Police confirmed 12 people were killed and 38 injured when a lone gunman opened fire in a packed suburban theater in Aurora, Colorado during the midnight premiere showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" early Friday morning.
James Holmes, a 24-year-old white American who lives near the Century 16 cinema complex about 10 miles from downtown Denver, allegedly stormed through the emergency exit and opened fire in the theater after disorienting moviegoers with a smoke bomb. He is now in police custody.
Witnesses said Holmes timed the shooting to take place during a loud scene in the movie featuring a gunfight, further confusing moviegoers. Bullets struck patrons both in the immediate theater and those in neighboring theaters after bullets pierced through the porous theater walls.
Holmes was dressed all in black, wore a riot helmet and a bullet proof vest. Multiple news sources are also reporting he had dyed his hair bright red. Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said two pistols, a shotgun and an assault rifle were recovered from the scene.
Police arrived on the scene within minutes after being alerted to the shooting by their "active shooter" alarm, put into place after the 1999 Columbine High School shooting that resulted in the deaths of 12 students and a teacher.
Multiple hospitals were put on a mass casualty alert as the injured were taken in ambulances, personal cars and police vehicles to be treated. The youngest injured was a 3-month-old baby who University of Colorado staff confirmed had been treated discharged Friday morning.
The staff said the injured ranged in age from 3 months to 45 years, with the majority being young adults. Nine people are still in critical condition at the university hospital.
"The next 24 hours will be really tenuous," a hospital staffer told local news. More information will be available after that time, she added.
President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, all canceled political events Friday in the wake of the attack.
But in a pre-scheduled stop in Fort Myers, Florida, the president addressed the shooting, saying, the "evil senselessness" of the act reminded us all of the fragility of life.
"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," the president said.
"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."
"We're going to stand by our neighbors in Colorado during this extraordinarily difficult time," the president added, saying he had spoken to the Mayor of Aurora and Colorado's Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Head of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano also issued a statement saying federal, state and local law enforcement would continue to work together to bring those responsible to justice.
The Defense Department, in a condolence statement released Friday afternoon, confirmed Holmes did not have a military background. The statement also confirmed two airmen and one sailor present at the theater were injured. Another sailor is currently unaccounted for.
Oates told reporters Holmes' apartment in the north of the city was evacuated after the shooter admitted there were explosives stored in the home. A portable camera inserted into the apartment showed what Oates said looked like "sophisticated" booby traps, extra ammunition and bucket of unknown chemicals.
Holmes had no criminal record. He was a graduate neuroscience student at the University of Colorado who was in the process of dropping out, the school's staff confirmed. The university issued a statement Friday confirming the suspect "had earlier ties to campus."
"We have no reason to believe that our students, staff or visitors are at risk," the statement added, asking that all students remain off campus while specially-trained dogs searched areas of campus with which the student may have had contact.
Holmes had previously completed a neuroscience program in southern California, where his parents and younger sister live, but was unable to find a job, according to CBS News.
Local news reported that although Holmes did surrender to police without a fight, he has not been cooperating with police while in custody. No further information on his motive or planning was immediately available.
At this time, the FBI has ruled out any link to terrorism and local news cited Aurora police as saying there is no indication Holmes was working with someone else.
by RTT Staff Writer
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