Batman premiere shooting kills 12, wounds 38 in Denver
A gunman opened fire early Friday at a suburban Denver movie theatre complex on the opening night of the latest Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises, killing 12 people and injuring at least 38 others, authorities said.
The gunman, who is in custody, stood at the front of the theatre and fired into the crowd around 12:30 a.m. MT at a multiplex theatre in a mall in Aurora, a community of about 327,000 people about 16 kilometres east of downtown Denver.
"Witnesses tell us he released some sort of canister. They heard a hissing sound and some gas emerged and the gunman opened fire," Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said at a news conference.
Police, ambulances and emergency crews swarmed on the scene after frantic calls started flooding the 911 switchboard, officials said.
Initial statements from local police put the number of dead at 14 and the number of injured at 50, but those figures were later revised downward.Judy Goos hugs her daughter's friend, Isaiah Bow, 20, while eyewitnesses Emma Goos, 19, left, and Terrell Wallin, 20, right, gather outside a high school where people were brought for questioning Friday after a shooting a Denver-area movie theatre. (Barry Gutierrez/Associated Press)
The youngest victim was a three-month-old baby.
Officers found the gunman near a car behind the theatre.
"A gas mask, rifle, handgun [and] at least one additional weapon [were] found inside," he said.
Law enforcement agencies have identified the suspect as 24-year-old James Holmes.
There was also no immediate word of any motive.
'We heard people screaming'
The suspect spoke of "possible explosives in his residence. We are dealing with that potential threat," Oates said, without providing details on where that was.
Gun pointed at face of witness
A woman who escaped the shooting at a Denver suburb movie theater says the shooter pointed a gun at her face but then shot people seated behind her.
Jennifer Seeger, 24, says she was in the second row, just over a metre from the gunman. She says she "was just a deer in headlights" and ducked to the ground.
Seeger says bullet casings were falling on her head and burning her forehead as the gunman fired steadily, except when he stopped to reload.
She says it was "boom, boom, boom" every few seconds and the gunman shot anyone who tried to leave. Seeger says she began crawling toward an exit when she saw a girl about 14 years old "lying lifeless on the stairs."
He said police also checked for explosives in the parking lot and at the Century 16 theatre and secured those areas. Police were also searching in and around the suspect's apartment building. They used a hook-and-ladder fire truck to put a camera on a pole through a window in the suspect's third-floor apartment.
Witness Hayden Miller told KUSA-TV that he was inside theatre 16 and 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 [the] theatre."
Witnesses in the theatre where the attack took place said the man tossed a cannister that began to emit smoke, and then he began shooting indiscriminately.
Witnesses in other theatres reported seeing bullets come through the walls and hearing moans.
Speaking in Plano, Texas, Timothy Warner, the CEO of Cinemark, which owns the theatre where the shooting took place, called it "totally shocking."
"Obviously, my immediate reaction was sadness and despair..." for the people who just went to the movie for an evening out, Warner said.
"Thousands of people went to the movies last night and had a great experience, " he said. "This is just an isolated.. deranged gunman that...had access to really high-power weapons."
Warner Bros., the Hollywood studio behind the highly anticipated film, said it 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," the company said.
U.S. President Barack Obama called the shooting "horrific and tragic."
"As we do when confronted by moments of darkness and challenge, we must now come together as one American family," Obama said. "All of us must have the people of Aurora in our thoughts and prayers as they confront the loss of family, friends, and neighbours."
There were some cancellations of scheduled screenings of the movie in the wake of the shooting. In Toronto, police said they had no plans to boost their staffing beyond usual levels at theatres showing The Dark Knight Rises.