12 shot dead at Denver screening of The Dark Knight Rises
A 24-year-old gunman wearing a gasmask killed at least 12 people at a midnight showing of the new Batman movie in Denver yesterday – the worst mass shooting in the United States since 2009.
The man, named locally last night as James Holmes, is reported to have thrown a gas canister into the auditorium before opening fire on the audience. The attack left another 59 people injured before Holmes was detained by police.
There are suggestions his attack may have been based on incidents portrayed in the Batman film series.
Some moviegoers said they thought the attack was part of the showmanship surrounding 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 at the front of the theatre, pointing a gun at the crowd.
“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,” Ms Seeger said. “He would reload and shoot and anyone who would try to leave would just get killed.”
Holmes was arrested near a car outside the multiplex theatre in Aurora. The FBI said there was no indication the shooting was tied to any terrorist groups.
It was the worst mass shooting in the US since an army psychiatrist killed 13 soldiers and civilians at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009. It also revived memories of the massacre at nearby Columbine High School in 1999, where two students killed 12 classmates and a teacher.
The Pentagon confirmed last night that some military members were either killed or wounded. Aurora is home to a large defence department satellite intelligence operation at Buckley air force base.
Holmes had an assault rifle, a shotgun and two pistols. He was a student at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver but dropped out last month, spokeswoman Jacque Montgomery said. She did not know when he started school or why he withdrew.
FBI agents and police also said last night that Holmes’s apartment was booby trapped. They evacuated nearby five buildings yesterday as they worked to disarm flammable and explosive material.
Police released a written statement from Holmes’s family: “Our hearts go out to those who were involved in this tragedy and to the families and friends of those involved.”
Some of the injured at the theatre were children, with the youngest a four-month-old baby who has been released from treatment. Victims were being treated for chemical exposure apparently caused by canisters thrown by the gunman.
The Dark Knight Rises opens across the world today, but the shooting prompted officials to cancel the Paris premiere, with workers pulling down the red carpet display at a theatre on the Champs-Elysees. Two police officers were stationed outside the AMC theatre in New York’s Times Square.
“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,” the studio said.
President Barack Obama said he was saddened by the “horrific and tragic shooting,” and he cut short his election campaign to return to the White House.
Movie-goers spoke of their terror as violence erupted.
The gunman released a gas that smelled like pepper spray from a green canister with a tag on it, Ms Seeger said.
“I thought it was showmanship. I didn’t think it was real,” she said.
Ms Seeger said she was in the second row when the gunman 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”.
Shayla Roeder said she saw a teenage girl on the ground bleeding outside the theatre. “She just had this horrible look in her eyes … We made eye contact and I could tell she was not all right,” Ms Roeder said.
Among those who died was Jessica Ghawi, an aspiring sports presenter who survived a shooting in a Canadian shopping centre on 2 June. After witnessing that incident in Toronto, Ms Ghawi wrote on her blog: “I was shown how fragile life was on Saturday. I saw the terror on bystanders’ faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change.
“I was reminded that we don’t know when or where our time on earth will end.
“Gun crimes are fairly common where I grew up in Texas, but I never imagined I’d experience a violent crime first hand. I’m on vacation and wanted to eat and go shopping.”
Hours after the Colorado shooting, Ms Ghawi’s brother announced her death online. He tweeted: “Well, this could easily be the worst night of my life. It appears that my sister has been fatally wounded in a mass shooting at a movie premiere in Denver, Co.”
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: South west