'Batman' shootings shock US

2012-07-21 10:02

Aurora - A gunman wearing a full suit of tactical body armour, a helmet and a gas mask opened fire at a packed midnight showing of the new "Batman" film in a Denver suburb on Friday, killing 12 people after setting off two smoke bombs in the dark theatre.

Armed with an assault rifle, a shotgun and a pistol, the black-clad gunman wounded 58 others in the shooting rampage at a showing of The Dark Knight Rises at a mall in Aurora, turning the movie screening into a chaotic scene of dead or bleeding victims, horrified screams and pleas for help, witnesses said.

Police said 30 people remained hospitalised on Friday evening, 11 of them in critical condition.

Officers who arrived on scene within 90 seconds of the first emergency calls quickly took suspect James Eagan Holmes, 24, into custody in a parking lot behind the cinema, where he surrendered without a fight, Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said.

Holmes, a graduate student who authorities said had his hair dyed red and called himself "the Joker" in a reference to Batman's comic-book nemesis, was due to make an initial court appearance on Monday.

Police declined to say what, if anything, Holmes said to them following his arrest. During an emotional press conference, Oates would not comment on possible motives for the massacre that stunned the (Colorado) community and the (US) nation.

Authorities were unable to enter Holmes' apartment on Friday, saying he had booby-trapped it with what appeared to be sophisticated explosives. Police evacuated five nearby buildings and created a perimeter of several blocks and said they planned to detonate the suspected explosives with a robot on Saturday.

Meanwhile, police used dogs to search three buildings in a research complex at Anschutz Medical Campus at the University of Colorado at Denver where Holmes had worked. A university spokesperson said nothing suspicious was found.

Witnesses at the movie theatre told of a horrific scene, with dazed victims bleeding from bullet wounds, spitting up blood and crying for help. Among those taken to hospitals as a precaution was a baby boy just a few months old.

"I slipped on some blood and landed on a lady. I shook her and said, 'We need to go; get up,' and there was no response, so I presumed she was dead," said Tanner Coon, 17.

Fuzzy portrait

Confusion reigned as shooting broke out during an action scene in the summer blockbuster. The suspect may have blended in with other moviegoers who wore costumes as heroes and villains, and some witnesses said they believed at first that his appearance was a theatrical enhancement to the film.

"It was just straight chaos," said Jennifer Seeger, 25. "Everybody was starting to scream and run at that point. He went straight from here to here with a gun in my face at that point. That rifle was in my face and I honestly didn't know what to think."

The shooting evoked memories of the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, 27km from Aurora, where two students opened fire and killed 12 students and a teacher.

It also resonated in the US presidential race. Both President Barack Obama and his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, toned down their campaigns, pulled their ads from Colorado and dedicated their scheduled events to the victims.

"My daughters go to the movies," Obama told supporters at a campaign event in Fort Myers, Florida. "What if Malia and Sasha had been at the theatre as so many kids do each day?"

The gunman was armed with an AR-15 assault rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun and a Glock .40-caliber handgun, Oates said. Police found an additional Glock .40-caliber handgun in his car, parked just outside the theatre's rear emergency exit, Oates said.

He was dressed entirely in black with a gas mask, ballistic helmet, tactical ballistic vest, throat guard, leggings and crotch guard, Oates said, adding that Holmes had purchased the weapons legally at three area gun stores in the last 60 days and had bought 6 000 rounds of ammunition.

A law enforcement official who asked to remain anonymous said the suspect had purchased a ticket, entered the theatre and propped open the emergency exit while he slipped out to "gear up" and return armed.

The portrait of Holmes that emerged in the hours following the shooting remained fuzzy, with only a speeding ticket on his record and nothing to suggest he was capable of an outburst of gun violence.

Socialy inept

He grew up in a middle-class San Diego neighbourhood and earned a degree in neuroscience from the University of California at Riverside before seeking his graduate degree from the University of Colorado.

People who knew him described him as kind toward children but said he had trouble finding work.

Holmes was described as bright but was in the process of dropping out of his graduate programme at the time of the shooting, according to the university.

Billy Kromka, a pre-med student at the University of Colorado at Boulder who served as a research assistant alongside Holmes for several months last year, said he was astonished at the news.

"He basically was socially awkward but not to the degree that would warrant suspicion of mass murder or any atrocity of this magnitude," Kromka, 19, said. "I did not see any behaviour he exhibited that indicated he would be capable of an atrocity of a magnitude like this."

Kromka said Holmes never talked politics or became animated about any particular subject, but appeared to be influenced by movies and the media and played online role-playing video games.

But New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said he "clearly looks like a deranged individual".

"He had his hair painted red. He said he was The Joker, obviously the enemy of Batman," Kelly told reporters, referring to a character in the Batman comic and cinematic universe known for committing acts of random, chaotic violence.


Holmes' family issued a statement of sympathy for the victims, saying, "Our heart goes out" to their loved ones, while they also asked for privacy from the media while they "process this information".

Meanwhile, as darkness fell across Denver, a row of prayer candles and a dozen or so bouquets of flowers were clustered under a single hand-written sign that read: "7/20 gone not forgotten."

The theatre remained cordoned off with police vehicles lining the perimeter, and Oates said officers would be on hand for future showings of The Dark Knight Rises in the city.

In New York, police pledged to deploy officers at all 40 theatres where the film was playing, partly as a precaution against "copycats." Los Angeles police said they would increase patrols at screenings of the film.

The Paris movie première was cancelled on Friday, event organizers said. Director Christopher Nolan called the shooting an "unbearably savage" event for which he expressed "profound sorrow" to the victims and their families.

Time Warner-owned Warner Bros, the studio behind the film, faced the prospect of seeing the blockbuster sink at the box offices even as the film got off to a strong start across the United States and Canada.

  • mlucejko - 2012-07-21 10:07

    Sadly, there are too many 'violent nutters' in this world !! America has a serious problem with gun control !! - 2012-07-21 10:27

      I am just amazed at people who think that they can go ahead and do things like this. I just want to be able to understand a motive behind such behaviour!

      rbphiri - 2012-07-21 13:08

      Firstly the armed gunman had a full suit of tactical body armour, a helmet and a gas did he obtain this??? He grew up in a middle-class San Diego neighbourhood and earned a degree in neuroscience. For someone who studied neuroscience one who think he had a good cerebellum between his shoulders. He had his hair dyed red and called himself "the Joker" in a reference to Batman's comic-book nemesis, friends say that he was basically socially awkward. The kid probably committed the crime to have a sense of belonging and to get attention and get people talking about him, thus writing his name in permanent ink in the history books of America. The Aurora shooting immediately conjures up thoughts of the Columbine High School Massacre in 1999...did he perhaps find inspiration from this? This should be a wake up call for America, i have a feeling there are other socially awkward teens laying dormant...awaiting for the right moment to vent their social frustration. Just watch each massacre will be more horrific than the order to have more weight and importance than the other massacres.

  • Mandy Casey - 2012-07-21 10:21

    Take off his body armour and let him open the door to the apartment himself.

  • fanie.viljoen.73 - 2012-07-21 10:23

    The USA always wants to fight the "terror" of the world, meanwhile back at home they breed the best class of terrorists in the world. Perhaps it is time to start solving their own problems before trying to rescue the World!

      tuco.angeleyes - 2012-07-21 11:21

      My thoughts exactly. It all good and noble to appoint yourself policeman/judge/jury/executioner of the world, but it it makes no sense when most of the attrocities commited in your own back yard are executed by your own people. Some deep introspection is needed on the part of US leaders on how to clean up their own house before pointing fingers. Lives are being lost here.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-07-21 16:11

      A deranged person kills people in a crowed cinema, and you relate this to US foreign policy, with prejudiced slant to boot?

      delish7564 - 2012-07-22 00:13

      @fred. It's a fair enough point. Most of these horrors happen in America, you don't really hear of anything like this happening elsewhere so it is true that America should get its own house in order before taking other countries to task. I'm not saying it doesn't or wouldn't happen anywhere else but the States behaves with such a holier than thou attitude that they really should get their own act together first! Condolences to all those families of loved ones killed or injured. Hopefully they will be given privacy to try and deal with this tragedy.

  • lodewyk.fred - 2012-07-21 10:27

    Yes, this was three day ago!

  • helio.paulo.7 - 2012-07-21 10:41

    A sick world and looks like all the loonies and zombies are hatched in the good ol US of A. I really think it is time America takes a good long and hard lok at itself before getting involved in other peoples domestic issues.

  • dakey.ras.73 - 2012-07-21 11:21

    Just another kid with no moral compass. 60 years ago at bare minimum kids had 'God' to be accountable to. Now, there is no-one. Same story with Breivik in Norway. Kids just don't understand consequences.

      dakey.ras.73 - 2012-07-21 15:37

      @Balstrome: "Who was a Christian as I understand it" Difficult to be a 'follower of Christ' if he went against the teachings of Christ. That is actually the very definition of an 'anti' Christ. Here we have a very confused kid, part of a gamer crowd from some reports, who can't quite understand why killing random people is wrong. The thought of being killed and going to Hell, clearly not something he was concerned about. - 2012-07-21 21:05

      Is there any Christian who hasn't at some point in their lives gone against the teachings of Christ?

      elewies - 2012-07-22 09:33

      Okay mr Bright Spark. Please tell me why this sort of mass-murder sprees do not happen in countries like the Netherlands, Germany, the UK, Japan, etc. All of these countries are more sectarian than America. So they 'have less God'. But it doesn't happen there. They listen to the same 'satanic music' as Americans. They play the same violent video games. They watch the same violent movies.

      dakey.ras.73 - 2012-07-22 13:02

      @fther "Is there any Christian who hasn't at some point in their lives gone against the teachings of Christ?" I'm sure we can attribute Buddhism to this guy as well, he's just not very good it at... Christianity is quite unequivocal about murder, just as vegans are about steak. @elewies: "Okay mr Bright Spark. Please tell me why this sort of mass-murder sprees do not happen in countries like the Netherlands, Germany, the UK, Japan" Gun laws? Society? This attack apparently happened on the 1 year anniversary of the Norway massacre.

  • fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-21 11:35

    I am shocked that the US is shocked!

      keith.murphy.9638 - 2012-07-21 11:46

      But the usa like batrmans, zombies, and they are vampires mass murdering innocent people in their dirty wars, why shocked when they are the vampires as mugabe says

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-07-21 16:13

      Fidel's immature anti-US beliefs at play again, and Keith's sociopathic notions. Birds of a feather flock together.

      gerhard.kress.3 - 2012-07-22 13:21

      Fidel that is just cheap rhetoric on your part.

  • Gcodi Mahomed - 2012-07-21 11:49

    was he a christian or jewish terrorist

      SarcasticAgnostic - 2012-07-21 13:17

      Does it really matter? A nutjob is a nutjob, there is no here or there about it. - 2012-07-21 21:06

      Ate your entire bowl of moron for breakfast I see marumobongani...

      pisciotta - 2012-07-22 10:41

      Mahomed dude, did'nt you read. He was raised Baptist, converted to Islam and worked at the Jewish summer camp for infiltration purposes.

  • marius.koen2 - 2012-07-21 12:14

    How can you buy an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle legally from a store? Are u kidding me?

  • NPDeKlerk - 2012-07-21 12:27

    And through all of this the only question worth asking is...Where the hell was Batman????!!!

      LDivaCantrelle - 2012-07-21 12:58

      Batman was still trying to squeeze into his tight suit...

      Khetha Hlophe - 2012-07-21 21:51

      Bat is a night creature like owl,is associated with evil,that's why we tend to kill them in rural. Its far worse with the batman

  • jnrbrunno - 2012-07-21 14:34

    the \illumnati\ was behind that attack! They sacrificed all those pple to make the movie a success!

      Lynette Dicks - 2012-07-22 07:07

      it is not about the success of the movie, the characters in the movie are symbolic of the bigger picture. This was a sacrifice for something even more evil to happen - watch out Denver airport!

  • sterling.ferguson.5 - 2012-07-21 19:08

    @RPhiri, if one look at the history of the mass killers in the world, one will find that most of them come from middle class families and are very educated. Most of these people are ticking time bombs waiting to go off and have multi-personalities. I was reading about a case where this woman stuck up a bank at gun point and an hour later went to the same bank to deposit this money.

  • Philip Mostert - 2012-07-21 19:25

    What a nightmare! My condolences to all involved in this.

  • priyesh.jivan - 2012-07-21 22:00

    I grew up reading comic books and one thing I've learnt from them is how to be a better person, and devote yourself to helping the needy. In this case, Batman, a superhero who constantly has to stick to North on his moral compass is someone admirable, especially since he's helping to keep criminals off the streets. This however, is sad, terrible and truly tragic. I am sad for the families who have lost loved ones in this tragedy and am praying for the people who are recovering from their injuries. Its sad to know that as a superhero inspires people, so to does a villain. The Joker is a very complex and very insane character, but at the end of the day, he is just a character in a comic book. Its sad to know that people sometimes take it to the extreme and we have to endure tragedies such as this. But at the end of the day, we have to look deep within ourselves and ask the question of, do we let this ruin our hopes of there being good in this world, or do we believe that there are people out there, willing to take a stand and lend a helping towards ending crimes like these. Do we lose faith in God for allowing such a tragedy to happen, or do we renew our faith, and believe that out of such bad things, that there may be some good in the world? I mean, you either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

  • visko.vandermerwe - 2012-07-22 00:07

    All his amo was legal in America. All registered with the legal gun-possession-law in America. The gunman was armed with an AR-15 assault rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun and a Glock .40-caliber handgun, Oates said. Police found an additional Glock .40-caliber handgun in his car, Oates said, adding that Holmes had purchased the weapons legally at three area gun stores in the last 60 days and had bought 6 000 rounds of ammunition. You're allowed to own even MORE ammunition in America. But it would be illegal to smoke a joint there. Go figure....

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