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Bomb experts defuse major threat at suspect's home

Alexandra ZavisLos Angeles Times,Michael MuskalLos Angeles Times
ALEX BRANDON / Associated Press

AURORA, Colo. -- Officials said they believed that the major threat of explosions had been eliminated at the booby-trapped apartment of James Holmes, the suspect in the deadly movie theater shooting rampage.

Bomb experts worked throughout Saturday disabling at least one trip wire and explosive or incendiary devices designed to kill anyone who entered the Paris Street apartment where Holmes lived. Two small explosions could be heard while the delicate operation unfolded and care being taken to preserve potential evidence.

"We believe we have eliminated the major threats there," Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said at an afternoon news conference. He added that there was still work to be done before police could move into the apartment to search for evidence.

"It went very, very well," James F. Yacone, the FBI special agent in charge of the Colorado and Wyoming region, told reporters. Anyone who would have opened the apartment door would have been seriously injured or killed, he said.

Oates said the apartment was rigged to kill and that most likely the first ones to enter would have been police officers. "You think we're angry," he told reporters. "We sure as hell are angry."

Federal and local officers worked from first light to dismantle the traps at the apartment. About 2:15 p.m., firefighters equipped with oxygen tanks and face masks and armed with axes, chainsaws and sledgehammers entered the apartment building.

Witnesses said it was the first time they saw anyone enter the building. Earlier they had used robotic equipment to survey the 800-square-foot apartment and help dismantle a dangerous tangle of chemicals from about 30 aerial explosives and connecting wires to be used for detonation.

By late afternoon, all hazards have been removed from the Holmes' apartment, and residents in surrounding buildings were allowed to return home, police said.

The exception was Holmes' apartment building, where authorities were still collecting evidence. Inside the apartment, authorities began covering the windows with black plastic to prevent onlookers from seeing in. Before they did, a man in an ATF T-shirt could be seen measuring a poster on a closet that advertised a DVD called "Soldiers of Misfortune." The poster showed several figures in various positions playing paintball, some wearing masks.

About 8 p.m., police left the apartment building carrying a laptop computer and a hard drive.

Authorities have removed moviegoers' belongings from the movie theater, Oates said. Officials expect to complete their work at the crime scene by Monday and will allow defense attorneys into the area on Tuesday. By Wednesday, the theater could be returned to its owners, Oates said.

Holmes had legally purchased four weapons, including a shotgun, an assault rifle and two handguns, from local stores, authorities said. He also bought more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition on the Internet, along with a number of magazines, they said. Holmes had received a large number of packages at home and at school in recent months, suggesting that he had spent much time and effort to plan the attack, Oates said.

"We've become aware that he had a high volume of deliveries to both his work and home address. We think this explains how he got his hands on the magazine, ammunition," he said. "We also think it begins to explain how he got the materials he had in his apartment.

"What we're seeing here is evidence of some calculation and deliberation," Oates added, making a point expected to be a key prosecution argument against Holmes.

Holmes, 24, is scheduled to make his first court appearance Monday for the theater shooting. Twelve people died in the attack and 58 were injured. More than two dozen remain hospitalized, with at least seven still listed in critical condition.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.


By ALEXANDRA ZAVIS AND MICHAEL MUSKAL
Los Angeles Times