When Andrew Dobson lived in Las Vegas, he got used to the noises of the night - people screaming at all hours, gunshots ringing out.
But the sudden shouting that broke the silence in the early-morning hours of Oct. 7, 2005, stirred the native New Zealander who had, just weeks earlier, moved into the Boardwalk Apartments.
Dobson looked outside, he said, and saw the apartment next door on fire.
"And then I started filming," Dobson said.
Jurors in the first day of testimony in the Jason Rose murder trial Wednesday saw Dobson's entire video - a video that showed flames towering above trees, captured voices of women screaming and men yelling, "Get back, get back," and Dobson himself bowing to the fire's heat and moving away from the flames several times.
Dobson, who lived across Fireside Drive from the burning 76-unit complex, told jurors that he saw the flames originate from the second floor of the apartment building, the place where police have said defendant Jason A. Rose allegedly started the fire.
Rose has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder, one count of aggravated arson and seven counts of aggravated battery in connection with the fire.
Most of Wednesday's testimony focused on those who were at the scene the night of the fire: police officers, residents and one victim. Their testimony painted a chaotic picture of people scrambling to both help others and to get away from the blazing building.
Lawrence police Sgt. Max Miller and Officer David Ernst, two of the first emergency responders on the scene, told the jury of their dash around the complex, tending to people who had been burned and had broken bones from jumping out third-story apartment windows.
Ernst testified that when he arrived that night he saw an orange glow, smoke and a balcony railing on fire. But after seeing the entire length of the building, he saw flames had engulfed most of the second floor, the third floor and the roof.
After talking to residents huddled outside, Ernst said he walked toward the back parking lot and found a woman burned on her hands, feet and face - fire victim Leigh McHatton.
"I stayed there and just comforted her," Ernst said. "She was definitely distraught."
Under questioning from the prosecution, Miller said that the scene was "chaotic."
Miller testified that he saw two people, earlier identified as Boardwalk resident Demarquis Maybell and his girlfriend, LeAndra Hood, leaning out of a third-story window screaming for help. Both eventually jumped, with Maybell landing in a stairwell and breaking several bones.
Police officer Todd Polson said that when he arrived, another officer pointed out the blood on the shattered glass in the window from which Maybell jumped.
"He was just filleting his stomach open," Polson told the jury.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the complex, former Boardwalk Apartments resident David Thomas watched at least three people jump from the burning third-story balcony, he told jurors Wednesday.
Thomas lived in another Boardwalk Apartments building just across Fireside Drive.
He testified that he then saw another woman, thought to be fire victim Nicole Bingham, take a few steps outside of her apartment before falling to her knees, never to get back up.
"The fire was all around her. She was running through a big wall of fire," Thomas said.
Surviving victim McHatton, a former Kansas University student, told jurors that she made it across her flaming balcony and stairwell, but only after suffering severe burns to her hands, feet and face.
"Once I started, I wasn't going to be able to stop," McHatton said of her sprint across the burning walkway. "There was no turning back."
Rose's attorney, Ron Evans, questioned witnesses about what they recalled of where the fire appeared to originate. According to investigators and previous testimony in hearings, the fire began in the middle of the second-story walkway. Rose allegedly told police that he had started a small fire there - although Evans in his opening statements said that because of previous abuse Rose had the mind "of a 7-year-old," which slanted his testimony.
In questioning Dobson, Evans scrutinized the videographer's testimony that the flames appeared to come from the second floor, even after he told police the day after the fire that the flames started on the top floor.
Dobson responded that after all this time he couldn't really remember where the fire appeared to begin - and that his comments the day after the fire were likely more accurate than his testimony Wednesday.
"I can't guess with confidence on that," Dobson said.
Testimony is scheduled to continue today.
Key moments in the Boardwalk Fire timeline:
- Oct. 7, 2005: Fire destroys apartment building
- Oct. 7, 2005: 6News video: Interim Fire Chief Mark Bradford talks with reporters at a mid-morning Friday news conference.
- Oct. 11, 2005: Family, friends identify three victims
- Oct. 12, 2005: Arrest made in deadly fire
- Nov. 15, 2005: Law firm: Fire alarms didn't work during blaze
- Feb. 23, 2006: Birthday cards may have sparked blaze
- Feb. 24, 2006: Agent: Design helped fire's spread
- More about Jason Allen Rose