During confusion of Aurora theater shooting, Jamie Rohrs left behind his baby, girlfriend & daughter

Posted at 3:02 PM, May 13, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-15 10:59:43-04

Like so many others, Jamie Rohrs panicked and ran from a crowded movie theater after a gunman opened fire during a Batman movie premiere on July 20, 2012. But in the chaos of his escape, he became separated from his wife-to-be and her daughter, then lost his infant son.

Rohrs said he and his girlfriend Patricia, who later became his wife, were big fans of the Batman franchise. They even dressed their 3-month-old son Ethan in a Batman onesie.

Rohrs testified Wednesday morning in the trial of James Holmes, the gunman who has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to 165 charges related to the mass shooting. Rohrs, his wife and their son are listed on the charging document as the victims of attempted murder.

The family selected seats and looked at Facebook photos on a phone while they waited for the movie to begin.

As so many others have testified, the film began normally but was interrupted after less than 20 minutes. Something, Rohrs said, flew through the air.

He originally thought it was a smoke bomb.

"I was thinking to myself, 'Oh you dumb kids, you just ruined the movie,'" he said.

He started coughing, and realized the canister he saw was something else.

When it became apparent that shots were being fired, Rohrs tried to get his family down to the ground. However, as he was holding his son, he realized that the boy was not fully shielded behind the seats and so he vaulted over to another row to shelter them both. That was how he became separated from Patricia and her daughter.

Laying there, Rohrs said he was thinking, "Whoever is doing this, they're coming to kill us."

He decided to make a run for it with his infant son.

"I made it down to about the second or third row, and I juked (jumped sideways) in the second row. People are just dropping there, and I just ran back into the stairway, and I was like, 'I have to run back up,'" he said.

"At the time," he said, "it feels like a nightmare."

On his way up the stairs, Rohrs tripped and fell. He put the infant down there and went to look for a way out. During a lull in the gunfire, he looked over the balcony at the top of the stairs and considered jumping over it with Ethan.

"I turned around to look for (Ethan) and I couldn't find him, and then at that time shots started going off again really fast and I was like, 'I have to jump or I'm going to die.'"

He jumped down to the exit, considered going back to get his family, but said, "I knew that if I went back in there I would get shot."

Rohrs testified that he ran out of the theater through the concession area, tried to call 911 from his truck and actually drove toward the other side of the parking lot. All the while, not knowing where his future wife our children were.

Eventually, his phone rang. It was Patricia.

"I didn't know how to tell her I lost our son in the movie theater," he testified.

Luckily, he didn't have to. Despite being shot, she had managed to escape the theater with both children.

The family found each other and reunited in the parking lot outside to the theater.