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Bomb expert tells jury, 'nothing is random' in theater shooting gunman James Holmes' apartment

Posted at 2:49 PM, May 11, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-14 07:56:36-04

FBI bomb expert Special Agent Christopher Rigopoulos tried to tell the jury the explosive and incendiary components found inside the movie theater gunman's apartment were intentionally selected, but he was interrupted by an objection from the defense.

"Nothing is random in the components that were designed and appropriated for this device," Rigopoulos started to say during testimony on Monday.

That part of the answer to a juror's question was permitted, but later remarks where he began to speculate about why certain fuses were selected were stricken from the court record. District Court Judge Carlos Samour limited Rigopoulos to speaking from his expertise, which was established earlier in the day.

Rigopoulos has a long resume of responding to bombings and explosions all over the world, including the 1998 bombing of a U.S. embassy in Kenya and the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. He was flown out to Aurora one day after the movie theater shooting, assisted in the investigation of the traps in Apartment 10 at 1960 Paris St., and then flew back to Virginia with evidence to process in the FBI lab

With that expertise, Samour allowed Rigopoulos to discuss his analysis of the traps and what damage they could have caused, but prevented him from speculating beyond that.

"It is almost as if the [jury] questioner has asked to crawl inside the head of James Holmes, and he is not allowed to do that," 7NEWS legal expert Rick Kornfeld said.

Kornfeld also explained, "He can talk about the technical parameters of the bomb, he can talk about what would have happened, he can talk about what the device is comprised of."

Before court recessed for lunch Monday, Rigopoulos was permitted to answer jurors' questions about what the setup inside the apartment was designed to accomplish. He broke that question down into parts for each of the three detonation mechanisms, including a trip wire that could have caused two chemicals to combine, thereby starting a fire.

"Within three seconds of the fire starting, all three of those glass jars should've been fully engaged in an aggressive burn," Rigopoulos said.

He was also allowed to answer a question about the assembly process of the traps.

"It would take multiple hours to put together," the FBI special agent said. "You don't just put it together like a Lego set. And it is very methodical, because some things have to be put together before others."

The jury questions came, as they always do, in the final minutes before Rigopoulos testimony was completed for the day. He had spent most of the morning identifying pieces of evidence, narrating photos of that evidence and explaining the procedures used to track or identify evidence. 

"The point here is they have to break down every single act, every single action, in order to establish evidence that Mr. Holmes was acting in a very methodical nature," Kornfeld told 7NEWS.