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Miami Beach Police Chief Reacts To Movie Theater Shooter Sentence

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MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) – Miami Beach Police Chief Dan Oates may live more than 2,000 miles away from his former home in Aurora, Colorado, but on Friday, his thoughts were with the people of the city where he served as chief on one of its darkest days.

Chief Oates closely followed the trial of James Holmes, the man now convicted of a shooting rampage inside a movie theater that left twelve people dead and dozens more hurt.

"For me, the real emotional moment was three weeks ago when he was convicted on all counts," Chief Oates told CBS4's Lauren Pastrana after the sentencing verdict was announced.

"We the jury do not have a unanimous final sentencing verdict on this count. And we the jury understand that as a result the court will impose a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole," Judge Carlos Samour, Jr. repeated 24 times, one for each murder count Holmes is guilty of.

"While I am disappointed at the outcome, I'm not disappointed with this system or process. I still think death is justice for what that guy did," said District Attorney George Brauchler.

The sentence brought to an end a 15-week trial that began in April, but it did not bring closure to the families of the victims.

"That's not justice. He's living. He's breathing. And our loved ones are gone," Robert Sullivan said.

Sullivan's granddaughter, Veronica, was one of the 12 victims who died in the rampage on July 20th, 2012.

"We didn't lose loved ones. Our loved ones were ripped from us and they were slaughtered in that movie theater," said Sandy Phillips, the mother of victim Jessica Ghawi. "But the jury chose another way and we have to accept that."

Holmes' defense attorney pleaded with the jurors to spare his life, saying his mental illness pushed him to kill.

"We need to accept the finding of the court. I recognize they worked really hard and they voted their conscience," Chief Oates said. "I surmise they must have accepted that he had some level of mental illness and for that reason they were compassionate and decided not to sentence him to death."

Oates said he is glad the gag order has been lifted, so the officers can talk about what they saw and did that night.

He said the after-action report shows every person who was alive when the cops showed up, survived.

Oates said many of the victims were taken to hospitals in police patrol cars, rather than ambulances.

The district attorney who prosecuted the case says a plea deal was on the table at one point, but he opted to move forward with the trial because he wanted all the evidence to be made public.

"The entire state of Colorado got a full airing of the totality of the events and the families got to hear all the evidence. For that reason alone, the trial was worth it," said Chief Oates. "Even though the outcome isn't the death sentence his is going to spend 23 hours a day for the rest of his life staring at a wall and he'll eventually die in prison. That is a form of justice."

No matter how they feel about the verdict, the victims' loved ones say they will continue to lean on each other for support and understanding.

"Tomorrow the sun is going to come up," said Dave Hoover, whose nephew AJ Boyk was killed in the shooting. "We're going to have a little more pain. A little more hurt in our lives. But the sun is going to come up. There will still be love in our lives."


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