‘Dark Knight Rises’ Mass Shooting: 16 New Developments
Americans awoke this morning to the worst mass shooting the country has seen since the 2007 murders on the Virginia Tech campus. A gunman opened fire at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado early Friday morning, leaving at least 12 people dead and 58 wounded, according to NBC.
As of Friday night, 30 people remain hospitalized — most suffering from bullet wounds — and 11 were in critical condition, Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said in an evening news conference.
The heavily armed man — hidden behind a ballistic helmet, bullet-resistant vest, a gas mask, tactical gloves and protection for his legs, throat and groin — tossed tear gas canisters into the cinema before he calmly began shooting at movie-goers, hitting 71 people, around 12:38 a.m. in the Denver suburb.
Celebuzz has the latest updates on this breaking story.
1. The suspect is identified as James Eagan Holmes, 24; His mother speaks out.
The gunman — described by witnesses as a tall, muscular, white male — has been identified as 24-year-old James Holmes by federal law enforcement officials. He was arrested in the theater’s rear parking lot and is in police custody. According to ABC, Holmes is originally from San Diego but was attending University of Colorado Denver. Along with releasing a photo of the suspect, the university said, “Mr. James Holmes was in the process of withdrawing from the University of Colorado Denver’s graduate program in neurosciences. Mr. Holmes enrolled at the university in June 2011.”
Holmes is tentatively scheduled to appear in a Colorado courtroom on Monday, according to CNN, although no formal charges have been filed. Court documents are sealed.
A woman identifying herself as Holmes’ mother told ABC, “You have the right person. I need to fly out to Colorado.” Holmes’ family has issued the following statement: “Our hearts go out to those who were involved in this tragedy. We ask that the media respect our privacy at this difficult time. Our family is cooperating with authorities in both San Diego, California, and Aurora, Colorado. We are still trying to process this information and we appreciate that people will respect our privacy.”
As media show up to their San Diego home, local authorities are providing protection for the family. “The police will be here as long as we’re needed to preserve the peace of the neighborhood,” Lt. Andra Brown, a San Diego police spokeswoman, said according to KPBS.
2. Holmes’ guns were legally purchased.
Federal authorities have confirmed that the four guns recovered at the scene — including an Wesson AR-15 Type assault weapon, which can hold upward of 100 rounds and was previously banned George W. Bush killed the law in 2004 — were legally purchased within the last two months from the local Colorado branches of two national chains: Bass Pro Shops and Gander Mountain.
Authorities also found about 6,000 rounds of ammunition and several magazines on the scene — including a drum magazine capable of firing 50 to 60 rounds per minute — according to Oates. The stockpile was all purchased within the last 60 days.
3. U.S. military members were either injured or killed in shooting.
According to CBS News, members of the military service were victims of the midnight movie mass shootings. The Pentagon says it’s not yet clear how many military casualties there were, or whether they were deaths or injuries. Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colorado, is the closest military base and has said some of its personnel were injured in the shooting. Air Force, Army and reserves troops are stationed at Buckley.
4. AMC bans costume-clad patrons.
The movie theater chain is ramping up security procedures in the wake of the mass shooting, and that includes prohibiting entry to any guests “in costumes that make other guests feel uncomfortable,” AMC said in a statement, according to Deadline. “We will not permit face-covering masks or fake weapons inside our buildings. We’re reinforcing our security procedures with our theater 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.” While the company is not amending its Dark Knight Rises screening schedule, it is offering an exchange or refund tickets purchased for the Warner Bros movie.
5. Warner Bros. has canceled the Paris premiere and press interviews.
Warner Bros., the studio that produced The Dark Knight Rises, has called off the Paris premiere of the new Batman movie in the aftermath of the midnight movie massacre. On-site workers were already pulling down the red carpet display in front of a movie theater on the French capital’s famed Champs-Elysees Avenue.
6. The studio is “deeply saddened,” according to newly released statement.
Warner Bros. has released a statement, saying, “Warner Bros. is 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.”
7. Law enforcement is investigating the gunman’s residence.
While federal officials say there are no bombs in Holmes’ apartment, local police maintain that the residence was booby-trapped and possibly contained ammunition and some kind of chemical. The building has been completely evacuated. The in-custody suspect spoke of “possible explosives in his residence. We are dealing with that potential threat,” Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates told reporters at a news conference. According to police, explosives found inside the unit are “very sophisticated” and could take some time to disarm.
Also, two buildings at medical center where Holmes currently worked have been evacuated.
8. House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio sends “thoughts and prayers to the victims.”
“Confronted with incomprehensible evil, Americans pull together and embrace our national family more tightly,” Boehner said in a statement. “I join President Obama, and every American, in sending my thoughts and prayers to the victims of this awful tragedy. We will all stand with them, as one nation, in the days ahead.
9. Witnesses react and recount the chilling scene inside the cinema.
Patron James Wilburn was seated in the second row when the gunman busted through the emergency exit, the Denver Post reports. “He was dressed in black,” Wilburn told the newspaper. “Wearing a flack jacket and a gas mask.”
As a suspicious gas spread throughout the theater, Naya Thompson and her boyfriend ran for their lives. “It was like a tear gas,” Thompson told the newspaper. “I was coughing and choking and I couldn’t breathe.”
On the Today show, another eyewitness told her story: “I told my friend, ‘We’ve got to get out of here,’ but then he shot people trying to go out the exits,” Jennifer Seeger explained. “The shooter made his way up the aisle, shooting as he went, saying nothing.”
A witness told CNN affiliate KUSA he heard the gun blasts from a nearby theater. “It’s crazy to think I could have been in the other line,” he said. “We were watching a scene of the movie — it was a shootout scene, there were guns firing,” he said. “Then loud bangs came from the right of the theater. Smoke took over the entire theater, and it was really thick and no one could really see anything. Me and my sister were sitting there wondering what was going on. Five people were limping, wounded, slightly bloody.”
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10. In today’s screenings of The Dark Knight Rises, bloody shooting scenes were being shown in previews — and quickly removed.
Warner Bros. paired the new Batman blockbuster with the official movie trailer for Gangster Squad, an upcoming ’40s film about a ruthless L.A. mafia godfather, according to Deadline. In one of the preview scenes that’s been hitting screens all morning, a machine gun-toting gangster opens fire on people in a movie theater from behind the big screen. Warner Bros. confirmed Friday afternoon that the trailer has been pulled from Dark Knight showings.
11. In the aftermath of the shootings, President Obama will cut campaign trip short.
Barack Obama was in Florida on a two-day campaign trip when he was informed of the theater shooting. He was scheduled to speak at Rollins College but canceled his trip to Orlando in the wake of the shootings. Along with first lady Michelle Obama, he released a statement, saying: “Michelle and I are shocked and saddened by the horrific and tragic shooting in Colorado. Federal and local law enforcement are still responding, and 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.”
The president has also ordered flags be lowered to half-staff to honor Aurora shooting victims.
12. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney follows suit and shuffles his appearance schedule.
Romney has canceled several Friday interviews in the wake of the shooting. The presidential hopeful will speak in New Hampshire later today, though. In a statement, Romney labeled the shootings “senseless violence” and called for the perpetrator to be “quickly brought to justice.” His wife, Ann Romney, is also canceling her planned campaign events.
13. Romney and Obama have pulled presidential campaign ads off Colorado air.
“We have asked affiliates to pull down our contrast advertising for the time being,” said Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki, according to the Washington Post. “It takes time for stations to be able to do this, but we are making every effort.”
14. New York City Major Michael Bloomberg calls for tougher stance on gun violence.
Following the presidential nominees’ statements, Bloomberg said, “Maybe it’s time that the two people who want to be President of the United States stand up and tell us what they are going to do about it, because this is obviously a problem across the country,” said Bloomberg, a notable gun control advocate. “There are so many murders with guns every day — it’s just got to stop.”
15. Dark Knight screenings in New York City to have heightened security measures.
Following the Colorado cinema shootings, New York City Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly is promising increased security for showings of the Batman blockbuster in the five boroughs, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The move is “a precaution against copycats and to raise the comfort levels among movie patrons in the wake of the horrendous shooting in Colorado,” Kelly said in a statement.
16. Theater companies are taking a hit in the stock market this morning.
Cinemark, which owns the theater where the mass shooting took place, is down 3.2% in early trading. The largest cinema chain, Regal, is down even more — 3.3%. And IMAX is lagging a bit as well, down 1.8%.