Aurora Shooting Dispatch Recording Analysis

An examination of the dispatch recording for the July 20, 2012, Aurora, CO theater mass shooting event.


At the 19:20 mark a unit calls out transporting two victims to a hospital. More calls go out for either an ambulance OR a patrol car to the back of theater 9. The dispatcher reports that fire/EMS personnel are now on their way into Theater 9. (NOTE: That request was made at the 15:10 mark)

At the 19:45 mark Lincoln-41 calls for EMS personnel to respond to the back exit of the theater and he clearly states that they have officers there, indicating that the area is secure and safe. We cannot ask our fire/EMS personnel to come into areas that are not secure. Lincoln-41 understands that and fashions this communication accordingly.

At the 20:15 mark a unit calls out with "five possible employees" that are being searched. The employees might be offended and they are certainly scared. We must be professional and thorough. I personally was on the perimeter of a robbery scene where the perpetrators escaped dressed in employee uniforms. We cannot take anything for granted.

At the 20:20 mark Denver communications comes on the air to advise Aurora communications that the responding Denver cars will be switching over to the Aurora channel.

At the 20:57 mark the dispatcher tries to raise Metro-16 advising that she received his "emergency key." No response is heard from Metro-16 as the radio traffic is taken over about additional EMS services responding and a warning to officers on foot to watch out for patrol cars leaving the scene priority taking victims to the hospital. Further direction is given to switch which hospital officers take victims to.

At the 22:00 mark a host of Denver cars call out on the channel. They do so quickly. The dispatcher confirms all of them as if this is just another day in the life. She still sounds totally calm.

At the 22:45 mark Denver-310 requests to know the location of the Command Post. There has been no previous radio traffic about a command post. The dispatcher has either been advised previously by other means or she selects one herself, but she directs the responding Denver cars to a specific command post location and tells them where it is both in relation to the theater and to the interstate highway.

At the 23:20 mark it's reported that there are "still a lot of people shot on the east side" of the theater. More cars are reported "rolling in now."

At the 24:00 mark a call is made to contain everyone in the parking lots and hold them. Further information is provided that Aurora units are still clearing inside the theater to insure it's safe/clear.

The audio ends at 24:42 right after a Tac unit calls out a possible suspect description of a man seen running from the vicinity by construction workers. Undoubtedly this dispatch recording will be reviewed, dissected, analyzed and criticized ad nauseum. Let us remember that none of us should be "Monday morning quarterback." We weren't there. There are lessons to be learned by all of us from the hard experience lived by those responding men and women.

The perpetrator, now identified as James Holmes, planned and prepared even more carefully than Seung Hui Cho did at Virginia Tech. James Holmes shot more people although he killed less. His total casualty count was higher. He included the use of OC 'gas' and that alone is something we'll now need to be prepared for from every future mass shooter.

We at officer.com offer our prayers, sympathies and condolences to all of the victims and their families.

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