Lone gunman kills at least 12, wounds 50 at ‘Batman’ screening in Colorado; Updates

posted at 9:11 am on July 20, 2012 by Mary Katharine Ham

Tragedy in Aurora, CO. There are conflicting reports on the number of dead, but it’s at least 12, and probably rising, with some reporting as many as 15:

A gunman wearing a gas mask set off an unknown gas and fired into a crowded movie theater in suburban Denver theater at a midnight opening of the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises,” killing 14 people and injuring at least 50 others, authorities said.

Moviegoers didn’t know what was happening and some thought the attack was part of the show. Then they saw a silhouette of a person in the smoke at the front of the theater near the screen, pointing a gun at the crowd.

The suspect is in custody and identified as a 24-year-old white man named James Holmes. He was apprehended in the parking lot of the theater:

The suspect, James Holmes, 24, of Aurora, was caught by police in the parking lot of the Century 16 Movie Theaters, nine miles outside Denver, after police began receiving dozens of 911 calls at 12:39 a.m. MT. Police said the man appeared to have acted alone…

A senior official who is monitoring the situation in Washington said that early guidance based on the early snapshot of this man’s background indicated that this act does not appear to be linked to radical terrorism or anything related to Islamic terrorism.

Nothing concrete yet on a motive, but his mother’s response to ABC suggests there were signs before this happened:

She had awoken unaware of the news of the shooting and had not been contacted by authorities. She immediately expressed concern that her son may have been involved.

“You have the right person,” she said. “I need to call the police,” she added. “I need to fly out to Colorado.”

Police also found an explosive device in the theater, but they don’t know if he had placed it there before the massacre or threw it into the crowd. Some of the wounded are children, one 6 years old. Ten of the victims reportedly died at the theater, while four died at area hospitals.

The stories from inside the theater are chilling. James Wilburn saw the suspect enter through an emergency exit door near his row:

Wilburn and three friends dove to the floor, hiding behind the seatbacks in front of them. The gunman was only five or six feet away, the Aurora resident said. Everyone was running while the movie, which had only started a few minutes before, played on.

Once the shotgun was empty, the gunman calmly dropped it to the floor, took the rifle and went on firing. Wilburn heard 30-some shots.

Alex Milano was in the theater next door to the shooting:

“Me and my sister and my friends were wondering what was going on,” Milano said. “Then, at that point, I saw something come through the wall. Multiple objects flew through the wall. I saw holes in the wall.”

People slowly started to get up out of their seats and evacuate, Milano said.

“People stood up and started checking themselves,” Milano said. “A couple of people were walking away, holding areas. I heard moaning like they were in pain. That’s when I started to get worried.”

Colorado’s NBC affiliate gets a report from two eye witnesses, who describe the shooter as calm and methodical:

President Obama released this 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.”

The Romneys:

“Ann and I are deeply saddened by the news of the senseless violence that took the lives of 15 people in Colorado and injured dozens more. We are praying for the families and loved ones of the victims during this time of deep shock and immense grief. We expect that the person responsible for this terrible crime will be quickly brought to justice.”

Updates will be in this post for now.

Update: The president, who heard about the shooting from National Security Adviser John Brennan early this morning, will address the Aurora shooting during his travels in Florida today. His first event is at 11:20 EST.

Update: CBS Denver’s Twitter feed is constantly updating about victims in the hospital, including a 3-month-old.

3 month old released from University Hospital. 9 people still in critical condition #theatershooting

Update: The Paris premiere of “Dark Knight Rises” has already been canceled:

Workers were pulling down the red carpet display in front of a movie theater on the French capital’s famed Champs-Elysees Avenue on Friday afternoon. Some could be seen carrying away a large mask that had adorned the facade of the theater.

Warner Bros. issued this 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.

Update: Politicization has predictably already begun, but I wanted to get a post up about the actual crime and victims first before I dealt with that. Sigh.

Stephanopoulos: I’m going to go to Brian Ross. You’ve been investigating the background of Jim Holmes here. You found something that might be significant.

Ross: There’s a Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colorado, page on the Colorado Tea party site as well, talking about him joining the Tea Party last year. Now, we don’t know if this is the same Jim Holmes. But it’s Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colorado.

Stephanopoulos: Okay, we’ll keep looking at that. Brian Ross, thanks very much.

That is incredibly irresponsible to air on national TV without verifying it’s the same man. With a name as common as James Holmes, I’m sure there are plenty of groups of people that can be smeared before we actually know anything about him. What fun for the media.

Update: Buzzfeed is collecting social media reports from victims and witnesses. Some photos are of a man who says he’s one of the gunshot victims, uploading pics of himself at the hospital, so they’re a tad graphic. Your official content warning.

Update: Obama will cancel his second Florida event today and head back to Washington.

Update: This breaks my heart. Aspiring sportscaster Jessica Ghawi was killed inside the Aurora theater. She had been tweeting her excitement about the premiere right before the shooting. In what seems like a horribly impossible twist of fate, it appears Jessica was also present at the Toronto Eaton Center food court shooting in June, which injured five and killed one. Right before that shooting, Ghawi’s intuition led to a narrow escape from harm. From her own essay on the incident:

I can’t get this odd feeling out of my chest. This empty, almost sickening feeling won’t go away. I noticed this feeling when I was in the Eaton Center in Toronto just seconds before someone opened fire in the food court. An odd feeling which led me to go outside and unknowingly out of harm‘s way. It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around how a weird feeling saved me from being in the middle of a deadly shooting…

I was shown how fragile life was on Saturday. I saw the terror on bystanders’ faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change. I was reminded that we don’t know when or where our time on Earth will end. When or where we will breathe our last breath. For one man, it was in the middle of a busy food court on a Saturday evening.

God bless her and her family and friends. I hope she lived the hell out of life between June and now. Her Twitter bio— “You can find me in the TV studio, NHL arena/ locker room, on a plane, or writing. Southern. Sarcastic. Sass.Class.Crass. Grammar snob”— and this essay suggest she probably did. Praying for all the victims.

Update: Hmm.

Update: More on the suspect: He has Tennessee plates on his car, but was believed to be living locally. According to local police, they were circumspect in searching his apartment, entering the third-floor window the outside because the place was booby-trapped. A spokesperson for The University of Colorado Medical School says Holmes was a student there until last month, but doesn’t know why he withdrew.

Update: ABC admits it was “incorrect,” but doesn’t say, “Hey, sorry Mr. Jim Holmes, who is guilty of nothing but having a particular political belief, for suggesting you’re a mass murderer. Our bad.” The clarification, such that it is, is buried inside this online report. H/t to Dylan Byers for flagging it.

An earlier ABC News broadcast report suggested that a Jim Holmes of a Colorado Tea Party organization might be the suspect, but that report was incorrect. Several other local residents with similar names were also contacted via social media by members of the public who mistook them for the suspect.

Update: The ABC clarification has become an apology.

“An earlier ABC News broadcast report suggested that a Jim Holmes of a Colorado Tea Party organization might be the suspect, but that report was incorrect. ABC News and Brian Ross apologize for the mistake, and for disseminating that information before it was properly vetted.”


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dukecitygirl on July 20, 2012 at 10:49 PM

I am sure after last nights events, they could give a flying flip about peer pressure and public shame. I imagine right about know they are wondering if there is any place safe in the world. You may want to try for some perspective.

Cindy Munford on July 20, 2012 at 10:57 PM

Of course there is no perfect safe place in the world – but common sense tells us that at night it’s safer for children to be at home with mom and dad than out in any public place.

I think I’d rather have common sense than your kind of “perspective”, that simply takes the contradictory position for the sake of argument.

Silly and banal.

dukecitygirl on July 21, 2012 at 12:57 AM

I agree that this was no place to drag one’s children. But that is a small, small argument in the face of all that happened.

FinallyRight on July 21, 2012 at 4:06 AM

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