By Keith Coffman
DENVER (Reuters) - A report on the emergency response to the 2012 Colorado cinema massacre that was released on Wednesday cited a need for better communication, but in general praised the actions taken during the chaotic scene.
The city of Aurora paid nearly $250,000 to TriData Division, a Virginia-based public safety consulting firm, for an "after action" review of the mass shooting, in which 12 moviegoers were killed and dozens more wounded.
The 26-year-old accused gunman, James Holmes, has been charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder for opening fire inside the suburban Denver theater during a midnight screening of the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises."
The California native has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. His lawyers have conceded he was the lone shooter, but say the former neuroscience doctoral candidate was undergoing a psychotic episode at the time.
Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty for Holmes if he is convicted.
The 188-page report contained little new information, since many of the details of the initial response were outlined during a January 2013 preliminary hearing in the criminal case.
"Overall, the combined efforts of Aurora public safety agencies — police, fire, communications — with timely assistance from neighboring jurisdictions, the FBI and ATF, achieved the best possible outcomes following the shooting," the report said.
Many of the wounded were taken to hospitals by police in their cruisers, which it said likely saved lives.
A shift change was underway at a nearby police station when the shooting happened, meaning scores of officers were already in the area, explaining their arrival before ambulances.
"The latest emergency medicine research suggests that speed of getting a gunshot wound victim to a close-by hospital is more important in many cases than the mode of transport or care en route," the report said.
Nevertheless, some ambulances could not reach the scene due to traffic jams in the surrounding streets and the theater's parking lot, the report said, and communications among the various agencies could be improved.
Both prosecutors and the attorneys defending Holmes had sought to have publication of the report delayed until after the criminal case was completed, but a judge ordered its release with some redactions.
Jury selection in the murder trial is set to begin in December.
(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Sandra Maler)