12 Killed, 59 Wounded In Colorado Theater Shooting - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

12 Killed, 59 Wounded In Colorado Theater Shooting

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James Holmes James Holmes

AURORA, Colo. (AP/CBS) - Police said 71 people were shot in a suburban Denver movie theater early Friday during midnight shows of the new Batman movie. Twelve people were killed, ten of them at the theater.

Another 59 adults and children were wounded.

Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said there were four showings of the movie at the time and all were sold out. He did not know how many people that amounts to.

Oates said investigators are confident the gunman acted alone. Police arrested 24-year-old James Holmes, whose apartment four miles away was booby trapped.

A federal law enforcement official said Holmes bought a ticket to the midnight showing of the latest Batman movie and went into the theater as part of the crowd. He is believed to have propped open an exit door in the theater 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.

Oates said Holmes wore body armor, used an assault rifle, a shotgun and a Glock handgun.

He said Holmes' car was parked in back of the theater.

Police said the graduate student was wearing a gas mask when he barged into a crowded theater, hurled a gas canister and then opened fire, in one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent U.S. history.

When the smoke 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 haze near the screen, 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, 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."

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.

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

One federal official told CBS News that at this time Holmes appears to have been "under the radar." CBS News reports Holmes doesn't appear to have a criminal record in Colorado or in San Diego, Calif., where he graduated from high school. Pentagon officials said there is no record of Holmes having served in any branch of the military.

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.

Aurora Police chief Dan Oates said it could take hours or days to safely enter the apartment.

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.

The mall in Aurora, the state's third-largest city, has been the scene of violence before.

In July 2001, two men were shot and wounded inside the mall following an argument. In June 2005, a woman was killed and her boyfriend and a bystander were wounded following an argument inside the mall. Two men were arrested in that case, at least one of whom was sentenced to life in prison.

A law enforcement source told CBS News investigative producer Pat Milton that the attack appears to have been planned well in advance. Holmes parked his vehicle at the rear of the Century 16 theaters at the Aurora Mall and entered the theater through an emergency door in the back. He exited through the same door and was apprehended without incident.

The violent and chaotic scene erupted about 12:30 a.m. local time as the gunman stood at the front of the theater. Witnesses reported that the gunman entered the theater through an emergency exit door and threw a gas canister before opening fire.

The shooting occurred in Theater 9, which has a capacity of around 300 people, according to CBS station KCNC-TV in Denver.

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 theater. Oates said there was no evidence of any other attackers.

Holmes was studying neuroscience in a Ph.D. program at the University of Colorado-Denver graduate school, university spokeswoman Jacque Montgomery said. University officials earlier said he was a student at the university's medical school.

Holmes enrolled in the program in June 2011 and was in the process of withdrawing at the time of the shootings, Montgomery said.

"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.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press/CBS News Interactive. All Rights Reserved.)

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