospital,” the family said in a statement. “We love you John and we will miss you always.”

Matt McQuinn, 27 McQuinn, originally from Springfield, Ohio, went to the premiere with his girlfriend, Samantha Yowler, who was injured in the attack, according to family members.

McQuinn was a graduate of Butler-Vandalia High School in Ohio. He and Yowler, from St. Paris, Ohio, moved in November to Colorado, where Yowler’s brother, Nick, lives.

All three were in the theater when the shooting erupted.

McQuinn and Nick Yowler dove on top of Samantha Yowler to shield her from bullets, family attorney Rob Scott told NBC station WLWT of Cincinnati.

Yowler was shot in the knee and is recovering after surgery, Scott said. Nick Yowler was not hurt, he said.

Micayla Medek, 23 Medek was among the dead, her father’s cousin, Anita Busch, told The Associated Press.

Busch said the news, while heartbreaking, was a relief for the family after an agonizing day of waiting for news.

“I hope this evil act … doesn’t shake people’s faith in God,” she said.

Medek worked at Subway and had taken classes at Community College of Aurora, the Denver Post reported. She was a graduate of William C. Hinkley High School in Aurora.

Jesse Childress, 29 Former soldier and Air Force Reservist Jesse Childress was the kind of guy who would do anything for anybody.


“My brother’s wheelchair broke,” said one long-time neighbor in Lake Los Angeles, Calif., where Childress grew up. “He (Jesse) fixed it and didn’t charge him a dime.”

Childress, a staff sergeant on active duty at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, where he served as a cyber-system operator, was at the midnight showing with fellow reservist Munirih Gravelly when James Holmes allegedly set off a can of tear gas before opening fire in the jam-packed theater.   “As soon as that little gas can exploded, I said, ‘This is wrong,’” Gravelly told NBC LA. She dove to the floor and was wounded by buckshot but kept her face down.

“I feel really sorry that he’s gone,” she said. “None of us noticed until the lights, until it was over, that he was gone. None of us were there to hold his hand, look him in the eye while he passed. … I lost a friend.”

“He was a fun-loving individual,” his colleague Sgt. Alejandro Sanchez told the Associated Press. “If you needed help, no matter the time of day he would stay late. He would come in early to help out the unit in any way he can, even if it meant long hours.”

Alexander Jonathan Boik, 18 Boik, known as AJ, graduated earlier this year from Gateway High School in Aurora, his family said in a statement. He was accepted to Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design and planned to be an art teacher and open his own studio.

He attended the movie with his girlfriend, who survived the attack, the family said. She was not identified.

A friend, Jordan Crofter, described Boik as someone who “didn’t hold anything back. He was just his own person.”

“He was a ball of joy. He was never sad or depressed. He wanted everybody to be happy,” Crofter told The Associated Press.

Alex Teves, 24 Teves was a 2006 graduate of Desert Vista High School in the Tempe (Ariz.) Unified School District, NBC station KPNX of Phoenix reported.

University of Denver released a statement saying Teves graduated from the Morgridge College of Education recently, and identified his home town as Phoenix.

Rebecca Ann Wingo, 32 An Aurora resident originally from Quinlan, Texas, Wingo was a mother of two daughters, her friends said in social media postings. She was a waitress at Joe’s Crab Shack and was a student at the Community College of Aurora, the Denver Post reported.

“I lost my daughter yesterday to a mad man,” Steve Hernandez wrote on his daughter’s Facebook page, the Post reported. “My grief right now is inconsolable. I hear she died instantly, without pain, however the pain is unbearable.”

Gordon W. Cowden, 51 Cowden was the oldest victim identified by the Arapahoe County coroner’s office.

Cowden grew up in Austin, Texas, and is the father of four children, his friend Jane Gibson told NBC News. “I had texted him yesterday to see how he was (after hearing of the shooting), I never heard back from him.” His parents and siblings live in Texas, she said.

“A quick witted world traveler with a keen sense of humor, he will be remembered for his devotion to his children and for always trying his best to do the right thing, no matter the obstacle,” his family said.

NBC News’ Miranda Leitsinger, Alex Johnson, Jim Gold, Elizabeth Chuck, Jim Miklaszewski and Courtney Kube, MSNBC’s Dax Tejera, Beverly White and John Simerson of NBC Los Angeles and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Daily Motivator for July 20 – Grow stronger

Grow stronger

Whatever happens, you can use it as a way to grow stronger. Every day can end  up making you stronger.

You can complain about it, or you can grow stronger through it. You can worry  about it, or you can grow stronger instead.

Don’t let it make you frustrated, or resentful or dismayed. Let it motivate  you to become stronger.

Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, feel what it feels like to respond  with strength and clarity of positive purpose. Call upon the strength you have,  and you will have more.

You are stronger than any circumstance, stronger than any thoughtless comment  made by another, and stronger than any disappointment. You can adjust, adapt,  and re-commit yourself again and again to moving forward.

You are already strong and capable and experienced. Use that strength to  advance life’s goodness, and grow stronger and stronger with each passing day.

— Ralph Marston

The Daily Motivator