12 Dead In Colorado Movie Theater Shooting
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UPDATED 7/20 – 4:00 p.m.
AURORA, Colo. (CBSDFW.COM/AP) - At least 12 people have been killed, and dozens more wounded, after a gunman opened fire inside of a suburban Denver movie theater early Friday morning. The incident happened at around 1:30 a.m. Dallas time at the Cinemark Century theater in Aurora, Colorado.
CBS Denver initially reported the number of dead at 13, that number has now been reduced to 12. Aurora Police say 59 people have also been reportedly injured in the shooting. 17 of them critically.
The 16-screen theater was packed full of customers, police said, there late to see the first showing of this weekend’s new Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises.” The violence erupted about 30 minutes into the movie, as the gunman stood at the front of one of the auditoriums. “Witnesses tell us he released some sort of canister. They heard a hissing sound and some gas emerged, and the gunman opened fire,” said Chief Dan Oates. Officials said that the gunman was wearing a gas mask.
The shootings took place in the theater’s largest auditorium. Moviegoers in an adjacent auditorium heard shooting noises, but assumed that it was all part of the show. Donovan Tate and his girlfriend managed to escape from the crowded theater. “There was this one guy on all fours, crawling. There was this girl spitting up blood. There were bullet holes in some people’s backs, in some people’s arms,” Tate said. “There was one guy who just stripped down to his boxers, it looked like he had been shot in the back or something.”
Another witness was a few feet away from the gunman when he threw a gas can and started shooting, “The guy was relentless. He never stopped,” the witness told CBS Denver.
Police reported that 10 of the victims died inside of the movie theater, and the two others at nearby hospitals. Injured patients were transported to a total of six different medical facilities.
A suspect is in custody, identified as 24-year-old James Holmes. He was found in the theater’s parking lot, police said. Four guns, a gas mask and ballistic armor were all found in the car.
Jessica Ghawi from San Antonio is among the deceased victims. Ghawi was a sports journalist who wrote under the name Jessica Redfield. Her brother took to the internet to describe the chaos surrounding the scene after he learned of the shooting early Friday morning.
CBSDFW’s L.P. Phillips spoke with Ghawi’s brother Friday morning:
Houston CBS affiliate KHOU-TV reports a second Texan was injured while trying to protect her child.
As of 4:00 p.m. Friday afternoon Aurora Police say they have not identified any of the victims. The Red Cross has made a link available for victims to notify loved ones of their whereabouts. You can find that information by going to the American Red Cross Safe and Well page.
The Cinemark movie theater chain is based in Plano, with nearly 460 theaters across 39 states and in several foreign countries. Cinemark CEO Tim Warner said he was heading to the Aurora theater on Friday morning in the wake of the massacre. Before leaving, he said that his thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, their families, and the theater employees. “It was totally shocking,” Warner told a group of reporters. “Here you had a group of people just going out for a fun evening, and here it turns into this tragic event.”
Warner also added that he is grateful for the quick response of emergency personnel. “This is just an isolated, deranged gunman who had access to high-powered weapons,” he said. “I can’t recall that we had a shooting at any of our theaters in the U.S.”
“There’s no, to my knowledge, immediate threat to any of the theaters. I mean there’s no reason for a panicked response,” Warner told reporters Friday morning.
While Cinemark has not officially addressed any changes to moviegoing policy, other chains such as AMC Theaters say they will not allow people to come in to the theater wearing masks or holding fake weapons. The company also said it will refund any ticket holder who does not wish to watch an overnight screening.
Both Dallas and Plano police departments have gone on record Friday saying extra security will be available at theaters that request it for weekend movie going.
The suspect, James Holmes, was a PhD candidate in neuroscience at the University of Colorado’s Anchutz Medical Campus, which is based in Aurora. The university says he was in the process of withdrawing from the school, and had been a student since June 2011.
As a precaution, the school evacuated three research buildings that make up part of the sprawling medical campus. CBS Denver’s Jeff Todd told CBSDFW Aurora Police have roped off a 2-block radius around the buildings, but are still able to keep the University’s hospital open.
A motive for the shootings has not been released. Authorities say they do not believe there area additional suspects. According to HLNTV.com’s Anna Gonzalez, CNN has learned Holmes purchased a ticket, exited the back of the theater and propped the back door open, geared up and walked back in before shooting.
Police have evacuated a 2-block area around the suspect’s apartment and found explosives and “buckets of ammunition” inside. Aurora police told CBS Denver’s Rick Sallinger the apartment was ‘laced’ with explosives.
Holmes reportedly left loud techno music blaring in his apartment before he left for the movie. He also was said to have colored his hair red and told police he was ‘The Joker’ when he was arrested.
Both President Obama and Mitt Romney gave statements on the shootings saying their thoughts and prayers were with the victims and their families.
Warner Bros. — which is distributing the Batman movie — released a statement on Friday morning, saying that the studio is “deeply saddened” by the shooting. The film’s Paris premiere was canceled for Friday night, and security at theaters around the world is expected to be heightened as the movie opens this weekend. Prior to the massacre, entertainment industry experts predicted that “The Dark Knight Rises” could open with one of the best box office totals ever, possibly as high as $175 million in the U.S. before Monday morning.
Warner Bros. also canceled the Paris Premiere screening of the film and all interviews with the cast and crew scheduled for Friday.
In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered NYPD officers to increase patrols around theaters in the five Boroughs showing the film in order to avoid any possible copycat shootings and to put the movie going public at ease.
On it’s Facebook page, the City of Aurora thanked the public for support following the events:
We certainly appreciate the nation’s thoughts and prayers as our police department continues to investigate the terrible theater shooting tragedy that occurred today. Our condolences go out to the victims and their family members.
The city of Aurora has also set up a way for people to make donations to victims at (303) 739-6346.
For more updates, watch the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley from Aurora on Friday night at 5:30 p.m. and a ’48 Hours’ special called at 7:00 p.m. on CBS.
(©2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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