The Lookout

Evidence suggests suspected killer James Holmes’ had a getaway plan

Jason Sickles, Yahoo
The Lookout

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James Holmes' car behind the Aurora, Colo., movie theater in July (File/Getty Images)

[Updated at 10:25 p.m. ET/8:25 p.m. MT]

CENTENNIAL, Colo.— James Holmes’ two-door hatchback was full of items indicating he might have planned to flee after allegedly shooting up an Aurora, Colo., movie theater in July.

Tire-puncturing devices, a canister of tear gas, a .40-caliber handgun, ammunition, Holmes' iPhone and various backpacks were found in the car, police testified this week.

“I do think he was thinking that he was going to get away from that movie theater,” Mary Ellen O’Toole, a former FBI profiler not associated with the case, told Yahoo News.

Prosecutors painted a picture this week of how and where Holmes allegedly executed his horrific attack. What they didn’t explain is why, or if, the suspected mastermind had plans to flee after shooting 70 moviegoers, 12 of them fatally.

Testimony from the officer who handcuffed the suspect said Holmes, clad in SWAT gear, gave up without a fight behind the movie theater moments after the massacre.

But another officer, Aurora Sgt. Gerald Jonsgaard, testified that he was at a different vantage point and had the suspect in the crosshairs of his rifle scope when Holmes threw his hands up in the air for approaching officers. "It was instant and exaggerated," Jonsgaard said. "It was like he was surprised or something like that."

A photo presented in court showed a half-dozen caltrops in the car's front seat. The low-tech, anti-personnel weapons—also known as "spike stops" or "road stars" because they can disable a car's tires—are sometimes fashioned out of nails and, when thrown or dropped, are designed to land with a sharp spike facing upward.

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Police discovered six similar-looking devices in James Holmes’ car. (File/Getty Images)

"They were commonly used against the cavalry and infantry," Sgt. Matthew Fyles said on the stand.

O’Toole, who worked for 15 years in the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit where she studied psychopaths and helped capture killers, also told Yahoo News that Holmes' "ability to think analytically and critically has come out in this crime scene. This sounds like to me it was a contingency plan, where if he was being chased he could throw those things out the window.”

An ATF agent testified Holmes purchased eight individual road stars online from a Washington state police and military supplier on June 6. The supplier's description of them urges extreme caution and discretion.

"Road Stars can be deployed to create instant roadblocks, stop a pursuing vehicle, prevent parked vehicles from fleeing, protect private property, etc.," the website states.

O’Toole said another telling aspect about the incident is the fact that Holmes left a sun shield in the parked car’s front window, despite it being at night.

“If you don’t think you are doing anything wrong you don’t need to hide it,” O’Toole said.

Former federal prosecutor Kimberly Priest-Johnson, who is not associated with the case, said the Arapahoe County district attorney might have sandbagged any knowledge of Holmes' getaway plan for strategic purposes.

“They didn’t necessarily need to go any further [than show the] evidence that they had and maybe draw an inference from it … i.e., he potentially had a getaway plan ... to show that this was a premeditated event,” said Priest-Johnson, who is now a defense attorney in Texas. She also noted that prosecutors had no reason to tip their hand to motive during the preliminary hearing.

“It’s probably evidence that would sound crazy to the average person just given everything else we’ve learned about what Mr. Holmes did,” she said. “And that would not necessarily help the prosecution, but that could possibly help the defense.”

O’Toole described the suspect as a mission-oriented mass murderer whose ultimate plan was foiled when his booby-trapped home didn’t explode. Investigators said he wanted his apartment to catch fire so first responders would be drawn away from the movie theater.

“We would have seen a different finale had his apartment building exploded,” O'Toole said. “The only one who knows what he was going to do at the end would be James Holmes. But with the planning that was involved in this case, I think he considered a number of options."

Late Thursday, Judge William Sylvester ruled prosecutors had shown enough probable cause this week to proceed with a trial. An arraignment is scheduled for 9 a.m. Mountain time Friday, but Holmes' public defenders have indicated they will ask for a continuance because they are not ready to enter a plea.

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