(CENTENNIAL, Colo.) — The owner of a gun range told a Colorado court that he tried to contact James Holmes after the now-accused Aurora theater shooter tried to apply for a membership for the gun range.
Glenn Ratkovich testified on Monday that he thought the voicemail that he reached each of the three times that he tried calling Holmes was bizarre.
Ratkovich described how it seemed as if the voicemail had been “deliberately made indistinguishable” with ramblings “that were basically intended to sound like words but they weren’t,” he said in court on Monday.
“The only understandable word that I understood was his name at the beginning,” Ratkovich said.
Even though Holmes submitted the membership application required by the gun range, he did not return any of Ratkovich’s calls, which the owner said struck him as odd because normally people returned his calls within 24 hours to follow up about available slots. Ratkovich received Holmes’ emailed application on June 25, 2012, less than a month before the shooting at the Aurora movie theater that left 12 dead and 70 others injured.
Ratkovich said he realized that the person he had been trying to contact was the same as the accused gunman just hours after the shooting took place. He said that he tried calling police immediately to tell them about his earlier interactions with Holmes but did not get through until later that night.
Ratkovich never ended up speaking to Holmes directly, and when he was about to relay what his wife had said to the accused murderer, the testimony was stricken from the record. He did, however, remember seeing Holmes at the gun range before he formally applied to become a member because his brightly dyed hair stood out.
“If he hadn’t had the hair he would’ve been like everybody else. That really flagged us to see that there,” Ratkovich said.
Monday marked the beginning of the second week of Holmes’ trial. The shooter, whose legal team admitted that he was the one responsible for the fatal attack, has entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. He faces the death penalty in this case. If he is found not guilty on those grounds, he would be committed indefinitely to a state mental institution. But if he were later deemed sane, he could, theoretically, be released, though legal experts say that is unlikely.
Other witnesses who were called to testify on Monday include Verizon Wireless experts who analyzed his cell phone usage, as well as an information technician at the University of Colorado hospital who confirmed that Holmes dialed the hospital’s main line briefly after the shooting took place. Holmes did not say anything during the 18-second call, which was played for the court.
A couple who was injured during the shooting took the stand Monday afternoon, describing how they escaped the theater while Holmes was still inside. Jennifer Avila-Arrendondo had shrapnel in her head and her husband Adan Avila was shot in the leg.
Avila told the court that after he fell outside of the theater, he noticed “a large portion of my leg was missing” and, moments later, “I felt like my back was burning and I was thinking that I had been shot in my back as well.”
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