DENVER (CN) - Victims of the movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colo. sued the Cinemark movie chain Wednesday, the day before a state judge ruled that James Holmes must stand trial for the shooting spree that killed 12 and wounded 70 people.
Arapahoe County Judge William Sylvester ruled Thursday night that there is sufficient evidence to hold James Holmes for trial on 166 counts of murder, attempted murder and weapons charges. Holmes, 25, is accused of massacring people at the midnight opening of the Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises," at the
Aurora Century 16 movie theater on July 20 last year.
Munirih Gravelly claims she received nine shotgun pellet wounds in the shooting. She went to the movie with her friends Chichi and Derick Spruel, who filed a separate complaint. Their friend Jesse Childress, who went with them, was murdered.
Both federal complaints contain grisly firsthand accounts of the carnage.
Both complaints say Cinemark USA dba Century Aurora 16 could have prevented the massacre.
Both complaints say: "Upon information and belief, before July 20, 2012, defendant had information that previous disturbances, incidents, disruptions and other criminal activities had taken place at or near the property of the theater. Based on information and belief, at the Aurora Mall, at 14200 E. Alameda Avenue, from March 20, 2012 through July 19, 2012, these incidents included approximately 99 emergency 911 calls, 35 additional calls involving assaults, concealed weapons, disorderly conduct, a shooting, robberies, and suspicious persons. Based on information and belief, at the theatre, located at 14300 E. Alameda, from March 19, 2012 through July 14, 2012, these incidents included 9 calls involving suspicious activity, mental health, fighting and emergency 911 calls. Many of the referenced incidents took place during the evening hours."
The Spruels say: "Approximately 15-20 minutes after the beginning of the showing of the movie, the gunman began his assault by throwing what appeared to be a tear gas canister from the right side of the screen to the left rear of the auditorium. The gunman then began firing into the audience.
"During the assault, the gunman fired various firearms and shot many people. A number of individuals in Auditorium 9, and at least one person in Auditorium 8, were struck by gunfire.
"Plaintiff Chichi Spruel initially thought that someone was setting fireworks off in the theater, and turned to her husband, Derick Spruel, for confirmation. When she turned toward her husband she looked in front of the chair her husband was sitting in and saw that the person sitting in the seat in front of her husband was lying face up, with blood on his head, and had apparently been killed by the gunshots. She then realized that she had to get out of the line of fire and immediately lay down on the floor in front of her seat, and called 911. Her friend, Jesse Childress, was lying face down on the floor in a pool of blood, apparently killed by the gunshots.
"Plaintiff Derick Spruel first saw and heard an object pass over his head and then heard loud popping sounds from the rear of the theater and saw flashes in the corner of the theater. He saw his friend, Jesse Childress, stand up and move in front of his other friend, Munirih Gravelly. At that point, Jesse Childress stumbled into his arms, and Mr. Spruel told everyone around him to get down. While plaintiff Derick Spruel was lying on the floor he heard the man in front of him gurgling on his own blood, apparently in the throes of death. Immediately after hearing the man dying in front of him he heard a man yelling that his child was shot. He heard several types of gunfire at various times, ranging from what sounded like it was from a 9mm weapon to an AR-15 assault rifle. When plaintiff Derick Spruel was finally able to stand up, he immediately reached down for Jesse Childress, and told him to get up. When he reached for him he could tell something was wrong, because he felt so heavy and it was hard to move him. When his eyes finally focused on Mr. Childress, he observed that he was lying in a pool of blood, not moving and had apparently been killed by the gunshots."
Gravelly was wounded by shotgun pellets in the head and hand.
She says: "Plaintiff first noticed a canister with smoke coming from it being thrown from the right corner of the movie screen and landing on the rear left side of the theater, and then exploding. Plaintiff then saw many people get up and run for the exits/entrances, and when she turned toward the screen she heard someone shout 'Get down!' Then, hearing shots, she slid out of her seat to lie on the floor. As she did that, she felt liquid splash on her face and something hit her hand that caused her a great deal of pain. People began screaming all around plaintiff in attempts to revive friends and family that had been injured. The firing stopped for a moment and she lifted her head and then saw her friend, Derick Spruel, lying on top of his wife and Jesse Childress. He whispered to plaintiff to see if she could get out of the line of fire. Plaintiff was unable to do that as the shots began again. Plaintiff immediately lay flat on the floor, and her face was in a pool of liquid.
"When the shooting finally stopped, plaintiff lifted her head up and noticed that she was lying in a pool of blood. In front of her there was a woman lying at the end of the aisle, covered in blood. Then she noticed that her friend, Jesse Childress was lying face down on the floor and not moving, and not responding to the calls from Derick Spruel for him to get up. Plaintiff also saw a man in the row in front of them who had been shot in the head. Following the orders of the police officers that anyone who could walk should immediately leave the theater, plaintiff left the theater, together with Chichi and Derick Spruel, through the exit door on the right side of the screen, which had been used by the gunman. Plaintiff was then taken to Aurora Children's Hospital for treatment of the injuries she received during the shooting.
"Plaintiff's physical injuries consisted of nine shotgun pellet entry wounds to her left hand and a shotgun wound on the top of her head. Several surgeries were required to remove the shotgun pellets and plaintiff's left hand and wrist have been left in a weakened state with nerve damage that causes weakness, numbness, and occasional pain from handshakes and picking up anything heavier than a very light weight. These physical injuries are permanent."
Gravelly says she cannot escape "flashbacks of the shooting and of seeing her friend lying in a pool of his own blood."
At least five complaints
were filed against Cinemark in October, claiming its negligent security contributed to the massacre.
Both of the new complaints claim that the lack of alarm systems and surveillance measures made Aurora Century 16 an easy target.
"It was reasonably foreseeable by theatre personnel, or any person who wished to make a secret and unauthorized entry into the theater, that a person could easily determine that the lack of security personnel and lack of any alarm on the door at the right front, by the screen of Auditorium 9, would allow them to leave the theater, and re-enter without fear of being discovered, interfered with, monitored or stopped," Spruel's complaint states.
All three seek damages for premises liability and negligence.
They are represented by Nathan Davidovich of Aurora.