Photo: 9 News Denver
A horrific shooting at the Century theatre in Aurora, Colorado, early on Friday morning has stunned the United States.
A figure in a gas mask set off what appear to have been tear gas bombs about 15 minutes into a midnight showing of The Dark Knight before opening fire on the crowd watching the movie.
Police told reporters that 12 people have died and 58 more were injured in the attack. There were 70 casualties in total, making it the largest mass shooting in U.S. history by casualties.
As of 3:30 PM local time (5:30 PM EDT), 30 patients remained in the hospital and 11 patients were still in critical condition.
In a midday press conference, Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates named 24 year-old white male James Eagan Holmes as the sole suspect in the case. Police apprehended Holmes in the parking lot of the movie theatre. 9News in Denver reports that the subject did not resist arrest.
Bomb squads still on the scene
Oates said the shooter made statements to police about explosives at his apartment and car after being taken into custody. According to 9NEWS, a bomb robot found suspicious materials in Holmes’s car.
Upon further investigation, authorities determined that the subject’s apartment had been booby-trapped with explosive or flammable devices. By that point, they had already evacuated the building at East 17th Street and Peoria in Aurora.
The area–which includes five adjacent apartment buildings–remains surrounded by police. Authorities do not know how long it will take to secure the area.
The police chief called Holmes’s apartment a “very vexing problem.” “We don’t know how we’re going to handle that,” Oates said. “It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen.”
Aurora authorities sought help from the FBI and the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives). The task force had halted an operation to disarm the booby-traps for the day by Friday evening and planned to restart those efforts Saturday.
University of Colorado—Denver police have evacuated two research buildings the suspect once worked in, according to CBS Denver.
theatre-goers experienced their own horror movie
Witnesses say the perpetrator, allegedly wearing a bullet-proof vest, goggles, and a gas mask, entered theatre #9–one of three theatres showing The Dark Knight Rises around midnight–through a fire exit. He opened fire after blinding the audience with tear gas.
Photo: NY Daily News
At least one person in theatre #8 (also showing the Batman flick) was also hit by bullets coming through the wall. A witness also told reporters on the scene that the shooter eventually entered other theatres after they had been evacuated in an attempt to shoot stragglers.
Some witnesses remarked in interviews after the massacre that Holmes appeared and even called himself the “Joker,” a character in the Batman saga.
Journalists also pointed out that the shooting bears an uncanny resemblance to Frank Miller’s graphic novel “The Dark Knight Rises.”
A puzzling suspect
Police have said that Holmes has no criminal history beyond a single traffic violation. They are “confident” that Holmes acted alone, and by midday were no longer exploring the possibility that he acted in concert with an accomplice.
While witnesses speculated that the incident “[felt] like” a terrorist attack in TV interviews immediately after the event, police have said that the alleged gunman has no known connections to terrorist groups or activities. The New York Times reports that police consider Holmes “somewhat of an enigma” because they have been unable to find any solid indications of a motive nor any evidence of any past aberrant behaviour.
However, Oates told reporters at an evening press conference, “If we had information about a motive, we would not share it with you.”
We’ve seen two disturbing, graphic amateur videos so far that were taken during or in the direct aftermath of the tragedy. One shows theatre-goers fleeing the movie theatre, first at a walk and then at a run. The second shows victims being carried through the parking lot away from the site of the attack.
The wounded were transported to various local hospitals, all of which remarked that the victims tended to be young, with most between 16 and 30. The youngest person hospitalized that news channels identified was a 3 month-old who was taken to University Hospital. According to 9News, the infant was not injured, and taken to the hospital as a precaution. A 6 year-old was also taken to the local children’s hospital.
Most of the victims were treated for gunshot wounds, though a few victims only sought treatment for chemical exposure. These latter injuries were caused by the tear gas–or another chemical irritant–that the gunman apparently used to confuse theatre-goers.
“Nearly every one [of the victims] was shot,” Oates told reporters.
Gunman stockpiled weapons ahead of the attack
Oates told reporters in a press conference Friday evening, “In the last 60 days he purchased 4 guns at local metro gun shops.” He also purchased 6,000 rounds of ammunition online. The police currently believe that Holmes acquired all his weapons and ammunition legally.
Photo: Denver Channel
The shooter fired from an assault-type AR-15 rifle, a model 870 pump shotgun, and at least one of two .40-calibre Glocks police found at the scene. He was also carrying a knife. He was driving a car with Tennessee plates, but had been living in the Aurora area recently. Two more weapons—a shotgun and a pistol—were allegedly stored in his car. Here’s what we know about the equipment carried by the gunman >
Holmes’s mother tells reporters, “You have the right person” before Holmes was publicly identified
Before police had confirmed the identity of the suspected gunman, ABC News got in touch with Holmes’s mother. In a conversation with journalists she said, “You have the right person…I need to call the police…I need to fly out to Colorado,” before ending the conversation.
Later, San Diego police showed up outside her house. “We’re only here to preserve the peace; we’re not here to conduct and investigation or do anything else,” said Lt. Andrea Brown of the San Diego Police. She said their tasks included keeping the street open and making sure journalists did not disturb the residents.
According to the Associated Press, the University of Colorado Medical School said that the suspect had been a student there. He withdrew last month. He appears to have taken a course titled the Biological Basis of Psychiatric and Neurological Disorders (via @BuzzFeedAndrew).
The Associated Press reported at 4:20 PM EDT that Holmes is not cooperating with police officials, despite appearing to go quietly with police directly after the shooting and reveal the presence of explosives in his car and apartment.
Holmes is currently being held in Araphoe County Jail. His first court appearance will take place on Monday at 8:30 AM local time (10:30 AM EDT), according to Chief Oates. Police have elected not to release a mugshot.
Politicians jump into the fray
Both President Barack Obama and presidential candidate Mitt Romney released statements on the incident, expressing sympathy and sadness. Both men gave press conferences about the incident.
Warner Brothers has also extended its “sincere sympathies to the families and the loved ones of the victims” of the attack, and has cancelled the Paris premiere of The Dark Knight Rises in the wake of the shooting.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg told WOR radio this morning that the incident should prompt candidates to come clean about their stance on gun policy.
Pundits have already expressed concerns that the tragic social realities of the shooting will be overshadowed by the political debates it generates, particularly in an election year.
First full day following the massacre draws to a close
In a press conference at 7 PM local time (9 PM EDT) Friday–their third of the day–both Police Chief Oates and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper appeared saddened and exhausted.
Chief Oates said that police had removed the last of the 10 bodies of victims pronounced dead in the theatre a little after 5 PM local time.
Hickenlooper told reporters, “[We have] an anger that can’t find purpose.” He continued, “We’re not just going to let [this] happen to us. We’re going to push back.”
The next press briefing will take place at 4 PM EDT Saturday.
You can follow the story by watching 9 News’s live coverage and at the Twitter handle #theatershooting.
We’re updating this story live as it develops.
WATCH: Disturbing Amateur Video At theatre Where Colorado Shooting Occurred >
Here’s that live video feed from 9 News:
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