At least 12 people were killed and at least 50 were injured when a masked gunman reportedly kicked open an exit door and opened fire during a midnight showing of the Dark Knight Rises at a mall in Aurora, Colo. Aurora police chief Dan Oates said that 10 died during the attack, and two more died in area hospitals.
Police and witness reports indicate that a gunman fired into the audience 15 minutes into the midnight showing of the film. Police confirmed that the shooter — who entered theater number 9 dressed all in black and wearing a gas mask and released a canister filled with gas — fired a rifle multiple times into the audience. Speaking on the Today show, one witness described the suspect as wearing a SWAT-like outfit. Several children, including a three-month-old and a six-year-old girl, were among those treated at nearby hospitals, according to reports.
Federal law enforcement officers identified the shooter as 24-year-old James Holmes. He was captured by police in a back parking lot and was taken into custody. Authorities are saying that it appears this suspect acted alone. Police, however, are still scouring the immediate area and other local movie theaters for any possible accomplices. A Colo. bomb squad was also called to check reports that an explosion occurred within the movie theater, and to investigate a suspicious vehicle parked outside of the cinema.
At a Friday morning campaign rally in Fort Myers, Fla., President Obama put aside his planned campaign appearance. “There will be other days for politics,” he told the crowd. “This is a day for prayer and reflection.” The president had released a statement earlier in the morning. “Michelle and I are shocked and saddened by the horrific and tragic shooting in Colorado,” he said. “As we do when confronted by moments of darkness and challenge, we must now come together as one American family.”
At an early morning press conference, Oates said his officers found the gunman with a mask, a rifle and a handgun by a car behind the theater — at least two more weapons, an assault weapon and another handgun, were found inside the man’s vehicle. ”He did not resist. He did not put up a fight,” Frank Fania, a police spokesman told CNN.
The police chief added that the suspect told officers after being taken into custody that there may be explosives in his apartment. Oates told reporters that authorities had evacuated a complex in North Aurora, a three-story brick apartment complex at East 17th Avenue and Peoria Street in Aurora, located about four miles from the movie theater, according to 9News.
Witnesses say that the bullets went through the wall from the theater where the shooting took place and hit several victims in an adjacent Dark Knight midnight showing. “We just heard a pop, pop, pop, pop,” Quentin Caldwell, who was attending the Batman showing in an adjacent theater, told CNN. The shooting happened at about 12:30 a.m. at the Town Center in Aurora at the Century 16 theater on East Alameda Avenue, according to KCNC. Theater 9 has a capacity of around 300 people.
Warner Brothers, the studio which created the Dark Knight film, issued a statement Friday morning: “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.” Warner Brothers, (who like TIME, is owned by Time Warner), also decided to cancel the Friday evening Paris premiere of The Dark Knight Rises, The Hollywood Reporter notes.
U.S. Representative Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), who represents Aurora, also issued a statement Friday morning: “Colorado is not a violent place, but we have some violent people. We are a strong and resilient community, and we will lean on each other in the days, weeks and months to come.”
Children’s Hospital of Denver told Denver 9NEWS that they are caring for six victims, and that their youngest is a six-year-old who was struck by a bullet. Many witness reports have said that they saw a baby which had been hit, and University Hospital confirmed to 9NEWS that their youngest shooting victim is 3 months old. The child’s condition is not known at this time.