Witnesses describe scene of bloody chaos at ‘Dark Knight’ rampage
UPDATE: In a 7:00 PM MDT press briefing, Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates announced that five apartment buildings have been evacuated as they try to figure out how to get into the suspect’s booby-trapped apartment. He also cautioned people not to believe everything they read on the internet. (Earlier updates follow below.)
A witness who was in the audience at the Aurora, Colorado movie theater where a gunman opened fire during a showing of “The Dark Knight” late Thursday night described a bloody scene of chaos and horror to a reporter from Colorado’s KUSA Channel 9. Alex Milano was enjoying the movie with his sister and a group of friends when gunfire erupted in the theater.
“We were watching a scene in the movie,” said Milano, “It was a shoot-out scene, there were guns firing, then a lot of loud bangs came from the right of the theater. Smoke took over the entire theater. It was really thick. No one could really see anything.”
The gunman reportedly set off a smoke grenade in the theater before beginning to fire into the crowd. Middle Georgia’s WMAZ Channel 13 reports that at least 14 people are dead, 50 wounded, some in critical condition.
Aurora Chief of Police Dan Oates said that an individual has been taken into custody after being found near a car behind the theater. “A gas mask, rifle, handgun at least one additional weapon (were) found inside,” he said.
The name of the attacker has not been released. Currently, police are not looking for other suspects and have not speculated about a motive. The shooter appears to have fired randomly into the crowd, hitting children as well as adults, the youngest victim being a six-year-old child who is being treated at a nearby children’s hospital.
UPDATE: The Denver Post has identified the suspect as James Holmes, born December 13, 1987. Also, officials have lowered the official death toll to 12.
UPDATE (9:47 a.m.): President Barack Obama has released a statement regarding the shooting:
“Michelle and I are shocked and saddened by the horrific and tragic shooting in Colorado. Federal and local law enforcement are still responding, and my Administration will do everything that we can to support the people of Aurora in this extraordinarily difficult time. We are committed to bringing whoever was responsible to justice, ensuring the safety of our people, and caring for those who have been wounded. As we do when confronted by moments of darkness and challenge, we must now come together as one American family. All of us must have the people of Aurora in our thoughts and prayers as they confront the loss of family, friends, and neighbors, and we must stand together with them in the challenging hours and days to come.”
UPDATE (9:55 a.m.): ABC News is reporting that the suspect’s mother has confirmed his identity. The San Diego woman was unaware of the shooting when she was awakened by a phone call from ABC. She immediately expressed concern that her son may be the attacker.
“You have the right person,” she said, apparently speaking on gut instinct. “I need to call the police… I need to fly out to Colorado.”
UPDATE (10:01 a.m.): The Denver Post has put up a map that details the location of the theater, James Holmes’s apartment as well as the locations of local hospitals.
UPDATE (10:20 a.m.): Police cordoned off three block area around James Holmes’s apartment and are searching the residence. Reportedly, Holmes made a statement to police alluding to explosives in his home, according to the Denver Post.
At approximately 2:00 a.m. residents were evacuated from the east Aurora apartment building where Holmes lived while police searched the third floor. Neighborhood residents say they saw a small police robot enter the building, after which there came a small explosion. Shortly thereafter, police came and ordered them to evacuate.
Police, fire officials and agents of the FBI were seen using a hook and ladder truck this morning to gain entry to the apartment via a window.
UPDATE (10:42 a.m.): Denver Post reporter Michael Booth tweeted at 10:07 a.m.: Med Ctr. Aurora 15 patients 12 shot 7 admitted 4 in surgery 2 being prepped among 15, ages 17 to 31 #theatershooting
Earlier, he wrote: youngest patient at UHosp is 3 months yes months 20 victims there 9 critical, all gunshot wounds #theatershooting
UPDATE (10:50 a.m.): President Barack Obama spoke in Ft. Meyers, Florida, at what was intended to be a political rally. He told the crowd that today is not a day for campaigning.
“There will be other days for politics. This is a day for prayer and reflection,” he said, and then asked the crowd to observe a moment of silence to honor the victims of the tragedy.
UPDATE (11:00 a.m.): Denver’s Fox 31 reporter Jon Bowman has reported that officials found that Holmes had rigged his apartment to stop or kill investigators. “The bomb squad and FBI agents, when they looked inside, they did see that the apartment was booby-trapped from the inside,” he said. “They are not sure what kinds of devices are inside the apartment, they just know if they open the door, there is some device set to explode.”
Officers found several marksman’s targets in a dumpster nearby, which are also believed to belong to the alleged shooter.
UPDATE (11:11 a.m.): In a press conference, Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said of the booby-trapped apartment, “We are trying to determine how to disarm the flammable or explosive material that’s in there. We could be here for hours, or we could be here for days. It looks pretty sophisticated in terms of how it’s been booby-trapped.”
UPDATE (11:20 a.m.): Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has released a statement:
“This is not only an act of extreme violence, it is also an act of depravity. It is beyond the power of words to fully express our sorrow this morning. Our prayers and condolences go first to the families of those killed, and we share the grief of everyone affected by this senseless event. We appreciate the swift work by local, state and federal law enforcement. Coloradans have a remarkable ability to support one another in times of crisis. This one of those times.”
UPDATE (10:22 a.m.): Actor Morgan Freeman, who appears in “Dark Knight Rises,” has released a statement via Twitter:
“Deeply saddened to hear about the #theatershooting at the screen of The Dark Knight Rises. My prayers go out to the families and friends.”
UPDATE (11:31 a.m.): Denver’s ABC affiliate station, Channel 7 is reporting that Holmes was enrolled at the Denver campus of Colorado University as a graduate student in neuroscience, but dropped out a month ago.
At a press conference in front of the San Diego, California home of Arlene Holmes, mother of shooting suspect James Holmes, San Diego Police Lieutenant Andrea Brown addressed reporters and asked that they respect the family’s privacy. KPBS reported that around daybreak, police personnel arrived at the Holmes residence. A man believed to be James Holmes’s father was “whisked away” in an unmarked car shortly before 7:30 a.m. local time.
UPDATE (1:16 p.m.): The death toll from the shooting has been revised upwards to 13.
UPDATE (2:45 p.m.): In an afternoon press conference alongside representatives from the FBI and the office of the District Attorney, Aurora Chief of Police Dan Oates reported that 71 people were shot in the theater rather than the 50 that were earlier reported. 12 are deceased. Two died in local hospitals while ten bodies remain at the scene. Many patients remain in critical condition.
Pranks and rumors have abounded throughout social media in the wake of the event, including false reports that the suspect, James Eagen Holmes, was dressed as Batman villain The Joker.
“Please, as responsible journalists,” Oates urged, “Be very careful” about rumors and other unsubstantiated reports.
With more than 200 officers on the scene, Aurora police have interviewed more than 200 witnesses, although the process is ongoing. All four screenings of “The Dark Knight Rises” were full to capacity Thursday night.
Jim Yacone of the FBI reported that there 100 agents on the scene with 25 agents of the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. While the FBI does not believe that there is a link to terrorism, “We are trying to run leads that extend beyond Colorado at this point.”
Oates went on to say that police are still trying to enter Holmes’s apartment, which is “booby-trapped with various chemical and incendiary devices.” A police robot is currently on the scene.
Officials declined to speculate on a motive for the crime.
UPDATE (3:45 p.m.): CBS News reports that all four weapons Holmes had in his possession were purchased legally. Police sources have said that Holmes also legally purchased his ticket to “The Dark Knight Rises” and now suspect that he left the theater to retrieve his weapons and possibly his full-body tactical armor. Local news reports that the remaining bodies in the theaters will be removed shortly.
THIS STORY WAS UPDATED ABOVE AS MORE INFORMATION BECAME AVAILABLE. VIDEOS OF WITNESSES BEGIN BELOW.
Watch video about this story, embedded via KUSA, below:
UPDATE: Witnesses speak to local and national media, sharing first-hand accounts of what happened.
“It was mass chaos,” witness Jennifer Seeger told TODAY. “He was five feet away from me.”
“Everyone’s going for the door and then everyone starts saying, ‘no, he’s going to shoot people going for the door, and he did,” she recalled. “They’re trying to escape, and he shot those people as well.”
“Someone kicked in the emergency exit and started throwing gas grenades and started shooting people at random.”
Police announce the shooting in hurried press conference.
Witness Salina Jordan: “I just saw blood everywhere. On another person, a little girl, she had [a bullet hole], it looked like it was going through her stomach, and then the blood coming down her legs.”
UPDATE (10:36 a.m.): Witness Jennifer Seger was in the same row of theater seats as the shooter. She described the harrowing experience to Denver’s Fox 31 TV:
UPDATE (11:50 a.m.): Witness Ben Fernandez described a grisly scene inside Theater 9:
UPDATE (1:24 p.m.): Seventeen-year-old Tyler Koon was in Theater 9 when the gunman opened fire. He told CBS News of his ordeal in the video below:
Stephen C. Webster and Megan Carpentier contributed to this report.
Photo: Screenshot via CBS Denver.