240 ballistic impacts found after theater shooting, Aurora Police CSI testifies in Holmes' trial

Posted at 1:38 PM, May 14, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-15 11:00:25-04

Crime scene investigators with the Aurora Police Department and FBI counted evidence of 240 ballistic impacts during their investigation of the Aurora movie theater shooting.

Those investigators spent more than a week working inside Theater 9 following the July 20, 2012 mass shooting that killed 12 people and injured 70 others. Gunman James Holmes is currently on trial for 165 criminal counts in the case.

On Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning, jurors heard testimony from Maria Pettolina, a crime-scene investigator with the Aurora Police Department. She worked alongside another APD investigator to collect evidence like spent bullet casings, then teamed up with FBI agents and technicians to catalog the impact holes from all of the fired rounds.

They found evidence, including those shell casings, of 76 shots being fired inside the theater: 65 .223 rifle shots, six shotgun shots and five .40-caliber handgun shots.

But the team of investigators counted 240 total impact points on the walls, floor and seats of Theater 9.

Each of the impact points were presented to the jury in a painstaking process, repeated over and over. First, prosecuting attorney Karen Pearson introduced a stack of crime-scene photographs. After Pettolina confirmed she recognized the photos, and the judge admitted them as evidence, Pettolina was asked to read the markers in each photo.

Often, the defense objected to the photos as prejudicial because they showed blood stains. Judge Carlos Samour repeatedly overruled the objection, saying outside the presence of the jury that the photos' probative value outweighed any chance they could unfairly influence the jurors' emotions.

After explaining which impacts were seen in each photo set, Pettolina was asked to approach a model of the theater on the floor of the courtroom. For each impact that involved a seat, she drew a mark on a corresponding seat in the theater. 

Following hours of repeating that process, Pettolina was next asked to identify the many bullet fragments or shotgun pellets she collected and which holes they were found in. 

Additional trial coverage: