Published November 28, 2015
A bomb squad commander testified Wednesday that he was so concerned about the possibility of finding explosives in the car of Colorado theater shooting defendant James Holmes that he ran when he spotted a green laser beam, thinking it might trigger a bomb if it was interrupted.
Richard Anselmi of the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Department said he saw what turned out to be a laser-sighting device on a handgun resting atop Holmes' car outside the movie theater where he's accused of killing 12 and injuring 70 others last summer.
"I ran," he said with a chuckle as he recounted his reaction during a pre-trial hearing over evidence seized from the car. "I ran back to the perimeter."
No explosives were found inside Holmes' white Hyundai hatchback.
The commander's testimony appeared to bolster prosecutors' claims that authorities didn't have time to ask for a search warrant before looking in the car. Police have testified that Holmes told them he had bombs in his apartment, and they feared there might also be explosives in his car.
Holmes' lawyers want the judge to throw out evidence found in the car during searches by the bomb squad and by other officers. The defense maintains police didn't get search warrants first, and when they did get warrants, they were overbroad.
Officers testified that the items they found in the car included an iPhone, a handgun, an empty rifle case, gloves, a ski mask, live ammunition, ammunition magazines for firearms and a gasoline can.
Attorneys did not ask the officers to elaborate on the items, and it wasn't clear whether any gas was in the gas can.
Prosecutors say authorities couldn't wait for a warrant because of the possible threat to public safety. They also defend the warrants police eventually got as valid.
Defense lawyers' objection to the searches appears to be part of a broad attempt to weaken the prosecution's case whenever possible.
Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
His lawyers have acknowledged he was the shooter but say he was in the grip of a psychotic episode. The trial, scheduled to start in February, is expected to turn on whether Holmes was legally insane -- unable to tell right from wrong --at the time of the shootings.