This story was originally published on 7/20/2012 at 5:08 AM PDT
At least 12 people are dead and dozens more are wounded after a masked gunman opened fire in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater during the midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises.” Ten people died on the scene, and another two passed away at area hospitals.
According to CNN.com, police apprehended the heavily armed suspect, who was wearing a bulletproof vest, in the rear parking lot of the theater, and seized a handgun and rifle; another gun was found inside. The Denver Post reports the 24-year-old man made a statement about possible explosives in his home, leading police to evacuate his apartment building in north Aurora, part of the Denver Metropolitan Area. NBC News has identified the suspect as James Holmes, but there has been no official confirmation.
Witnesses told Denver’s KUSA that the gunman entered the screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” at Century 16 Movie Theaters and threw two gas canisters — referred to as some kind of “smoke device” — onto the floor. However, no one initially reacted, believing the stunt was part of the premiere. “He looked so calm when he did it,” one witness said. “It was, like, scary. He waited for both the bombs to explode before he did anything. Then, after both of them exploded, he began to shoot.” There was confusion even after the assault began, as many thought the sounds of gunfire were coming from the film.
Although some initial news reports questioned whether the suspect was dressed as Bane, the villain played in the film by Tom Hardy, it appears that he was wearing an operational gas mask. A police spokesman confirmed to NBC’s “Today” that the man had a gas mask in his possession when he was caught.
Police began receiving reports of gunshots at the theater shortly before 12:30 a.m., and by 1:15 a.m. had alerted area hospitals to prepare for a mass casualty incident. Officers ran into the building, yelling for everyone to leave. Some officers were seen carrying, or dragging, out the bodies of the wounded.
The victims ranged in age from infants to adults. KUSA confirmed that University Hospital was treating a 3-month-old baby, while officials at Children’s Memorial Hospital told the Post they were treating six victims, aged 6 to 31. One witness saw a police officer carrying a wounded girl as young as 9 out of the theater, saying that she appeared to have been shot in the stomach.
President Obama, awakened early this morning by his national security adviser and informed of the shootings, released the following statement: “Michelle and I are shocked and saddened by the horrific and tragic shooting in Colorado. Federal and local law enforcement are still responding, and my Administration will do everything that we can to support the people of Aurora in this extraordinarily difficult time. We are committed to bringing whoever was responsible to justice, ensuring the safety of our people, and caring for those who have been wounded. As we do when confronted by moments of darkness and challenge, we must now come together as one American family. All of us must have the people of Aurora in our thoughts and prayers as they confront the loss of family, friends, and neighbors, and we must stand together with them in the challenging hours and days to come.”
5:46 AM PST: Warner Bros. has released the following statement.
“Warner Bros. is deeply saddened to learn about this shocking incident. We extend our sincere sympathies to the families and loved ones of the victims at this tragic time.”
6:59 AM PST: Warner Bros. has cancelled its planned red carpet premiere for “The Dark Knight Rises” in Paris, along with scheduled interviews with director Christopher Nolan and the film’s cast, in light of this morning’s shooting. The studio has not yet commented on whether or not the premiere or interviews will be rescheduled.
8:09 AM PST: According to The Hollywood Reporter, the New York Police Department will provide increased security for theaters screening “Dark Knight Rises” this weekend. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly frames the response as “a precaution against copycats and to raise the comfort levels among movie patrons in the wake of the horrendous shooting in Colorado.”
Meanwhile, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg has called on President Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney to “stand up and tell [the country] what they are going to do about it,” referring to the president’s earlier statement. “Everybody always says, ‘Isn’t it tragic,’ and you know, we look for was the guy, as you said, maybe trying to recreate Batman,” Bloomberg said. “I mean, there are so many murders with guns every day, it’s just got to stop. And instead of the two people – President Obama and Governor Romney – talking in broad things about they want to make the world a better place, okay, tell us how.”
8:55 AM PST: Officers entering the apartment of shooting suspect James Holmes have encountered booby trapped bombs that Police Chief Dan Oats described as “pretty sophisticated” according The Denver Post. FBI agent Jim Yacone confirmed the traps, stating that bomb squads were working on “how to disarm the flammable or explosive material.” Upon his arrest at the movie theater, Holmes told officers that his home contained explosives, leading police to use a police robot and camera attached to a pole to begin their search of his apartment.
12:14 PM PST: The University of Colorado has released the following photo of alleged gunman James Holmes.
12:32 PM PST: Holmes’ family, who lives in San Diego, CA, have released the following statement through a spokesperson:
“Our hearts go out to those who were involved in this tragedy and to the families and friends of those involved,” they said. “We ask that the media respect our privacy during this difficult time Our family is cooperating with authorities in both San Diego, California, and Aurora, Colorado. We are still trying to process this information and we appreciate that people will respect our privacy.”
Stay with CBR throughout the day for more details as they become known.