In a scene that is becoming all too familiar in our gun-obsessed nation, a gunman stood at the front of a Denver area movie theater during the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises, released a canister of gas, and then opened fire with an automatic weapon, ultimately killing at least 12 people and wounding up to 50.
It was almost as if the man, who possibly was dressed like Bane, the villain in the movie, was acting out a scene from The Dark Knight Rises—in fact, many people thought it was a scene from the movie when they began hearing gunshots.
Aurora, just outside of Denver, is just a few miles from Columbine High School, the scene in 1999 of one of the deadliest shootings in American history. But the infamous Columbine killings, where 13 students and teachers died and 23 were injured, may have been surpassed by this horrific scene in Aurora.
Police initially put the number of dead at 14, but later revised it to 12, though many of the wounded may be in critical condition.
The suspect, 24, who police have identified as John Holmes, was apprehended behind the theater by police near a car inside of which police also found a gas mask, rifle, handgun and at least one additional weapon, indicating the man might have had plans to cause additional mayhem.
“There were bullet (casings) just falling on my head. They were burning my forehead,” Jennifer Seeger said, adding that the gunman, dressed like a SWAT team member, fired steadily, stopping only to reload.
“Every few seconds it was just: Boom, boom, boom,” she said. “He would reload and shoot and anyone who would try to leave would just get killed.”
The suspect was taken into custody near a car behind the theater and was identified by federal law enforcement officials as 24-year-old James Holmes.
Holmes was studying neuroscience in a Ph.D. program at the University of Colorado-Denver, university spokeswoman Jacque Montgomery said. Holmes enrolled a year ago and was in the process of withdrawing at the time of the shootings, Montgomery said.
“Witnesses tell us he released some sort of canister. They heard a hissing sound and some gas emerged and the gunman opened fire,” Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said at a news conference.
Police, ambulances and emergency crews swarmed on the scene after frantic calls started flooding the 911 switchboard, officials said.
The suspect was taken into custody, but no name was released. Oates said there’s no evidence of any other attackers. There was also no immediate word of any motive.
The suspect spoke of “possible explosives in his residence. We are dealing with that potential threat,” Oates said, without providing details on where that was.
He said police also checked for explosives in the parking lot and at the Century 16 theater and secured those areas.
Hayden Miller, who was inside Theater 16, told KUSA-TV that he heard several shots, “like little explosions going on and shortly after that we heard people screaming,” he said.
Hayden said at first he thought it was part of a louder movie next door. But then he saw “people hunched over leaving theater.”
FBI agents and police used a hook and ladder fire truck to reach Holmes’ apartment in Aurora, police Chief Dan Oates said. They put a camera at the end of a 12-foot pole inside the apartment and discovered the unit was booby-trapped. Authorities evacuated five buildings as they tried to figure how to disarm the flammable and explosive material.
Police released a statement from Holmes’ family: “Our hearts go out to those who were involved in this tragedy and to the families and friends of those involved.”
One witness said that the gunman reloaded and turned and shot people who were crowded around the doorway trying to get out. He started in the corner of the screen, then worked his way up the side stairs opening fire on the crowd.
TAt least 24 people were being treated at Denver-area hospitals, some of them for chemical exposure apparently related to canisters thrown by the gunman. Some of those hurt were children, including a 4-month-old baby, who was treated a hospital and released.
Reports indicated that some people didn’t even wait for ambulances, carting injured to the hospitals themselves, where they walked in on their own.
President Obama, who was traveling in Florida, was notified of the shooting at 5:26 a.m.. The White House released the following statement from the president regarding the Batman Shooting:
“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, insuring 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 friends, family and neighbors and we must stand together with them in the challenging hours and days to come.”
Batman Shooting Video