It was a link to the first 16 minutes of the police radio transmissions during the Aurora, Colorado theater shooting from July 20th.
As I clicked the link, my mind instantly painted the late night landscape of the darkened movie theater parking lot, illuminated by the iridescent lights burning an orange glow. As the call for service is dispatched, the initial officer immediately recognizes the potentially dangerous situation, and requests all available units to respond. It’s only a matter of moments before officers arrive and begin stumbling upon shooting victims, making their desperate cries for rescue and medical personnel.
Officers encircle the theater and quickly surmised their threat is in Theater 9. They also determine that OC gas is being deployed and consciously request for the necessary equipment as they stage just outside the theater door and formulate their plan.
As the flurry of radio transmissions continue, I try to fathom if I would have responded as professionally as the Aurora police officers did when confronted with such an atrocity.
The chatter continues with officers now forming at the rear of the theater who are calling out that they are approaching a possible suspect in a gas mask. My heart races as I try to image their confrontation; a suspect armed with an assault rifle who could easily overpower their side arms. I lean in closer to my laptop, focusing on the exchange about to transpire.
“We’ve got rifles and gas masks. He’s detained right now…” says one officer.
“Hold your position. Hold that suspect!” comes the order in between requests for medics.
My heart settles into a calmer rhythm as I sit back focusing on how well the police were evacuating the medical emergencies—some taking the initiative to transport victims in their police cruisers in an effort to save their lives.
Suddenly, information comes across the radio from another officer, “…one of the shooters might be wearing a white and blue plad shirt,” suggesting that there might be additional shooters.
As I trained my ear on the audio, I continue listening for the next several minutes and that’s when I heard the subtle confession.
In the midst of evacuating the medical emergencies, an officer transmits, “The suspect’s saying he’s the only one, but I’m getting conflicting suspect descriptions from witnesses out here.”
So what does that mean?
In the world of law enforcement, that statement is huge. In a moment of exigency, officers learn from the suspect (James Holmes) that he is the only shooter.
Now some of you may already be asking the golden question, Did the officer’s advise James Holmes his Miranda rights prior to eliciting that statement? And the answer is obviously, ‘We don’t know.’
But what I do know is that the Supreme Court has already ruled in a number of cases that situations involving exigency and the safety of others do not always and necessarily require suspects to be afforded their Miranda rights. Additionally, we don’t know if the officers questioned Holmes or if Holmes made a spontaneous statement on his own free will.
Nonetheless, as short as his statement was to officers, James Holmes made a subtle confession. A confession, if found admissible, could very well help to convict him of this massacre.
There are still many legal hurdles that we need to clear before Holmes comes to trial. There will first be the hurdle to determine his sanity of being tried as a mentally sound individual. If determined to be of sound mind, James Holmes will most certainly have to contend with his brief and incriminating statement.
Ken Lang is a former homicide detective and an award-winning author of several true crime books, including Walking Among the Dead: True Stories from a Homicide Detective. In 2011 he was named one of 50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading by The Author’s Show.
He resides in North East, Maryland with his wife and three children. To learn more about his true crime books and upcoming crime novels visit his website at www.kenlangstudios.com.