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Suspect's Web Of Traps Part Of Calculated Plan

Jul 22, 2012
Originally published on July 22, 2012 2:43 pm

Authorities in Aurora, Colo., on Saturday cleared scores of explosive devices from the apartment of the man suspected of killing 12 people and injuring more than 50 at a local movie theater.

Experts spent hours dismantling the labyrinth of trip wires and incendiary devices that filled the home of the suspect, 24-year-old James Holmes.

Yellow police tape stretched for blocks surrounding the apartment complex where Holmes lived. Ambulances, fire engines and police cars filled parking lots and streets.

Maria Carlos' apartment is just outside the area evacuated while bomb technicians worked.

"I don't feel safe here now right now," she said. "It's so bad."

She says she didn't realize there was so much police activity outside until she saw her building on TV.

"I don't know what happened, but I'm [leaving]," she says.

She packed up and did leave — apparently just in time. About an hour later, police began a delicate and tense operation to disable the dozens of homemade bombs in Holmes' 800-square-foot apartment.

The best way to do that, experts said, was with a controlled explosion. So they sent in a remote-controlled robot to leave the device inside.

Minutes later, police sounded a warning signal, and the device went off. There were no other explosions. That was exactly what everyone had hoped for, said Sgt. Cassidee Carlson, spokeswoman for the Aurora Police Department.

"We have been successful in disabling a second triggering device," she said. "We are hopeful that we have eliminated the remaining major threats."

It wasn't until late Saturday afternoon that authorities were able to remove all the hazards from the apartment, including jars and other containers filled with liquids and what one official described as "black powder." Residents in most of the apartment buildings — except for the one the suspected shooter lived in — were allowed to come home Saturday night.

Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said that in the past four months Holmes had received a large number of deliveries, and investigators will determine what was obtained legally and what was not. But Oates said this shows that Holmes had been planning the attack with calculation and deliberation.

"Make no mistake — this apartment was designed, I say based on everything I've seen — to kill whoever entered it," he said. "And who was most likely to enter that location after he planned and executed this horrific crime?"

Oates said it was clear Holmes wanted to kill a police officer.

"And if you think we are angry, we sure as hell are angry," he said.

A public defender has been assigned to represent the suspect, who will make his first court appearance on Monday.

Meanwhile, the coroner released the names of people who died during the attack. They included a 6-year-old girl, whose mother remains hospitalized in critical condition, and a man who died on what was his 27th birthday.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said the community will help the survivors and their families.

"There is no way we can reverse what has happened, but we can take this aberrant, inconceivable event and do everything we can to make it better," he said.

More than $100,000 has already been donated to help pay for the medical bills of the injured.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

The search for answers in Aurora, Colorado continues after Friday's deadly shooting at a local movie theater. The man suspected of killing 12 people and injury more than 50 also filled his apartment with dangerous explosives. Experts spent hours dismantling the labyrinth of trip wires and incendiary devices, from the home of the suspect, 24-year-old James Holmes.

NPR's Carrie Kahn reports from Aurora, Colorado.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Yellow police tape stretched for blocks surrounding the apartment complex where shooting suspect James Holmes lived. Ambulances, fire engines and police cars filled parking lots and streets.

Maria Carlos says she can't take it anymore.

MARIA CARLOS: I don't feel safe now here. So bad right now.

KAHN: Carlos' apartment is just outside the evacuation area. She says she didn't realize there was so much police activity outside until she saw her building on TV.

CARLOS: I can't believe, like never may not like this happen like that. I don't know what happened, but I'm leaving.

KAHN: She packed up and did leave and apparently just in time. About an hour later, police began a delicate and tense operation to disable the dozens of homemade bombs in Holmes' 800-square-foot apartment. The best way to do that, experts said, was with a controlled explosion. So they sent in a remote-controlled robot to leave the device inside. Minutes later, police sounded a warning signal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fire in the hole.

(SOUNDBITE OF AN ALARM)

KAHN: And then...

(SOUNDBITE OF AN EXPLOSION)

KAHN: The device went off. Besides a few birds scattering into the air, there were no other explosions or smoke. And that was exactly what everyone had hoped for, said Cassidee Carlson of the Aurora Police Department.

SERGEANT CASSIDEE CARLSON: We have been successful in disabling a second triggering device. We are hopeful that we have eliminated the remaining major threats.

KAHN: It wasn't until late Saturday afternoon until authorities were able to remove all the hazards from the apartment, including jars and other containers filled with liquids and what one official described as black powder. Residents in most of the apartment buildings, except for the one the suspected shooter lived in were allowed to come home last night.

Aurora's Police Chief Dan Oates said in the past four months, Holmes had received a large number of deliveries, and investigators will determine what was obtained legally and what was not. But Chief Oates said this shows that Holmes had been planning the attack with calculation and deliberation.

DAN OATES: Make no mistake. This apartment was designed, I say, to kill whoever entered it. And who was most likely to enter that location after he planned and executed this horrific crime?

KAHN: Oates said it was clear, Holmes wanted to kill a police officer.

OATES: And if you think we are angry, we sure as hell are angry.

KAHN: A public defender has been assigned to represent the suspect. He will make his first court appearance on Monday.

Meanwhile, the coroner released the names of the 12 people who died during the attack. They include a 6-year-old girl, whose mother remains hospitalized in critical condition, and a man who died on what was his 27th birthday.

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper said the community will help the survivors and their families.

GOVERNOR JOHN HICKENLOOPER: There is no way we can reverse what has happened. But we can take this aberrant, inconceivable event and do everything we can to make it better.

KAHN: More than $100,000 has already been donated to help pay for the injureds(ph) medical bills.

Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Aurora. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.