Police in the U.S. state of Colorado say 12 people were shot to death and at least 38 wounded in a shooting at a movie theater in a suburb of Denver.
Authorities say the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises, the latest Batman movie, had just begun Friday at the Century 16 theater in the city of Aurora, when a masked man at the front of the theater faced the packed crowd, threw a tear gas canister and started randomly shooting. Witnesses said he fatally shot an infant at point-blank range.
Police arrested the alleged shooter a short time later in the parking lot outside the theater. They said the suspect, a man in his early 20’s, had a rifle and one handgun. Aurora Chief of Police Daniel Oates told a news conference that only one man was involved, contrary to initial reports that there may have been an accomplice.
Law enforcement officials identified the suspect as James Holmes, a 24-year-old American. They said there was no indication the shooting was tied to any terrorist group.
The police chief said the suspect told investigators he had multiple explosives at his residence in an apartment building. Hours after the shooting, U.S. television networks showed police perched on ladder truck cranes trying to gain entry to his residence.
“The suspect who’s in custody, made statements about possible explosives in possession of his residence. At this time, there is a residence in North Aurora — its an apartment apartment building — that we have evacuated and we are dealing with as potentially there are explosives inside there. We’re also concerned about explosives in the parking lot, hence the parking lot is completely sealed off. We have all the area bomb squad teams.”
One theater patron, Jaime Marshall, described a chaotic scene in the moments after the shooting, and said she saw a girl with a bullet wound in her leg.
“So we went up those stairs and we looked to the wall, to the side of the theatre where we heard the sounds from and there were bullet holes and so that’s when we started screaming for all our friends just to get out,” Marshall said. “We went up the stairs and we were looking over the lobby and police were out there. There was one officer in a gas mask holding a huge rifle and they were just waving people, trying to get people through the lobby as fast as possible so we ran down the stairs, we ran out of the theatre. We walked out, I saw a girl with a bullet in her leg.”
In a statement issued by the White House, U.S. President Barack Obama said he and his wife Michelle are “shocked and saddened” by the “horrific and tragic” shooting. According to the White House, the president was informed of the shooting by National Security Adviser John Brennan. FBI agents are on the scene of the shooting to assist in the investigation.
“We are committed to bringing whoever was responsible to justice,” and to care for the wounded, the president said.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney also commented on the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado.
“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,” Romney said in a statement posted on his web site. “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.”