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Survivor sat behind orange-haired man in Theater 9, saw him leave before movie theater shooting

Posted at 7:20 PM, May 12, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-15 09:53:52-04

A moviegoer testified Tuesday afternoon about being seated directly behind the orange-haired theater shooting gunman prior to the theater shooting on July 20, 2012.

Corbin Dates testified on the 11th day of the trial of James Holmes, who is accused of opening fire in the crowded theater. Twelve people were killed and 70 were injured. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Dates said he arrived to the theater before the previews.

"I went to look for a seat," he testified. "The whole theater was packed."

He ended really close to the screen and claimed two seats in the second row from the screen. The second seat was saved for a friend who had not yet arrived.

In front of him, Dates said he saw a man with "carrot-orange" hair.

After a few minutes, Dates received a text message from his friend. He began to make his way out of the theater to give her the movie ticket but noticed the man with the orange hair had also gotten up with his phone in his hand.

As Dates exited toward the lobby, he noticed the man with the orange hair was standing in the emergency exit and "his right foot was propping the door open."

Upon returning to Theater 9 with his companion, Dates retook his seats. The man with the orange hair was gone, the lights were dimming, the previews were starting and the exit door appeared to be closed.

However, according to other testimony, a plastic clip was used to prevent the exit door from latching.

"It got to the scene where they are introducing Cat Woman, well maybe a little before that, but I do remember the same exact door swinging right open," Dates testified.

He testified that he saw and heard gas canisters being deployed. He also said he saw the person who entered the theater through that door.

"They definitely had a helmet on, goggles, the only thing I do remember seeing was their eyes," Dates said.

When the shooting began, Dates said he and his friend got down and tried to crawl through the row to the aisle on the far side from the gunman. As they moved, they heard shots from various kinds of weapons. He was also burned by a spent shell casing.

Dates described waiting with his friend for an opportunity to safely flee the room.

"I do remember people running towards the left side of the auditorium, trying to make it through the exit," he said.

Eventually, they did exit. Dates teared up as he described seeing people laying over chairs and on the stairs in the theater.

"There was one person who was laying on the ground just before the lobby," he said.

Dates said his friend stopped to try and help that person as they exited. The victim was not identified in the testimony.