AURORA, Colo. – A gunman opened fire early Friday at a suburban movie theatre near Denver, Colo., killing 12 people and leaving at least 58 others injured, police have confirmed. The theatre was showing the latest Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Seventy people were shot, including those who died, according to police. They originally said seventy-one people were shot however they revised that after finding that one person had been counted twice.
Police said the gunman wore a gun mask, set off an unknown gas and fired into the crowd at one of the Century 16 multiplex theatre at the Aurora Mall in Aurora, Colo., at around 12:30 a.m. local time.
Law enforcement sources have identified the gunman as 24-year-old James Holmes. He is now in police custody.
Holmes is a PHD candidate at the University of Colorado with a focus in neuroscience. He was in the process of withdrawing from the school.
Police said over the last 60 days, Homes purchased over 6,000 rounds of ammunition over the internet and had purchased four guns from a local store. Aurora police Chief Dan Oates said all of the ammunition and firearms were purchased legally.
It’s been deemed the worst mass shooting in the U.S. since the 2007 shooting on the Virginia Tech campus
“Witnesses tell us he released some sort of canister. They heard a hissing sound and some gas emerged and the gunman opened fire,” Chief Oates said at a news conference.
Witnesses also said they saw silhouette of a person in the smoke at the front of the theatre near the screen, pointing a gun at the crowd.
Police believe Holmes acted alone and said he came to the theatre prepared.
“The suspect was dressed all in black. He was wearing a ballistic helmet, a tactical ballistic vest, ballistic leggings, a throat protector and a groin protector and a gas mask and black tactical gloves.”
FBI spokesman Jason Pack said there’s no indication in the investigation so far of any connection to terrorism.
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.
Warner Bros., the studio behind the Batman franchise, has issued a statement on the shooting. It read: “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.”
On Friday, 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 family said they are still trying to process this information and they ask for privacy during this difficult time.
Authorities say they are cooperating with police in both San Diego and Aurora.
The movie premiere in Paris has been cancelled because of the shooting. Also, movie chains in Britain and Germany plan to increase security at multiplexes as movie is set to open internationally.
Cineplex has released a statement, saying they believe it to be an isolated incident, and are confident in the safety of their clients, they will have security measures in place for upcoming shows.
In addition, Cineplex stated it will donate a portion of the proceeds from tonight’s box office to the red cross for its violence and abuse prevention program.
One of those killed in mass murder was on the scene at the Toronto Eaton Centre shooting in June.
A television station in San Antonio, Tex., quoted the parents of Jessica Ghawi as saying their daughter was killed in the U.S. shooting. KSAT-12 reported the woman recently moved to Denver from Texas.
On a recent blog, Ghawi (also known as Jessica Redfield, an aspiring sports reporter), described being a bystander at the Eaton Centre shooting.
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 theatre, Salina Jordan told the Denver Post. She said some police were carrying and dragging bodies.
Officers later found the gunman near a car behind the theatre. Police say they recovered an assault rifle, a 12-gage shotgun and a 40 caliber glock handgun which they say were all used in the shooting. Another 40 caliber glock handgun was also found in the car.
Police would not comment on the possible motive behind the shooting.
“If we have information about a motive we would not share it with you. We’d let that play out in the course of the criminal prosecution,” said Chief Oats.
The suspect spoke of “possible explosives in his residence. We are dealing with that potential threat,” Oates said.
Police were at the Denver-area apartment and had evacuated other 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 theatre and secured those areas.
Moviegoers spoke of their terror as violence erupted and people around them fell victim.
Bejamin Fernandez, 30, told the Post that he heard a series of explosions. He said that people ran from the theatre and there were gunshots as police shouted “get down!” Fernandez said he saw people falling, including one young girl.
Jordan told the paper that one girl was struck in cheek, others in stomach including a girl who looked to be around nine-years-old. He said it sounded like firecrackers until someone ran into Theater 8 yelling “they’re shooting out here!”
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 theatre.”
The police chief said 10 victims died at the theatre and four at area hospitals. At least 24 people were being treated at Denver area hospitals.
The youngest victim is a three-month-old baby, who is being treated in hospital. A six-year-old was taken to Children’s Hospital Colorado, where a total of six victims were taken. Their condition wasn’t known.
Eleven people were being treated at the Medical Center of Aurora for gunshots and ranged from minor to critical condition. Two others walked in to be treated for tear gas contamination.
Denver Health had seven victims — one in critical and the rest in fair condition.
Two people in critical condition were rushed to nearby Swedish Medical Center, spokeswoman Nicole Williams said.
Aurora is on Denver’s east side and is Colorado’s third-largest city with 327,000 residents. It is home to a large Defence Department satellite intelligence operation at Buckley Air Force Base, as well as The Children’s Hospital, the University of Colorado Hospital and a future Veterans Affairs hospital.