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12 killed, 59 wounded in shooting at Colorado movie theater

By P. Solomon Banda & Thomas Peipert

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 10:51 a.m. HST, Jul 20, 2012

AURORA, Colo. >> A gunman wearing a gas mask and black SWAT gear hurled a gas canister inside a crowded movie theater during a midnight showing of the new Batman movie and then opened fire, killing 12 people and wounding nearly 60 others in an attack so bizarre that some moviegoers at first thought they were watching Hollywood special effects.

As smoke from the canister spread, audience members watching "The Dark Knight Rises" at the suburban Denver theater saw the silhouette of a person materialize near the screen, point a gun at the crowd and begin shooting, apparently without a word.

New York City's police commissioner said he was told the gunman had painted his hair red and called himself the Joker — Batman's nemesis — but Aurora police would not confirm that.

It was one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent U.S. history.

The suspected gunman, identified as James Holmes, a 24-year-old doctoral student in neuroscience who was about to drop out of the University of Colorado-Denver, was arrested near a car behind the theater.

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

"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."

Police said 71 people in all were shot.

Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said the gunman wore a gas mask, a ballistic helmet and vest, and leg, groin and throat protectors. He said he had an AR-15 military-style, semi-automatic rifle, a shotgun and two pistols.

While some witnesses said the gunman entered through a side-door emergency exit at the front of the theater, a federal law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Holmes bought a ticket and went into the theater as part of the crowd. The official said Holmes then apparently propped open an exit door in the theater as the movie was playing, donned the protective ballistic gear and opened fire.

FBI agents and police used a hook-and-ladder fire truck to reach Holmes' apartment in Aurora. 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.

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."

Oates would not confirm that information, but confirmed he had spoken to Kelly. The two used to work together in New York.

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.

Holmes enrolled in a Ph.D. program in neuroscience a year ago but was in the process of withdrawing at the time of the shooting, said University of Colorado-Denver spokeswoman Jacque Montgomery said.

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."

The movie opened across the world Friday with midnight showings in the U.S. The shooting prompted officials to cancel the red-carpet premiere in Paris, with workers pulling down the display at a theater on the Champs-Elysees.

Around the U.S., police and some movie theaters stepped up security for daytime showings of the movie, though many fans waiting in line said they were not worried about their safety.

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 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.

In Colorado, it was the deadliest since the Columbine High School massacre on April 20, 1999, when two students opened fire in the Denver suburb of Littleton, killing 12 classmates and a teacher and wounding 26 others before killing themselves. Columbine High is about 12 miles from the theater.

Friday's attack began shortly after midnight at the multiplex theater, and 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, the villain Bane leads an attack on the stock exchange and, in another, leads a shooting and bombing rampage on a packed football stadium.

The gunman released a gas that smelled like pepper spray from a green canister, 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 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."

Shayla Roeder said she saw a 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.

Sylvana Guillen, 20, said that when a man appeared at the front of the theater clad in dark clothing looking like a SWAT team member as Catwoman made an appearance in the movie, the audience "thought it was a joke, a hoax." Then they heard gunshots and smelled smoke from a canister he was carrying, and Guillen knew it was real.

The gunman began walking toward the seats and firing. Guillen said she told her friend, Misha Mostashiry, "You better get ready to be shot."

"All you could do is hope he didn't come for you," Mostashiry said.

The two ran for the emergency exit and safely escaped. On their dash to the exit, they saw a man slip in the blood of a wounded woman he was trying to help.

Police, ambulances and emergency crews swarmed on the scene after frantic calls started flooding the 911 switchboard. 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.


Associated Press writers Kristen Wyatt, Steven K. Paulson, Ivan Moreno and Mead Gruver in Aurora, Dan Elliott and Colleen Slevin in Denver and Alicia A. Caldwell and Eileen Sullivan in Washington contributed to this report.

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what wrote:
Colorado again?
on July 20,2012 | 01:16AM
Anonymous wrote:
just another reason to get rid of certain types of firearms, so that idiots like this can't do such attacks on our own people!
on July 20,2012 | 01:21AM
Taisho808 wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on July 20,2012 | 03:04AM
saveparadise wrote:
It worries me more that you prefer to further your political gun issue rather than have a care about those killed and injured.
on July 20,2012 | 08:35AM
pakeheat wrote:
Taisho808 is crazy like the gunman to make that kind of statment
on July 20,2012 | 12:20PM
thevisitor967 wrote:
This may not be the right time for what Taisho808 said, but I agree with the post. The U.S. needs MORE gun control. And if the stupid Republicans weren't against it, then this unfortunate mass murder scene might not have happened.
on July 20,2012 | 01:44PM
edster48 wrote:
Maybe we should just get rid of the idiots.
on July 20,2012 | 07:08AM
ejkorvette wrote:
Choke Prayers go out for the Lives Lost in this Senseless Act of EVIL!! Prayers also to the families of those killed in this Horrible Act.
on July 20,2012 | 01:31AM
kailuabred wrote:
Some god you pray to.
on July 20,2012 | 03:24AM
808chubs wrote:
A man did this, not God. I believe in One God, Our Heavenly Father, he is a loving God, Father God did not do this, man did.
on July 20,2012 | 04:34AM
IAmSane wrote:
Wow. Relax.
on July 20,2012 | 07:01AM
pakeheat wrote:
He is relaxed, not you, LOL.
on July 20,2012 | 12:21PM
thevisitor967 wrote:
Maybe if more people believed in God or at least taught morals and values or religion in the public schools then the U.S. wouldn't produce such violent people.
on July 20,2012 | 01:48PM
pakeheat wrote:
Remember the separation of church and state? You can thank the ACLU for that, right?
on July 20,2012 | 05:05PM
Cubsfan wrote:
Colorado again. Sad, sad day.
on July 20,2012 | 08:27AM
patk wrote:
People have too many rights. We need to identify these whackos early on and put them to sleep. Also, no civil rights for violent individuals. Too much money wasted in courts on these pieces of garbage.
on July 20,2012 | 02:03AM
palizzz wrote:
Unbelievable and eerie. Second time for Colorado (Columbine..now this). Da hell is wrong the gun toting teens/psychos over there? I really hope justice is served very quickly and very efficiently and no pleas of insanity etc. Capitol punishment for the gunman.
on July 20,2012 | 03:56AM
Cubsfan wrote:
Actually the kid wasfrom San Diego California. He was a former med student at CU.
on July 20,2012 | 08:28AM
808chubs wrote:
I pray for comfort and peace, in this time of need, for all those affected by this horrific and senseless act.
on July 20,2012 | 04:36AM
Vitz wrote:
Condolence to families whom lost loved ones.
on July 20,2012 | 04:53AM
Tanabe wrote:
Horrible. I hope people don't over react though. I heard an analyst asking if they need to put metal detectors at movie theaters now. Not like this would even have even stopped this tragedy. The guy entered through an emergency exit for hecks sake.
on July 20,2012 | 05:24AM
thevisitor967 wrote:
Instead of installing metal detectors in movie theaters we need more gun control.
on July 20,2012 | 01:50PM
Manapua_Man wrote:
on July 20,2012 | 06:02AM
sweetness613 wrote:
Very interesting
on July 20,2012 | 06:43AM
RichardCory wrote:
Come on, Star Advertiser. You don't leave comments open on a story like this. People are just going to exploit this tragedy as a springboard for their political and religious views. Just close this down.
on July 20,2012 | 06:44AM
bobbob wrote:
on July 20,2012 | 08:11AM
Cubsfan wrote:
I disagree. There should be a place for comments to give your condolence and respects for the victims.
on July 20,2012 | 08:40AM
pakeheat wrote:
You are suppressing the freedom of speech, maybe you should live in IRAN OR AFGHANISTAN?
on July 20,2012 | 12:24PM
96706 wrote:
Did you see this bad guy's picture on the other news sites? He looks like Satan.
on July 20,2012 | 08:37AM
residenttaxpayer wrote:
Condolences to families and friends who lost loved ones or who were injured in this terrible tragedy.
on July 20,2012 | 08:42AM
saveparadise wrote:
This is happening in China too with the perpetrator cutting the throats of school children. What is happening to the civilized world? The weapon of choice does not matter as it only changes the victims of choice and the method. My condolences to those involved, these murders should not be publicized and sensationalized by the media.
on July 20,2012 | 08:44AM
Kuokoa wrote:
The battle of evil vs good became real and evil is winning. Turn from your evil ways!
on July 20,2012 | 09:25AM
PTF wrote:
A lot of nutjobs out there these days.
on July 20,2012 | 09:41AM
thevisitor967 wrote:
Don't you have that backwards? it's the nut jobs like this murderer who obviously believes in Satan than God. Kuokoa does not seem like a nut job to me if s/he wants people to turn from their evil ways.
on July 20,2012 | 01:55PM
bobbob wrote:
At least TSA didn't list this story under "Entertainment" as yahoo news did. http://gma.yahoo.com/colorado-batman-movie-shooting-suspect-phd-student-085940589--abc-news-topstories.html
on July 20,2012 | 09:58AM
TomM wrote:
Any comments from the NRA (National Rifle Association)?
on July 20,2012 | 10:11AM
CriticalReader wrote:
Yeah. . . Guns don't kill people. . . . .
on July 20,2012 | 10:44AM
kainalu wrote:
Have gun - will shoot. It's as American as apple pie.
on July 20,2012 | 10:48AM
JBIV wrote:
We have created a society in which extreme violence, vulgarity, depravity and social dysfunction pass for entertainment. I refuse to watch movies like this. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this despicable act of cowardice. May they find healing.
on July 20,2012 | 10:28AM
pakeheat wrote:
Why do you say it's "We"? Are you blaming everyone for this tragedy? There are lots of people with good morals too?
on July 20,2012 | 12:36PM
engineersoldier wrote:
It's much more difficult to kill a mass of people with a knife, sword or weapon other than these gun weapons, such as assault rifles, that have no place in a civilized world outside of the military. As a combat veteran, I deplore what NRA has done to our country.
on July 20,2012 | 10:40AM
saveparadise wrote:
The murders are unfortunate. Stop using the NRA as a scapegoat. Alchohol has been involved in more deaths than all wars put together. Do you blame the beer makers? There is an automobile death every 13 minutes so do you blame Ford, Chevy, or Toyota?? Look in the mirror. Humans kill humans whether by accident or intention. We are the problem.
on July 20,2012 | 11:22AM
hapaguy wrote:
When is the last time you heard of someone committing mass murder with beer?
on July 20,2012 | 12:07PM
thevisitor967 wrote:
LOL. Good one.
on July 20,2012 | 01:57PM
control wrote:
right...the purpose of guns is to kill, not entertainment or transportation. Those involve death by stupidity, usually someone else's stupidity killing the innocent.
on July 20,2012 | 03:04PM
sweetness613 wrote:
Very interesting
on July 20,2012 | 11:39AM
Pacej001 wrote:
Well, ABC news reflexively tied the shooting to a tea party person of the same name as the actual shooter. Since there are 25 people with that name in the area you have to conclude that ABC set out to smear the Tea Party group, regardless of the facts. (ABC did offer a retraction later, but the message was delivered. Meanwhile, why isn't the sensless Hollywood movie violence being given some of the blame. Maybe excessively graphic violent movies should be banned.
on July 20,2012 | 12:36PM
iwanaknow wrote:
What's a 4-month old baby doing at a Batman movie?
on July 20,2012 | 02:33PM
IEBuzzin wrote:
They say guns don't kill people, people kill people.....how many people would have died if he used a knife? His assault rifle had extended ammo clips, all legal for what,a truly sad day for citizens who believe in gun control and the victims and their families.
on July 20,2012 | 03:28PM
Dragonman wrote:
My condolences to the families that lost loved ones is Aurora. My question is simple, how was he able to assemble his arsenal of weaons and munitions in just six months and still stay under the radar of law enforcement and anit terrorist officials.
on July 20,2012 | 06:35PM
bigbud808 wrote:
In my humble opinion...Death penalty as soon as possible. lt seems this guy wants to be noticed so he can sell the story.... Send a message to others if you take a life w/ a firearm on innocent persons or people. You will face the death penalty. All you bleeding hearts who think he should be forgiven maybe he should live w/you....Death penalty shoud take no longer than 1 month. The heck w/feeding and clothing while they figure how to sell their story of brutalism, for the dollar and fame.
on July 20,2012 | 08:01PM
aomohoa wrote:
This is such a tragedy and feel so bad for these victims and there families. I also don't understand why small children and babies are out at that hour, but let's all respect the families of this horror.
on July 20,2012 | 09:23PM
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