For three years, Bonnie Kate Pourciau Zoghbi has lived with pain after she was shot and wounded during a gunman’s attack in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater, and on Wednesday, with the help of crutches, she took the witness stand to tell a jury about the experience.
The 21-year-old Baton Rouge woman testified on day 33 of the trial against James Holmes, the man accused of killing 12 people and injuring 70 in the massacre.
Zoghbi, who was 18 on July 20, 2012, when her knee was “blown to bits” in the shooting, according to her doctor, told the courtroom in the Arapahoe County Justice Center in Centennial, Colorado, that she’s undergone seven surgeries and will likely need “a lot more surgeries” over her lifetime.
Zoghbi said that a little after hearing gunshots and seeing smoke in the theater, she felt a bang on her knee “like a big two-by-four board just smacked me and my whole entire body absorbed the impact by it and moved me.”
She testified she tried to run to an exit when her knee buckled, gushing blood, so she “army-crawled” until a man helped her get out of the theater.
“I’ve never felt the amount of peace I did in that moment when I thought I wasn’t going to make it,” she told jurors, though she was “trembling with pain.”
Pointing to enlarged images of her injured leg, Zoghbi spoke about aspects of her surgeries, including the plate implanted in her knee, her repaired arteries and fasciotomies — or openings of tissue to relieve pressure — and her “Frankenstein-looking scar.”
“I’m going to have to have knee replacement eventually, but I’m too young to have it now, and they don’t last very long, so my doctor wants me to wait as long as possible,” she said. “If I get it now, I’ll have to have another one when I’m 40, and another one when I’m 60.”
Zoghbi had been traveling on a cross-country road trip with a friend when the two stopped in Aurora and spontaneously decided to see the premiere screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” on the night Holmes opened fire in the movie theater.
She and her friend chose to see the film after canceling their initial plans for hiking because wildflowers they wanted to see were not blooming that day, she said.
“My life was totally changed in that theater room,” Zoghbi told The Advocate in 2013.
Zoghbi, who now works as an illustrator and stylist, was not cross-examined Wednesday.
Zoghbi couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday, but her husband, 27-year-old Max Zoghbi, said, “We’re just so thankful for everyone who was praying for us.”
He said his wife has had to adjust to a new reality that her situation “may actually never go away and will probably get worse with time.”
Bonnie Kate Zoghbi, he said, lives in chronic pain and is usually exhausted by noon each day, but has been living without pain medications for about a year now.
Max Zoghbi, who was in the Colorado courtroom Wednesday along with his in-laws, said his wife is coming to terms with the idea, as he paraphrased, “I’m not gonna be able to hike mountains, I’m not gonna be able to jump on a trampoline with my kids, I’m not gonna be able to go on long walks around the LSU lakes.”
He added he and his family forgive Holmes. “He’s a human being at the end of the day,” he said.
Bonnie Kate Zoghbi’s testimony came as prosecutors wrap up their case against Holmes. On Wednesday, a juror was dismissed because she recognized a witness who testified last month, and the judge said she didn’t reveal all the facts about it.
Four other jurors have been dismissed in a little over a week, leaving 19 jurors, including seven alternates.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Follow Maya Lau on Twitter, @mayalau.