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12 dead, 58 injured in Batman shooting

July 20, 2012 at 9:57 PM  |  Updated July 21, 2012 at 11:12 AM   |   Comments

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AURORA, Colo., July 20 (UPI) -- The man held in the killing of 12 people and wounding of 58 in Aurora, Colo., legally owned weapons and ammunition he bought in stores and online, police said.

James Eagan Holmes, 24, was being held Friday evening at the Arapaho County Jail, and faced a Monday morning court appearance, Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates told reporters at a news briefing Friday evening. Holmes was arrested early Friday morning outside the movie theater where police say he burst into a midnight showing of the new Batman movie and threw two devices -- apparently gas canisters -- into the theater, waited for them to ignite and then started shooting indiscriminately.

Oates said the suspect -- dressed in black, and wearing body armor, a gas mask and a helmet -- was armed with an AR-15 assault rifle, a 12-gauge Remington shotgun and a .40-caliber Glock handgun.

A second Glock was found in his car, a white Hyundai parked at the back of the theater.

"We are not looking for any other suspects. We are confident he acted alone," Oates said.

The police chief said Holmes purchased four guns at local shops and 6,000 rounds of ammunition over the Internet during the past 60 days. He said Holmes purchased multiple magazines for the assault weapon, including a 100-round drum magazine.

"As far as we now it was a pretty rapid pace of fire in that theater," he said.

Oates refused to speculate on the motive for the shooting or how the suspect got into the theater beyond saying his car was parked at the door.

Authorities evacuated five apartment buildings, including one where Holmes lives, but were unable to conduct a search of the suspect's apartment because it appeared to be heavily booby-trapped.

"I personally have never seen anything like what the pictures show us is in there," Oates said -- describing live wires, trip wires, jars full of ammunition and jars full of an unidentified liquid.

"We have a lot of challenges to get in there safely," Oates said.

Further action on searching the apartment has been postponed until Saturday and federal personnel are to join the operations.

Oates said investigators have set up a tip line -- 720-913-7867 -- for the public to provide information on the incident.

WLS-TV, Chicago, reported Holmes bought a ticket to the movie, then left the theater, propping open the emergency exit. The report said he then changed into his body armor, grabbed his weapons and began the assault once the movie started.

Oates refused to comment on a report a man who received a phone call opened the emergency exit, allowing Holmes to enter the theater.

The American Flag that flies over the White House in Washington, D.C. flies at half-staff in remembrance of those killed in Aurora, Colorado on Friday, July 20, 2012. UPI/Ron Sachs/Pool
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WLS said Holmes told investigators he was "The Joker," one of Batman's nemeses.

The movie, "The Dark Knight Rises" -- one of the most anticipated blockbusters of the 2012 summer movie season -- was opening in four of the theaters at the Century 16 Movie Theaters at the Aurora Town Center and each of the screenings was sold out, Oates said.

Oates said 200 witnesses had been interviewed so far. Police were on the scene within 90 seconds of the first call to 911, received at 12:39 a.m. MDT, he said. Police headquarters is across the street from the complex.

Of the 70 people hit, 10 died at the scene and two at hospitals, 16 were reported in critical condition and one of those hit was in an adjoining theater, Oates said. The shooting took place in theater No. 9 at the movieplex.


Cellphone video of the Colorado theater in what appears to be the aftermath of the shooting.

Oates said Friday evening the last of the bodies had been removed from the theater a little after 5 p.m.

Grief counseling will be provided beginning Saturday at two Aurora high schools. A prayer vigil has been scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sunday at Aurora Municipal Center.

Holmes, who grew up in San Diego, received a speeding ticket last October in Aurora and that was the extent of previous police contact with him, Oates said.

"Neighbors report to us that he lived alone and kept to himself," Oates said.

The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were involved in the investigation.

President Barack Obama ordered flags lowered to half-staff to honor the victims.

Police gingerly surveyed Holmes' apartment after he told authorities he had explosives there. Video showed officers gently placing equipment on the apartment windows and taking precautions in approaching it.

Jim Yacone, special agent in charge of the Denver FBI, said agents were working on "how to disarm the flammable or explosive material," The Denver Post reported.


A neighbor of Holmes' said she and other residents were awakened by police and told to dress and evacuate immediately, The Washington Post reported.

Holmes was a doctoral candidate in neurosciences at the University of Colorado at Denver but was in the process of withdrawing from the program, the university said.

The Pentagon issued a statement saying one sailor was injured in the incident and a second known to be at the theater had yet to be accounted for. Two airmen at the theater was uninjured.

Aurora, part of the Denver metropolitan area, is about 17 miles from Littleton, Colo., scene of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in which two students shot and killed 12 students and one teacher, and wounded 21 other people before committing suicide.

Police initially said 14 were killed and 50 were injured in Friday's massacre but later revised the death toll to 12 and the number injured first to 38 and then to 59. The number of wounded was revised to 58 after police said one had been double counted.

"He looked so calm when he did it," a witness told KUSA-TV, Denver. "It was like scary. He waited for both the bombs to explode before he did anything. Then, after both of them exploded, he began to shoot."

Witnesses said the suspect first fired into the air, then started shooting at people.

"He had no specific target. He just started letting loose," another witness told KUSA.

"When you first see him, you don't know if he's a part of the movie, or a part of the act," Auston Ivey told KUSA. "When [the gas canister] hit the ground, it just started spinning. Being that it went off right next to us, it was hard to breathe. The first thing we immediately did was duck. All we could think about was getting to the door as fast as I could. There was people limping, saying 'I've been shot, I've been shot.'"

Obama and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney both expressed sorrow and offered condolences. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano also expressed sorrow, calling the incident "horrific."

"This is the act of a very deranged mind," Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said, calling the shooting "a senseless tragedy."

At the Friday evening news briefing, Hickenlooper said "the challenge for all of us as a community is we have to recognize that we have to move past that."

"We are clear that we are going to rise back and lift ourselves above this," he said.

"We're not going to just let it happen to us. we're going to push back.'

Hickenlooper praised first responders and hospital personnel for their work in quickly helping the wounded.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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