Links to Aurora, Colo., news coverage:
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Friday, July 20, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- News 12 broke the tragic news to moviegoers coming out of an early showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Augusta.
"It's just kind of weird walking out in the moving theater and just realizing that that many people were hurt or killed," said moviegoer Brandon Rios.
"I don't understand why you would go to a movie set out to kill or harm anyone. It just doesn't make sense," Nadira Spearman said.
Cpt. Scott Gay of the Richmond County Sheriff's Office says they think it is an isolated case.
"Are we worried about copy-catters? I think that you always have to be worried about that," he said. "We suspect we will get a call from the theater today asking us to beef up security."
A national celebrity with a local connection is weighing in on the Colorado mass shooting and our own recent scare in downtown Augusta.
Super Bowl champion Deon Grant says the recent violence hits too close to home.
Grant says he is praying for all the families here and abroad who have been touched by tragedy.
"I just really pray and hope that people will wise up," he said.
The Colorado shooting comes just weeks after six local people were injured when suspected gang members opened fire at Augusta's First Friday event.
"My prayers definitely [go] to the families of those lost and the ones that were injured," Grant said. "Here for First Friday and also the ones out there in Colorado."
Colo. suspect was brilliant science student
DENVER (AP) -- James Eagan Holmes came from a well-tended San Diego enclave of two-story homes with red-tiled roofs, where neighbors recall him as a clean-cut, studious young man of sparing words.
Tall and dark-haired, he stares clear-eyed at the camera in a 2004 high school yearbook snapshot, wearing a white junior varsity soccer uniform. The son of a nurse and a software company manager, Holmes was a brilliant science scholar in college.
The biggest mystery surrounding the 24-year-old doctoral student is why he would have pulled on a gas mask and shot dozens of people in a suburban Denver movie theater, as police allege.
In the age of widespread social media, no trace of Holmes could be found anywhere on the web. Either he never engaged, or he scrubbed his trail.
Holmes enrolled last year in a neuroscience Ph.D. program at the University of Colorado-Denver but was in the process of withdrawing, according to school officials, who didn't provide a reason.
Holmes is not talking to police and has asked for a lawyer, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation.
AMC Theatres says it will no longer let movie patrons wear face masks or bring fake weapons into its theaters in a news release:
"AMC Theatres is deeply saddened by the Aurora tragedy. Movie going is part of our social fabric and this senseless act shakes us to our core. We’re reinforcing our security procedures with our theatre teams, which we cannot discuss in detail for obvious, safety reasons. Local law enforcement agencies, our landlords and their and our local security teams are stepping up nationwide to ensure we provide the safest environment possible for our guests. We couldn’t be more grateful for their collective support.
At this time, our show schedules circuit-wide will not change. We will not allow any guests into our theatres in costumes that make other guests feel uncomfortable and we will not permit face-covering masks or fake weapons inside our buildings. If guests wish to exchange or refund any tickets, we will honor our existing policy and do as our guests wish. We are taking necessary precautions to ensure our guests who wish to enjoy a movie this weekend can do so with as much peace of mind as possible in these circumstances."
Source: Colo. shooting suspect not cooperating
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- The suspect in a shooting that killed or wounded 71 people in suburban Denver is reportedly not talking to investigators.
A law enforcement official briefed on the investigation told The Associated Press that 24-year-old James Holmes has asked for a lawyer.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing case.
The person also says police found jars of chemicals in Holmes' booby trapped Aurora apartment with wires nearby.
3 service members wounded, 1 missing in shooting
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. Department of Defense says three members of the U.S. Armed Forces were wounded in a movie theater shooting in Colorado and one is unaccounted for.
The agency says a Navy sailor was injured and one sailor who was at the theater early Friday morning in Aurora can't be located. Two Air Force airmen were also wounded.
Both branches of the military are working with the families of the service members to make sure they're cared for.
The Defense Department also says the suspect, James Holmes, is not a past or current member of any branch or component of the Armed Forces.
NYC Chief: Theater gunman called himself Joker
AURORA, Colo. (AP) -- New York City's police commissioner says the gunman in the Colorado movie theater rampage had painted his hair red and called himself the Joker -- the villain from the Batman movies.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Friday that he had been briefed about the shootings that killed 12 and wounded nearly 60 others at a showing of the new Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises" at a suburban Denver theater.
Kelly and his spokesman did not say who briefed him.
Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates would not confirm the information about suspected gunman James Holmes, but confirmed he had spoken to Kelly. The two used to work together in New York.
Witness tried to keep door closed on Colo. gunman
AURORA, Colo. (AP) -- One of the people fleeing a mass shooting at a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" at a Denver-area movie theater says he tried to shut the door on the suspected gunman.
Twenty-three-year-old Eric Hunter says he and his friends made their way to an exit door after seeing smoke and hearing shots during the movie.
When they opened the door, Hunter says they saw two teenage girls -- one of whom had been shot in the mouth.
Hunter says he was about to close the door when he saw the shooter, dressed in a bullet-proof vest and a gas mask, approaching.
Hunter says he held the door closed and the gunman banged on it for about 10 seconds.
Afraid that the shooter would start firing through the door, Hunter says he let it go and managed to get out of the theater.
Shooting at Colo. theater shocks movie industry
NEW YORK (AP) -- The movie industry is struggling to deal with the deadly shooting at a midnight screening last night of the new Batman film, "The Dark Knight Rises."
One of the most anticipated films of recent years has now been linked to a horrifying tragedy.
Last night's shooting, which killed 12 people in suburban Denver, is forcing a change in plans for the global release of the film. Warner Bros. has canceled a premiere planned for Paris.
A statement from the studio says it's "deeply saddened" by the "shocking incident."
The studio hasn't had any further comment on whether screenings might be canceled, or precautions taken.
Director Christopher Nolan and actor Christian Bale didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.
The chain that owns the theater where the shooting happened says it's working closely with local law enforcement. Movie theaters around the country continued Friday showings of the film, though some are stepping up security.
Source: Suspect bought ticket to movie
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A U.S. official says the suspect in Friday's shootings inside a Colorado movie theater bought a ticket to the midnight showing of the latest Batman movie and went into the theater as part of the crowd.
A federal law enforcement official said suspect James Holmes is believed to have propped open an exit door in the theater as the movie was playing, donned protective ballistic gear and opened fire. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.
Police in Aurora, Colo., said Holmes fired at least 71 shots and killed at least 12 people. Police said he had an AR-15 assault rifle, a shotgun, and two .40-caliber Glock handguns. Holmes is also believed to have hurled a gas canister into the theater before opening fire.
AURORA, Colo. (AP) -- Police say 71 people were shot in a suburban Denver movie theater early Friday during midnight shows of the new Batman movie. Twelve people were killed, ten of them at the theater.
Another 59 adults and children were wounded.
White House issues a proclamation honoring the victims of the shooting. Read here.
AURORA, Colo. (AP) -- Colorado police: 71 people shot in movie theater, 12 killed; 10 bodies still in theater.
Colo. doctors treating rifle and buckshot wounds
AURORA, Colo. (AP) -- One of the hospitals that took victims from a movie theater shooting that killed at least 12 and injured 50 is treating gunshot wounds from a high-powered rifle and buckshot wounds.
Children's Hospital Colorado emergency room physician Dr. Guy Upshaw says he thinks the buckshot likely came from a shotgun, but the small, metal pellets can also come from explosive devices.
Six people were brought to Children's, ranging from 6 to 31 years, and one has since died.
Two were shot by a rifle, three had buckshot wounds and one was injured by shrapnel.
A federal law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation said the gunman had an assault rifle, a shotgun and two pistols.
Statement from Gov. Mitt Romney:
“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. 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.”
Calif. neighbor of Colo. suspect says he was shy
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- A man who lives next door to the California family of a man suspected of shooting dozens of people at a Colorado movie theater says he was a loner.
Tom Mai is a retired electrical engineer who is neighbors with the family of 24-year-old James Holmes on a quiet, well-to-do San Diego street of two story homes with red tile roofs.
Mai says he said hello to Holmes once in a while but seemed to be shy.
Mai says the family lived there about 10 years. The mother is a nurse and the father is a manager at a software company. The suspect has a younger sister.
Mai says the mother told him Holmes couldn't find a job after earning a master's degree from a public university in California.
Warner Bros. has released a statement on the mass shooting:
"Warner Bros. and the filmmakers are 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." (Source: The Hollywood Reporter)
Witness: Gunman like assassin 'ready to go to war'
AURORA, Colo. (AP) -- One of the people witnesses to a mass shooting in a Denver suburb says the shooter "looked like an assassin ready to go to war."
Nineteen-year-old Jordan Crofter, of Aurora, was sitting on the left side of the theater and toward the front when the door swung open and a silhouette appeared in front of the street lights.
He says the shooter was calm and almost strutted in, then pulled up his rifle and started shooting, stopping only to reload -- like "shooting fish in a barrel."
Crofter says he was the first one in the lobby and when the manager asked what was going on, he yelled, "Bomb."
Security increased at movies following shootings
NEW YORK (AP) -- Around the country, some moviegoers are seeing increased security at today's showings of the new Batman movie, in the wake of last night's shooting rampage at a theater in Colorado that left 12 people dead.
Two police officers were stationed outside a theater in New York's Times Square today, where showings of "The Dark Knight Rises" are starting every 20 minutes.
One 21-year-old woman who was waiting outside the theater said her mother was a little worried about her going to see the film. Stephanie Suriel said she's "not nervous at all" -- but that she planned to sit in the back, just to be safe.
At a theater in downtown Washington, moviegoers trickled into an 11 a.m. showing. Theater employees searched patrons' bags and purses while taking their tickets.
Staff members at a Philadelphia theater said the extra security that was in place was normal for big movies, and not a result of the shooting in Colorado.
One man who was waiting to see the film said, "Shootings can happen anywhere" -- and that it would be "silly to blame the film."
One of the shooting victims, Jessica Ghawi, was a broadcast journalist. Multiple sources are reporting she escaped a mass shooting in Canada last month. She wrote about her experience on her blog.
"This is what I have been told by Brent, who was with my sister at the time of the shooting. This will be the only statement that I will make on the events surrounding what appears to be her death.
Jessica and Brent were seated in the middle portion of the theatre when a device was thrown into the theatre that produced a “hissing” sound. The theatre than began to fill with smoke which is when patrons began to move from their seats. At that time, shots were fired. Brent and Jessica immediately dropped to a prone position for cover. Jessica advised multiple times for someone to call 911, which Brent immediately attempted to do. Brent then heard Jessica scream and noticed that she was struck by a round in the leg. Brent, began holding pressure on the wound and attempted to calm Jessica. It was at this time that Brent took a round to his lower extremities. While still administering first aid, Brent noticed that Jessica was no longer screaming. He advised that he looked over to Jessica and saw what appeared to be an entry wound to her head. He further stated that Jessica presented with agonal respirations. Brent then took what may have been his only chance to escape the line of fire and exited the structure where he then contacted my mother. Brent’s actions are nothing but heroic. The veracity of any other statements not issued by myself or Peter Burns should be questioned."
Colo. suspect in doctoral program, not med school
AURORA, Colo. (AP) -- The suspect in a mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater was in a doctoral program but was not in medical school.
Spokeswoman Jacque Montgomery says 24-year-old James Holmes was studying neuroscience in a Ph.D. program at the University of Colorado-Denver graduate school. University officials earlier said he was a student at the university's medical school.
Montgomery says Holmes enrolled in the program in June 2011 and was in the process of withdrawing.
Authorities say Holmes fired into a crowded movie theater in the Denver suburb of Aurora while wearing a gas mask.
Holmes graduated from high school in the San Diego area. He's in police custody, and the FBI says there is no indication the attack is tied to any terrorist groups.
The corporate owners of Regal Augusta Exchange Stadium release a statement:
"We are profoundly saddened by the tragedy that occurred at a Denver area theater and are concerned for the victims and their families. The security and safety of our guests and staff is always our number one priority. As is our custom, we will continue to monitor the situation and adjust our security needs as necessary. In the meantime, our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families."
Statement from President Obama on the shooting:
President Barack Obama: "Well, let me, first of all, say how grateful I am for all of you being here, and how much we appreciate everything that you've done. I know that there are a lot of people here who have been so engaged in the campaign, have sacrificed so much, people who've been involved back since 2007. (Applause.) And so I want all of you to know how appreciative I am.
And I know many of you came here today for a campaign event. I was looking forward to having a fun conversation with you about some really important matters that we face as a country and the differences between myself and my opponent in this election.But this morning, we woke up to news of a tragedy that reminds us of all the ways that we are united as one American family.
By now, many of you know, many of you have heard that a few miles outside of Denver in a town call Aurora, at least 12 people were killed when a gunman opened fire in a movie theater, and dozens more are being treated for injuries at a local hospital. Some of the victims are being treated at a children’s hospital.
We’re still gathering all the facts about what happened in Aurora, but what we do know is that the police have one suspect in custody. And the federal government stands ready to do whatever is necessary to bring whoever is responsible for this heinous crime to justice. (Applause.) And we will take every step possible to ensure the safety of all of our people.
We're going to stand by our neighbors in Colorado during this extraordinarily difficult time. And I had a chance to speak with the Mayor of Aurora as well as the Governor of Colorado to express, not just on behalf of Michelle and myself, but the entire American family, how heartbroken we are.
Now, even as we learn how this happened and who's responsible, we may never understand what leads anybody to terrorize their fellow human beings like this. Such violence, such evil is senseless. It's beyond reason. But while we will never know fully what causes somebody to take the life of another, we do know what makes life worth living. The people we lost in Aurora loved and they were loved. They were mothers and fathers; they were husbands and wives; sisters and brothers; sons and daughters, friends and neighbors. They had hopes for the future and they had dreams that were not yet fulfilled.
And if there’s anything to take away from this tragedy it’s the reminder that life is very fragile. Our time here is limited and it is precious. And what matters at the end of the day is not the small things, it’s not the trivial things, which so often consume us and our daily lives. Ultimately, it’s how we choose to treat one another and how we love one another. (Applause.)
It’s what we do on a daily basis to give our lives meaning and to give our lives purpose. That’s what matters. At the end of the day, what we’ll remember will be those we loved and what we did for others. That’s why we’re here.
I’m sure that many of you who are parents here had the same reaction that I did when I heard this news. My daughters go to the movies. What if Malia and Sasha had been at the theater, as so many of our kids do every day? Michelle and I will be fortunate enough to hug our girls a little tighter tonight, and I’m sure you will do the same with your children. But for those parents who may not be so lucky, we have to embrace them and let them know we will be there for them as a nation.
So, again, I am so grateful that all of you are here. I am so moved by your support. But there are going to be other days for politics. This, I think, is a day for prayer and reflection.
So what I’d ask everybody to do, I’d like us to pause in a moment of silence for the victims of this terrible tragedy, for the people who knew them and loved them, for those who are still struggling to recover, and for all the victims of less publicized acts of violence that plague our communities every single day. So if everybody can just take a moment.
(Moment of silence.)
Thank you, everybody. I hope all of you will keep the people of Aurora in your hearts and minds today. May the Lord bring them comfort and healing in hard days to come.
I am grateful to all of you, and I hope that as a consequence of today’s events, as you leave here, you spend a little time thinking about the incredible blessings that God has given us."
Colo. shooting suspect's Calif. family cooperating
SAN DIEGO. (AP) -- The California family of the suspect in a mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater says their hearts go out to those involved.
Police in San Diego read a statement Friday morning from family members of 24-year-old James Holmes, who graduated from high school in the San Diego area.
The family asked the media to respect their privacy. They say they're cooperating with authorities in San Diego and Aurora, Colo., and are trying to process everything.
San Diego police spokeswoman Andra Brown says there's nothing to suggest the family had any involvement.
A spokeswoman for the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver says Holmes was a student there until last month but didn't know why he withdrew.
Pentagon: Military casualties in Colorado shooting
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Pentagon says that some members of the military were either killed or wounded in the Colorado shooting at the Batman movie.
Pentagon press secretary George Little says that it's not yet clear how many military casualties there were, or specifically whether they were killed or injured.
Marine Col. Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, says that initial indications are that the suspect in the shootings, James Holmes, was not a member of the military.
Holmes has been taken into custody in the deadly Denver-area shooting spree that killed 12 people and injured at least 50 others during a midnight showing of the movie Friday.
The FBI said there was no indication that the shooting is tied to any terrorist groups.
Family members looking for Colo. shooting victims
AURORA, Colo. (AP) -- Family members are showing up at a suburban Denver high school where witnesses to a mass shooting at a movie theater were taken.
Tom Sullivan arrived at Gateway High School in Aurora Friday morning with a photo of his son, Alex, and was asking reporters if they'd seen him.
Byron Settles was at the high school looking for his nephew, Tyrell Hardiman. Settles says it's unusual because Hardiman was supposed to be at work but wasn't.
At least 12 people were killed and about 50 were being treated at Denver area hospitals after the shooting at a midnight showing of the new Batman movie in Aurora.
Police arrested a man who lives about four miles away.
Colo. suspect just withdrew from med school
AURORA, Colo. (AP) -- The suspect in a mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater dropped out of medical school last month.
Spokeswoman Jacque Montgomery says 24-year-old James Holmes was a student at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver until last month. She did not know when he started school or why he withdrew.
Holmes is accused of killing a dozen people when he fired into a crowded movie theater in the Denver suburb of Aurora. He was wearing a gas mask and set off an unknown gas in the theater.
Holmes is in police custody, and the FBI says there is no indication the attack is tied to any terrorist groups.
Police say Colo. suspect's apartment booby trapped
AURORA, Colo. (AP) -- Police say the apartment of the suspect in a mass shooting at a Denver area movie theater is booby trapped, so they've evacuated five surrounding buildings.
Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates says bomb technicians are determining how to disarm flammable or explosive material in the third-floor apartment. He says police could be there some time.
Oates says pictures from inside the apartment are fairly disturbing and the devices look to be sophisticated.
FBI agents and police used a hook and ladder fire truck and put a camera at the end of 12-foot pole inside the apartment where 24-year-old James Holmes lives.
The apartment is about four miles from the theater where at least 12 people were killed and 50 were wounded.
AURORA, Colo. (AP) -- A gunman in a gas mask barged into a crowded Denver-area theater during a midnight premiere of the Batman movie on Friday, hurled a gas canister and then opened fire, killing 12 people and injuring at least 50 others in one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent U.S. history.
When the gas began to spread, some moviegoers thought it was a stunt that was part of the "The Dark Knight Rises," one of the most highly anticipated films of the summer. Then they saw a silhouette of a person in the smoke near the screen, first pointing a gun at the crowd and shooting.
"There were bullet (casings) just falling on my head. They were burning my forehead," Jennifer Seeger said, adding that the gunman, dressed like a SWAT team member, fired steadily except when he stopped to reload.
"Every few seconds it was just: Boom, boom, boom," she said. "He would reload and shoot and anyone who would try to leave would just get killed."
The suspect was taken into custody and identified by federal law enforcement officials as 24-year-old James Holmes. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.
Authorities did not release a motive. The FBI said there was no indication that the shooting is tied to any terrorist groups.
Victims are being treated for chemical exposure apparently related to canisters thrown by the gunman. Some of those injured are children, including a 3-month-old infant who was shot.
Aurora police spokesman Frank Fania on ABC's "Good Morning America" said he didn't know yet if all the injuries were gunshot wounds. He said some might have been caused by other things such as shrapnel.
The movie opened across the world Friday, with midnight showings in the U.S. The shooting prompted officials to cancel the Paris premiere, with workers pulling down the red carpet display at a theater on the famed Champs-Elysees Avenue.
President Barack Obama said he was saddened by the "horrific and tragic shooting," pledging that his administration was "committed to bringing whoever was responsible to justice, ensuring the safety of our people, and caring for those who have been wounded."
It was the worst mass shooting in Colorado since the Columbine High School massacre on April 20, 1999. Students Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, opened fire at the school in the Denver suburb of Littleton, about 15 miles west of Aurora, killing 12 classmates and a teacher and wounding 26 others before killing themselves.
Friday's attack began shortly after midnight at the multiplex theater at a mall in Aurora, the state's third-largest city.
The film has several scenes of public mayhem -- a hallmark of superhero movies. In one scene, the main villain Bane leads an attack on the stock exchange and, in another, leads a shooting and bombing rampage on a packed football stadium.
It was the final installment of the "Dark Knight" trilogy directed by Christopher Nolan, starring Christian Bale as Batman. The series has a darker tone than previous Batman incarnations. It is the follow-up to "The Dark Knight," which won Heath Ledger a posthumous Oscar for his searing portrayal of The Joker.
The gunman released a gas that smelled like pepper spray from a green canister with a tag on it, Seeger said.
"I thought it was showmanship. I didn't think it was real," she said.
Seeger said she was in the second row, about four feet from the gunman, when he pointed a gun at her face. At first, "I was just a deer in headlights. I didn't know what to do," she said. Then she ducked to the ground as the gunman shot people seated behind her.
She said she began crawling toward an exit when she saw a girl about 14 years old "lying lifeless on the stairs." She saw a man with a bullet wound in his back and tried to check his pulse, but "I had to go. I was going to get shot."
Then the man began firing, starting with a shot toward the ceiling.
Witness Shayla Roeder said she saw a young teenage girl on the ground bleeding outside the theater. "She just had this horrible look in her eyes .... We made eye contact and I could tell she was not all right," Roeder said.
Police, ambulances and emergency crews swarmed on the scene after frantic calls started flooding the 911 switchboard, officials said. Officers came running in and telling people to leave the theater, Salina Jordan told the Denver Post. She said some police were carrying and dragging bodies.
Hayden Miller told KUSA-TV that he heard several shots. "Like little explosions going on and shortly after that we heard people screaming," he told the station. Hayden said at first he thought it was part of a louder movie next door. But then he saw "people hunched over leaving theater."
Officers later found the gunman near a car behind the theater.
"A gas mask, rifle, handgun (and) at least one additional weapon (were) found inside," Aurora police Chief Dan Oates said, adding that there was no evidence of any other attackers. The suspect spoke of "possible explosives in his residence. We are dealing with that potential threat," Oates said.
A large truck lettered "bomb squad" arrived near an Aurora apartment complex where the suspect is believed to have lived, about four miles from the theater. Dozens of police squad cars, vans and other vehicles were already at the scene, along with black-clad officers carrying automatic weapons.
Police evacuated residents of the building. Oates did not say whether any explosives had been found. He said police also checked for explosives in the parking lot and at the Century 16 theater and secured those areas.
At least 24 people were being treated at Denver area hospitals.
The youngest victim reported was a 6-year-old being treated at Children's Hospital Colorado, where a total of six victims were taken. Their condition wasn't known. Two people in critical condition were rushed to nearby Swedish Medical Center, a spokeswoman said.
(Copyright 2012, The Associated Press)