The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Shocking new photos of James Holmes’s booby-trapped apartment

The apartment of convicted Aurora theater shooter James Holmes in Aurora, Colo. (Aurora Police Department via European Pressphoto Agency)

After James Holmes, clad in body armor, stormed into a late-night showing of the “Batman” film “The Dark Knight Rises” on July 20, 2012, and opened fire, Aurora, Colo., was left with the devastating aftermath: 12 dead, more than 70 injured.

But once Holmes — sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for his crimes last month — was in custody, the nightmare did not end. Holmes, who told police he was “the Joker,” warned them he had left a trap for them at his apartment.

He was not lying.

When investigators located his apartment, they found a jerry-rigged booby trap that could have hurt or killed many others. Now, as a result of an open-records request, hundreds of photos of the apartment — some shown to the jury during Holmes’s four-month trial, as the Associated Press reported — are now available for the first time.

“This apartment was designed to kill,” Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said in 2012, as USA Today noted.

The release of photos also included images of the theater in the wake of the shooting — images too graphic to include here.

When Holmes left his home for his rampage at the Century 16 movie theater, he left techno music blasting in a room with 30 homemade grenades and 10 gallons of gasoline. Holmes, who reportedly received 50 packages in the four months leading up to his rampage, had been busy.

“Imagine that fireball … you would have an explosion that would knock down the wall of [nearby] apartments,” an unnamed official told CNN at the time. “That flame would have consumed the entire third floor. … By the time a fire truck would have arrived, they would have arrived to a building that would have been completely consumed in flames.”

There was at least one near miss when a neighbor turned up at Holmes’s door to complain about the loud music.

“Kaitlyn Fonzi, a 20-year-old biology student at University of Colorado Denver, lives in an apartment below Holmes,” the Denver Post wrote at the time. “Around midnight, Fonzi said she heard techno music blasting from Holmes apartment. She went upstairs and knocked on the door. When no one answered, she put her hand on the door knob and realized the door was unlocked.”

Fate — or, perhaps, instinct — intervened.

“Fonzi decided not to go inside the apartment,” the Denver Post wrote.

When authorities showed up to defuse the bomb Holmes had left for them, it took a long time — and tested their powers.

“We could be here for days,” Police Chief Dan Oates said, calling the trap “pretty sophisticated.”

Indeed, clearing the room took almost two days. Police first sent a robot in to check out the situation.

“No, I really wasn’t too scared,” Gary Smith, an Army veteran and explosives expert with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives who helped clear Holmes’s apartment, told NBC. “It doesn’t surprise me to run across anything anywhere really. It’s just a matter of time before something like that ends up here, kind of the way we look at it, kind of worst case scenario, you always try to think ahead.”