12 dead in Colorado at 'Dark Knight Rises' midnight premiere

RJ Sangosti/The Associated Press

Eyewitness Jacob Stevens, 18, hugs his mother Tammi Stevens outside Gateway High School where witnesses were brought for questioning after a movie theater shooting on Friday in Aurora, Colo. A gunman wearing a gas mask set off an unknown gas and fired into the crowd, killing 12 people and injuring at least 50 others, authorities said.

AURORA, Colo. —  As the new Batman movie played on the screen, a gunman dressed in black and wearing a helmet, body armor and a gas mask stepped through a side door. At first he was just a silhouette, taken by some in the audience for a stunt that was part of one of the summer's most highly anticipated films.

This photo provided by the University of Colorado shows James Holmes. University spokeswoman Jacque Montgomery says 24-year-old Holmes, who police say is the suspect in a mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater, was studying neuroscience in a Ph.D. program at the University of Colorado-Denver graduate school. Holmes is suspected of shooting into a crowd at a movie theater killing at least 12 people and injuring dozens more, authorities said.

David Zalubowski/The Associated Press

Investigators look over evidence on ground outside the back door of the Century 16 movie theater east of the Aurora Mall in Aurora, Colo. on Friday, July 20, 2012. A gunman in a gas mask barged into a crowded Denver-area theater during a midnight showing of the Batman movie on Friday, hurled a gas canister and then opened fire in one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent U.S. history.

Ed Andrieski/The Associated Press

Police are pictured outside of a Century 16 movie theatre where as many as 14 people were killed and many injured at a shooting during the showing of a movie at the in Aurora, Colo., Friday, July 20, 2012.

David Zalubowski/The Associated Press

Yellow markers sit next to evidence, including a gas mask, as police investigate the scene outside the Century 16 movie theater east of the Aurora Mall in Aurora, Colo. on Friday, July 20, 2012. A gunman in a gas mask barged into a crowded Denver-area theater during a midnight showing of the Batman movie on Friday, hurled a gas canister and then opened fire in one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent U.S. history.

Barry Gutierrez/The Associated Press

People use mobile devices as they wait outside Gateway High School where witnesses were brought for questioning after a shooting at a movie theater showing the Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises," Friday, July 20, 2012 in Aurora, Colo. A gunman wearing a gas mask set off an unknown gas and fired into the crowded movie theater killing 12 people and injuring at least 50 others, authorities said. (AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez)

Karl Gehring/The Associated Press

An Aurora Police Department detective takes a witness statement following a shooting Friday morning July 20, 2012. Aurora Police responded to the Century 16 movie theatre early Friday morning where police confirm at least 14 people are dead and 50 others injured.

Ed Andrieski/The Associated Press

Aurora Police Chief Daniel Oates talks to media at Aurora Mall where as many as 14 people were killed and many injured at a shooting at the Century 16 movie theatre in Aurora, Colo., Friday, July 20, 2012.

But then, authorities said, he threw gas canisters that filled the packed suburban Denver theater with smoke, and, in the confusing haze between Hollywood fantasy and terrifying reality, opened fire as people screamed and dove for cover.

At least 12 people were killed and 58 wounded — 11 critically — in one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent U.S. history.

"He looked like an assassin ready to go to war," said Jordan Crofter, a moviegoer who was unhurt in the attack early Friday, about a half-hour after the special midnight opening of "The Dark Knight Rises."

The gunman, identified by police as 24-year-old James Holmes, used a military-style semi-automatic rifle, a shotgun and a pistol, stopping only to reload.

The suspect marched up the aisle in the stadium-style theater, picking off those who tried to flee, witnesses said. Authorities said he hit 71 people. At least one was struck in an adjacent theater by gunfire that went through the wall.

"He would reload and shoot and anyone who would try to leave would just get killed," said Jennifer Seeger, adding that bullet casings landed on her head and burned her forehead.

Within minutes, frantic 911 calls brought some 200 police officers, ambulances and emergency crews to the theater. Holmes was captured in the parking lot. Police said they later found that his nearby apartment was booby-trapped.

Authorities gave no motive for the attack. The FBI said there was no indication of ties to any terrorist groups.

In New York City, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said: "It clearly looks like a deranged individual. He has his hair painted red. He said he was the Joker, obviously the enemy of Batman."

Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates would not confirm that information, but did say he had spoken to Kelly. The two used to work together in New York. Asked whether Holmes had makeup to look like the Joker, Oates said: "That to my knowledge is not true."

It was the worst mass shooting in the U.S. since the Nov. 5, 2009, attack at Fort Hood, Texas. An Army psychiatrist was charged with killing 13 soldiers and civilians and wounding more than two dozen others.

It was the deadliest in Colorado since the Columbine High School massacre in suburban Denver in 1999, when two students killed 12 classmates and a teacher and wounded 26 others before killing themselves.

The new Batman movie, the last in the trilogy starring Christian Bale, opened worldwide Friday with midnight showings in the U.S. The plot has the villain Bane facing Bale's Caped Crusader with a nuclear weapon that could destroy all of fictional Gotham.

The shooting prompted officials to cancel the red-carpet premiere in Paris, and some U.S. movie theaters stepped up security for daytime showings.

The film's director, Christopher Nolan, issued a statement on behalf of the cast and crew, expressing their "profound sorrow at the senseless tragedy."

"Nothing any of us can say could ever adequately express our feelings for the innocent victims of this appalling crime, but our thoughts are with them and their families," Nolan said.

The attack began shortly after midnight at the multiplex in Aurora, an urban community on Denver's eastside. Audience members said they thought it was part of the movie, or some kind of stunt associated with it.

The film has several scenes of public mayhem — a hallmark of superhero movies. In one scene, Bane leads an attack on a stock exchange, and in another he leads a shooting and bombing rampage on a packed football stadium.

A federal law enforcement official said Holmes bought a ticket to the show, went into the theater as part of the crowd and propped open an exit door as the movie was playing. The suspect then donned protective ballistic gear and opened fire, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.

At some point, the gunman appeared to have stepped outside because several witnesses saw him come through the door.

"All I saw is the door swinging open and the street lights behind, and you could see a silhouette," said Crofter, who was sitting on the left side of the theater and toward the front.

Sylvana Guillen said the gunman, clad in dark clothing, appeared at the front of the theater as the character Catwoman appeared in the movie. Then they heard gunshots and smelled smoke from a canister he was carrying.

As she and her friend, Misha Mostashiry, ran to the exit, Guillen said, they saw a man slip in the blood of a wounded woman he was trying to help.

Oates said the gunman wore a gas mask and a ballistic helmet and vest, as well as leg, groin and throat protectors. He said he bought four guns from local gun shops in the last 60 days and 6,000 rounds of ammunition, including a drum magazine that could fire 50 to 60 rounds per minute.

"I thought it was showmanship. I didn't think it was real," Seeger said. She said she was in the second row, about four feet from the gunman, when he pointed a gun at her face. "I was just a deer in headlights. I didn't know what to do," she said.

Then she ducked to the ground as the gunman shot people seated behind her.

Seeger said she began crawling toward an exit when she saw a girl of about 14 "lying lifeless on the stairs." She saw a man with a bullet wound in his back and tried to check his pulse, but "I had to go. I was going to get shot."

Later, police began entering the theater, asking people to hold their hands up as they evacuated the building.

Some of the victims were treated for chemical exposure apparently related to canisters thrown by the gunman. Those hurt included a 4-month-old baby, who was treated at a hospital and released.

Authorities started to remove the bodies from the theater on Friday afternoon. Officials wheeled a black bag on a stretcher out of the front entrance, placing it in the back of a minivan. Ten people died in the theater, while two others died from their injuries later.

Oates said officers planned receive a list of those confirmed dead and meet with the family members of the deceased Friday night to tell them the fate of their loved ones.

Those who knew Holmes described him as a shy, intelligent person raised in California by parents who were active in their well-to-do suburban neighborhood in San Diego. Holmes played soccer at Westview High School and ran cross-country before going to college.

On Friday morning, police escorted Holmes' father, a manager of a software company, from their home while his mother, a nurse, stayed inside, receiving visitors who came to offer support. Holmes also has a younger sister.

"As you can understand, the Holmes family is very upset about all of this," Lt. Andra Brown, the San Diego police spokeswoman, told reporters in the driveway of the family home. "It's a tragic event and it's taken everyone by surprise. They are definitely trying to work through this."

Police released a statement from his family that said: "Our hearts go out to those who were involved in this tragedy and to the families and friends of those involved."

There have been no indications so far that Holmes had any run-ins with the law before Friday.

Tom Mai, a retired electrical engineer, said Holmes was a "shy guy" who came from a "very, very nice family."

Holmes graduated from University of California, Riverside, in the spring of 2010 a bachelor's degree in neuroscience, a school spokesman said. Mai said the mother told him Holmes couldn't find a job after earning a master's degree and returned to school.

In 2011, he enrolled in the Ph.D. neuroscience program at the University of Colorado-Denver but was in the process of withdrawing, a university spokeswoman said.

Holmes lived in an apartment in Aurora, and FBI agents and police who went there discovered it was booby-trapped when they used a camera at the end of a 12-foot pole to look inside.

Oates said the will try to gain entry on Saturday.

"It is a very vexing problem how to enter that apartment safely," he said.

___

Associated Press writers Kristen Wyatt, Steven K. Paulson, Ivan Moreno and Mead Gruver in Aurora, Dan Elliott and Colleen Slevin in Denver, Tom Hays in New York, Monika Mathur and Jennifer Farrar at News Research Center and Alicia A. Caldwell and Eileen Sullivan in Washington contributed to this report.

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Comments

 's picture

CCW

One CCW holder could have at least slowed down this sick person. Just saying !

RONALD RIML's picture

Got Guns????

Jason Theriault's picture

Not cool

Would it have been better if he ran people over in the parking lot? Or how about if he burned the theater down?

Messed up people do bad things.

And BTW - If more law abiding citizens could carry, maybe one would have been armed in there.

JOANNE MOORE's picture

Think about it. Maybe more than one.

You have a dark, smoke filled theater. People are running for their lives. How is this law abiding person know where to shoot, who to shoot, and if he shoots, what's to stop another law abiding, pistol packing citizen from thinking this second shooter is part of the threat and shoots him/her? And, when the police arrive, what's stopping them from thinking the guy/gal with the gun isn't their suspect and shoot him/her? How many more deaths does it take? Just asking.

Andrew Jones's picture

I doubt many of them would be

I doubt many of them would be willing to go bullet for bullet with a psycho wielding an AR-15 when you've got a 9mm or something. Sure, it's one on one; but it's his .223 vs your pistol caliber.

RONALD RIML's picture

Odds are there were people armed in there.

But it's nowhere like shooting at bad guys in a computer game.

Jason Theriault's picture

True

Dark room, Tear gas, lots of people running, you have a point. But this guy is a coward. I bet the second someone shoots at him, he bolts. I mean, as soon as the cops were on him, he gave up.

Anyway, if you need to argue gun control, do it later. This is not the time.

JOANNE MOORE's picture

This is not the time??????

So who died and made you the decider?

Or, like the NRA folks, do you want to squelch dialog that might lead reasonable people to discuss gun control. They do it every time. Every time there is one of these mass killings the NRA comes out hard and fast with the "This is not the time" horse sh*t.

It's harder to get a driver's license than to get a weapon. We are the only industrialized nation that allows gun ownership to such a degree, even encourages it. Good lord, a weapon can be bought at a lawn sale - how much more lenient can we as a country get?

The gun nuts act as if the second amendment is cast in stone along with the ten commandments. No decent, responsible person needs to carry. Only those with penis envy think they need to make up for their shortcomings by strapping on a "piece", and this includes women as well. What it does is make them less not more.

Go ahead, flame me. This is a place for opinion and I have said mine.

Andrew Jones's picture

What would your opinion be if

What would your opinion be if someone had shot this guy before he managed to kill and wound as many people as he did? Would you still demonize the person who carried for the purpose of self-defense?

I hope you never find yourself in a situation where your life may depend on being able to meet deadly force with deadly force.

JOANNE MOORE's picture

If.

IF that ever happens. It didn't happen in this case. I am not going to form an opinion about an imaginary IF. That's wishful thinking, not reality.

Thank you for your concern but I never think about having to use anything but the written word to defend myself. Life is too short to spend it in fear of "deadly force"- a rather far-fetched notion.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Looks like fruits and nuts

Looks like fruits and nuts fall on both left and right sides of the liberty tree after reading this post.

JOANNE MOORE's picture

Ha!

So you think a sensible dialog about gun control is fruity or nutty? The second amendment was to establish a WELL REGULATED militia. What part of well regulated don't you understand? Or do you think the lone shooter in most of these mass killings has more rights than the lives of innocent bystanders?

When a person does not want to engage in reasonable dialog, for whatever reason, they often lower themselves by aggressive name calling. That is an act of cowardice, ignorance and stupidity.

Either add to the dialog with your viewpoint or butt out.

It's a sad day for all of us when peace loving people are browbeaten by bullies. And as Goethe said. "There is nothing worse than aggressive stupidity."

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Perhaps I was confused

Perhaps I was confused whether you were talking about the 2nd Amendment or male genitals. Those comments are misplaced and put you dancing with the fruits and nuts.

Lastly, you are orders of magnitude more likely to die in a car accident than from a violent gun crime. Your response, in my opinion, is more emotional than based on fact – not that there is anything wrong with that, but I find it hard to take you serious.

JOANNE MOORE's picture

So?

I will take your confusion as a compliment.

RONALD RIML's picture

You could actually take it as ignorance.

In 2005, there were 43,443 motor vehicle deaths in the United States. That same year, there were 30,694 firearm deaths in the U.S.

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_gun_deaths_are_in_the_US_every_year

"Per the Center for Disease Control, latest figures (2005) show 30,694 firearm deaths (all races, all ages, both sexes) in the United States.

Since a firearm is an inanimate object, it can not be the sole creator/ root cause of a death as it must be handled by a person in order to be fired.

A more accurate description is approximately 16,000 suicides using a firearm

Approximately 12,252 murders by firearms 80% of which are caused by felons/career criminals/gang member activities. USDOJ National Gang Threat Assessment annual report 2009

Approximately 600 justifiable defensive shootings by both police and citizens.

The remainder in accidental firearms discharges

Read more: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_gun_deaths_are_in_the_US_every_year#i...

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Ronald, Of those 12,252

Ronald,

Of those 12,252 murders by firearm in 2005, how many are due to random acts of violence? Very few I suspect.

That is, if an individual is not a member of a gang and does not partake in activities, such as drug trafficking, your chances of being killed by a firearm greatly diminish.

RONALD RIML's picture

In my time I saw many 'John Q. Citizens' offed by guns

Often at the hands of their own partaking. Acting like idiots around guns, drinking too much, deciding guns were the avenue to the 'easy way out' - of their own lives or relationships.

They just don't impress me like they used to when I was a 'Bright-eyes, Bushy Tailed Gun-Nut'

RONALD RIML's picture

Observe less than 2% were " justifiable defensive shootings"

"In 2005 there were 30,694 firearm deaths in the U.S.....Approximately 600 justifiable defensive shootings by both police and citizens."

1.954%

Damn few for the argument presented by the Gun Lobby.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Ronald, Your one bristle

Ronald,

Your one bristle brush is not painting the full picture. How many crimes were adverted because someone was able to defend themselves?

You could also read this statistic to say many people have defended themselves with restraint.

Unfortunately statistics, such as the number of crimes not committed because the intended victim was able to defend themselves with a firearm, are not collected.

RONALD RIML's picture

NRA collects 'Victim defends self with gun stories' but fails to

collect fool blows self away with gun stories.

They're Published under 'The Armed Citizen' - The others could be published under 'The Armed Idiot' - but they dare not run that column.....

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Do you own a firearm – yes or

Do you own a firearm – yes or no?
If yes, would you turn it in to law enforcement if firearms became illegal - yes or no?

RONALD RIML's picture

the difference between I and many others -

Is that I own the firearm; the firearm doesn't own me.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Good. I’ll take that as a

Good. I’ll take that as a yes, and like 99% of us, the firearm does not own us.

Now, please answer the second part of the question.

If that firearm suddenly became illegal to own, would you surrender it?

RONALD RIML's picture

I've made that decision for others in real life. Have you???

And gave them the chance to voluntarily surrender it.

When they refused to, they surrendered both the firearm and their freedom when I arrested their ass.

Now how many other stupid questions do you wish to ask????

MARK GRAVEL's picture

First things first, the

First things first, the question was directed at you. Given your response I’ll assume that answer was no.

Second, you have not authority to confiscate firearms, so all the readers get to see the bully that you are.

Given your asinine response, there is little wonder someone would not fight back.

No wonder people have little respect for law enforcement given your tone.

RONALD RIML's picture

Poor Widdle Boy didn't get his 'Response'

I had to deal in 'Everyday'

Not your imaginary world.

RONALD RIML's picture

In my experience, I noted many more crimes committed

than averted, because of guns.

But I do have some good stories of perps getting blown away......

MARK GRAVEL's picture

That is understandable given

That is understandable given your career path; just don’t forget there are many more law abiding gun owners than criminals.

RONALD RIML's picture

And you rarely ever hear from them.

They keep their mouths shut, their powder dry, and their guns where they don't attract attention.

It's the Whack-Jobs that ruin it for the rest of them.

RONALD RIML's picture

And the time is???

I pointed out Colorado's score according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence: 15 out of 100. That's relevant.

There was nothing more, nothing less. Unless you're a bit paranoid.

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