Massacre at Colorado theatre

Police: 12 dead in ‘Batman’ movie shooting

Update 4.15pm:  The suspect in a shooting that killed or wounded 71 people early Friday in a suburban Denver movie theater was not talking to investigators Friday afternoon, a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation told The Associated Press.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity in discussing the ongoing case. The person also said police found jars of chemicals in James Holmes’ booby trapped Aurora apartment with wires nearby.

Those who knew the 24-year-old describe him as a shy, intelligent person raised in California by parents who were active in their well-to-do suburban neighborhood.

Holmes, who was studying neuroscience in a Ph.D. program in Colorado, grew up in San Diego, where his parents still live on a quiet, street of two-story homes with red tile roofs. He played soccer at Westview High School and ran cross country before going to college.

Neighbors say the family belonged to a Presbyterian church and hosted a Christmas party for residents. Many families choose the San Diego neighborhood because it is part of the well-regarded Poway Unified School District, one of the best in California.

On Friday morning, police escorted the suspect’s father, a manager of a software company, from their San Diego home. The mother, a nurse, stayed inside, receiving family visitors who came to offer support. The suspect also has a younger sister.

San Diego police spokeswoman Lt. Andra Brown, spoke to reporters in the driveway of the Holmes’ home, on behalf of the family.

“As you can understand, the Holmes family is very upset about all of this,” she said. “It’s a tragic event and it’s taken everyone by surprise. They are definitely trying to work through this.”

Update 1.30pm: A U.S. official said the suspect in Friday’s shootings inside a Colorado movie theatre bought a ticket to the midnight showing of the latest Batman movie and went into the theatre as part of the crowd.

A federal law enforcement official said suspect James Holmes is believed to have propped open an exit door in the theatre as the movie was playing, donned protective ballistic gear and opened fire. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.

Police in Aurora, Colo., said Holmes fired at least 71 shots and killed at least 12 people. Police said he had an AR-15 assault rifle, a shotgun, and two .40-caliber Glock handguns. Holmes is also believed to have hurled a gas canister into the theater before opening fire.

Update 10.30am: A gunman in a gas mask barged into a crowded Denver-area theatre during a midnight showing of the Batman movie on Friday, hurled a gas canister and then opened fire, killing 12 people and injuring at least 50 others in one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent U.S. history.

When the gas began to spread, some moviegoers thought it was a stunt that was part of the “The Dark Knight Rises,” one of the most highly anticipated films of the summer. They saw a silhouette of a person in the smoke near the screen, first pointing a gun at the crowd and then shooting.

“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 except when he stopped 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 and identified by federal law enforcement officials as 24-year-old James Holmes. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

Authorities did not release a motive. The FBI said there was no indication that the shooting is tied to any terrorist groups.

Holmes had an assault rifle, a shotgun and two pistols, a federal law enforcement official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.

FBI agents and police used a hook and ladder fire truck to reach Holmes’ apartment in suburban Denver, Aurora police Chief Dan Oates said. They put a camera at the end of 12-foot pole inside the apartment, and discovered that the unit was booby trapped.

Authorities evacuated five buildings as they determine how to disarm flammable and explosive material.

Victims were being treated for chemical exposure apparently related to canisters thrown by the gunman. Some of those injured are children, including a 4-month-old baby who was released from the hospital.

Aurora police spokesman Frank Fania on ABC’s “Good Morning America” said he didn’t know yet if all the injuries were gunshot wounds. He said some might have been caused by other things such as shrapnel.

The movie opened across the world Friday with midnight showings in the U.S. Guards were at a screening at a movie theatre in

New York’s Times Square. The shooting prompted officials to cancel the Paris premiere, with workers pulling down the red carpet
display at a theater on the famed Champs-Elysees Avenue.

President Barack Obama said he was saddened by the “horrific and tragic shooting,” pledging that his administration was
“committed to bringing whoever was responsible to justice, ensuring the safety of our people, and caring for those who have been wounded.”

It was the worst mass shooting in Colorado since the Columbine High School massacre on April 20, 1999. Students Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, opened fire at the school in the Denver suburb of Littleton, about 15 miles west of Aurora, killing 12 classmates and a teacher and wounding 26 others before killing themselves.

Friday’s attack began shortly after midnight at the multiplex theatre at a mall in Aurora, the state’s third-largest city.

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

It was the final installment of the “Dark Knight” trilogy directed by Christopher Nolan, starring Christian Bale as Batman. The series has a darker tone than previous Batman incarnations. It is the follow-up to “The Dark Knight,” which won Heath Ledger a posthumous Oscar for his searing portrayal of The Joker.

The gunman released a gas that smelled like pepper spray from a green canister with a tag on it, Seeger said.

“I thought it was showmanship. I didn’t think it was real,” she said.

Seeger said she was in the second row, about four feet from the gunman, when he pointed a gun at her face. At first, “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.

She said she began crawling toward an exit when she saw a girl about 14 years old “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.”

Witness Shayla Roeder said she saw a young teenage girl on the ground bleeding outside the theater. “She just had this horrible look in her eyes …. We made eye contact and I could tell she was not all right,” Roeder said.

Police, ambulances and emergency crews swarmed on the scene after frantic calls started flooding the 911 switchboard, officials said. Officers came running in and telling people to leave the theater, Salina Jordan told the Denver Post. She said some police were carrying and dragging bodies.

Hayden Miller told KUSA-TV that he heard several shots. “Like little explosions going on and shortly after that we heard people screaming,” he told the station. Hayden said at first he thought it was part of a louder movie next door. But then he saw “people hunched over leaving theater.”

Officers later found the gunman near a car behind the theatre.

Police found a gas mask, rifle, handgun and at least one additional weapon inside, Oates said, adding that there was no evidence of any other attackers. The suspect spoke of “possible explosives in his residence. We are dealing with that potential threat,” Oates said.

A large truck lettered “bomb squad” arrived near an Aurora apartment complex where the suspect is believed to have lived, about four miles from the theater. Dozens of police squad cars, vans and other vehicles were already at the scene, along with black-clad officers carrying automatic weapons.

Police evacuated residents of the building. Oates did not say whether any explosives had been found. He said police also checked for explosives in the parking lot and at the Century 16 theater and secured those areas.

At least 24 people were being treated at Denver area hospitals.

“Warner Bros. and the filmmakers are 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,” the studio said.
 

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