Early this morning a masked gunman barged into a crowded theater during the midnight showing of the highly anticipated Dark Knight Rises and opened fire on innocent moviegoers. This incident is already being called one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent U.S. history.
The attack began shortly after midnight at a crowded multiplex theater in the Denver area. Witnesses said the gunman entered the theater through an emergency exit door near the front of the screen. He was described as wearing a riot helmet, gas mask and dressed in all black. The gunman hurled two canisters of noxious gas into the crowded theater, which detonated and started to fill the theater with smoke. At this point, many spectators thought it was just a stunt in support of the popular superhero film. However, as the room began to fill with the noxious gas the gunman opened fire on the audience.
Many began to flee the theater while others tried to duck under seats to avoid the flying bullets. Some of the bullets pierced the walls and traveled into other theaters. Many of the patrons in these theaters ignored the commotion and assumed it was sound from a louder action movie.
Police, ambulances and emergency crews swarmed on the scene after frantic calls started flooding the 911 switchboards. Officers attempted to evacuate the theater and save the wounded.
The gunman was captured by police in the parking lot while still wearing a bullet-proof vest, riot helmet, and gas mask and carrying three weapons, including an AR-15 assault rifle, which can hold upwards of 100 rounds, a Remington 12 gauge shotgun, and a .40 Glock handgun.
The gunman was later identified as Ph.D. student James Holmes, who recently withdrew from his neuroscience studies at the University of Colorado. Once in custody, he warned police that was “the joker”, from the second installment of the Batman series, and that his Aurora apartment was booby-trapped. This lead police to evacuate the entire apartment complex so they could search for explosives. They were working this morning to gain entry to and diffuse the apartment, which they said seems to be “elaborately” rigged with explosives.
Hundreds of police and FBI agents are involved in the investigation. A senior official who is monitoring the situation in Washington said that early guidance based on the early snapshot of this man’s background indicated that this act does not appear to be linked to radical terrorism or anything related to Islamic terrorism. However, at this point, they cannot offer any possible motive for the attack.
In the aftermath, this senseless and tragic attack has left 12 dead and 59 wounded. It is the worst mass shooting in the U.S. since Nov. 5, 2009, attack at Fort Hood, Texas, when an Army psychiatrist was charged with killing 13 soldiers and civilians and wounding more than two dozen others. When looking at Colorado alone, it is the deadliest since the Columbine High School massacre on April 20, 1999, when two students opened fire in the Denver suburb of Littleton, killing 12 classmates and a teacher and wounding 26 others before killing themselves. Columbine High is about 12 miles from the theater.
After learning of the tragedy, President Obama released the following statement: “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.”