A masked gunman killed 12 people at a midnight showing of the new Batman movie in a suburb of Denver early on Friday, sparking pandemonium when he hurled a gas canister into the auditorium and opened fire on moviegoers.
About fifty others including children were wounded in the attack on the showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” in a mall in the Aurora suburb, some of whom were treated for the effects of tear gas, hospital officials said.
“This is a horrific event,” Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates told a news conference, adding that a suspect was taken into custody in the parking lot behind the theater. He had initially put the death toll at 14, but a spokesman later told NBC the toll had been revised to 12.
Police said the Aurora gunman had appeared at the front of the theater during the movie and released a canister which let out a hissing sound before gunfire erupted.
Dozens of police were at the scene, and the authorities evacuated the area while they checked for any explosive devices. They said there was no evidence of a second gunman.
ABC News added the following details:
The young man who is in custody after allegedly gunning down 12 people in a mass shooting spree overnight in Aurora, Colorado has been identified as local resident James Holmes, according to federal authorities.
Law enforcement officials and witnesses told ABC News Holmes, 24, wore what appeared to be a bullet-proof vest and riot-type mask as he opened fire in a movie theater with three weapons at a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises.” In addition to the 12 deaths, at least 50 people were injured, according to police.
Warner Bros. Pictures, which just cancelled the Paris premiere, released the following statement regarding the tragedy:
“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.”
President Obama also released the following statement:
“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: Yahoo! News adds the following update:
Aurora police chief Dan Oates said today that 71 people were shot and 12 have died in the attack early Friday morning at a midnight showing of “The Dark Night Rises” in Aurora, Colorado. Authorities are still identifying the dead, and 10 bodies remain in the theater.
Oates says James Eagen Holmes, 24, is their suspect. Police arrested Holmes by his car, which was parked outside the back entrance of the movie theater, within minutes of receiving the first 911 call. He did not put up a struggle. Holmes, who had just withdrawn from a neuroscience Ph.D program at the University of Colorado-Denver last month, was dressed in in black and head-to-toe ballistic gear, including a helmet, vest, leggings, and a groin protector. He was also wearing a gas mask. Oates wouldn’t speculate on a motive.
UPDATE 2: ABC News is reporting that the shooter was dressed as the Joker from The Dark Knight:
The man in custody for allegedly killing 12 people at the screening of the latest Batman movie in Aurora, Colorado told authorities after the shooting that he “was The Joker,” NYPD police commissioner Ray Kelly said today.
Kelly told reporters the suspect, identified by federal officials as 24-year-old James Holmes, had dyed his hair like The Joker. The Joker is a well-known villain in the fictional Batman universe. The attack took place at a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises,” the final movie in a Batman trilogy, following “The Dark Knight” in which The Joker was the principal villain.
Two federal law enforcement officials confirmed the details of The Joker costume to ABC News. Police said the weapons used in the massacre include a military-style AR-15 assault rifle, a shotgun and two handguns.
Witnesses to the shooting said that a man appeared at the front of the theater about 20 minutes into the movie with a rifle, handgun and gas mask. He then threw a canister that released some kind of gas, after which a hissing sound ensued, and he then opened fire on the crowd packed into the early-morning screening of the film.