AURORA - Of the 23 patients who arrived at University of Colorado Hospital the night of the theater shooting, only three arrived via ambulance. The rest showed up in private cars or the back seats of police cruisers.
Because of an ongoing gag order, 9News or any other media outlet for that matter cannot ask anyone directly involved in the rescue why an unorthodox method of rescue ruled the night, but it's clear the rescue was instrumental in saving lives.
What is less clear is whether the practice was due to the work of quick-thinking police officers or the result of an emergency response that kept ambulances at bay while an active-shooter investigation continued. Perhaps it's even the result of a combination of the two.
Regardless, whatever happened that night will soon become part of a $250,000 study commissioned by the city to look into its response the night a shooter walked into a theater and killed 12 and injured at least 58 others.
Kim Stuart, the spokesperson for the city of Aurora, bristles at the idea that city employees didn't give it their all that night, but she also acknowledges the need for an outside report to figure out what might be gleaned from the city's response.
"We do after-action reports after many of our incidents," she said on Tuesday. "In this case, it's such a large incident with so many radio transmissions and outside interviews, that it requires the assistance of outside folks."
On Monday, the Aurora City Council gave preliminary approval to hire TriData to conduct the review. It's common practice to hire an outside agency after mass casualty incidents. TriData was used after the shootings at Columbine High School in 1999.
"We think it's a valuable investment to learn what went well that night and perhaps what things we need to look at and change," Stuart said.
The city learned on Tuesday that the gag order in place stills stands for city employees, but the city attorney told 9News he will ask the Arapahoe County District Attorney's Office for clarification when it comes to those employees participating in the study.
The study, for example, could be kept secret for as long as the judge keeps the gag order in place. Results aren't expected for at least another six months.
In the meantime, news outlets like 9News will continue to evaluate the only definitive insight available as to what happened that night via recordings made in the dispatch center. Those recordings suggest police officers were initially desperate for more ambulances to respond to the theater.
"I need at least three or four ambulances brought in here," yelled one officer.
"Where are my ambulances at?" said another.
Eventually one officer decided he couldn't wait any longer.
"Do I have permission to start taking some of these victims via car? I've got a whole bunch of people shot out here with no rescue?"
"Yes," responded an officer on the other end. "Load them up, get them in cars and get them out of here."
(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)