Denver: At least 12 people have been killed and 50 injured in a shooting at a theatre in Aurora, Colorado, on the opening night of the latest Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises”.
The man, who was arrested after the horrific incident at the Century Theatre cinema in a Denver suburb early Friday, has been identified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as local resident James Holmes, a 24-year-old white American.
Earlier, reports said that 14 people were shot dead, but Aurora Police Department later revised down the death toll.
“The Police Department can confirm that 12 persons are deceased, with the bodies of 10 victims still at the crime scene inside the theatre. At least two more victims died at area hospitals,” it stated.
“Approximately 50 total persons were shot, including the deceased,” the police statement said. Victims were taken to at least six area hospitals, it added.
Reports also said one of the victims was three months old.
The gunman, who was reportedly born on December 13, 1987, is in police custody, and the FBI says there is no indication that incident is tied to any terrorist groups.
In a statement, US President Barack Obama said: “Michelle and I are shocked and saddened by the horrific and tragic shooting in Colorado.”
He further urged the nation to “come together as one American family” in the aftermath of the tragedy.
“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 neighbours,” Obama said.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said in a statement that he and his wife, Ann, were “deeply saddened by the news of the senseless violence” that led to the loss of life and injuries.
There is no report of casualty or injury to any Indian-American. The entire area has been evacuated.
Cold blooded killer
“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.
Eyewitnesses said that the masked man “just appeared” at the front of the cinema, possibly from behind the screen or a fire exit. Initially people thought his appearance was scripted as part of the movie, unaware that a cold blooded killer was at work.
A witness, Benjamin Fernandez, 30, was quoted as saying by The Denver Post that he heard of a series of explosions when he was watching the movie.
He said people ran from the theatre and there were gunshots as police shouted ‘get down!”
CNN quoted one witness saying: “A guy slowly making his way up the stairs and firing – picking random people.”
Salina Jordan, a 19-year-old, saw people hit.
She said one girl was struck on her cheek and others in the stomach.
It sounded like firecrackers until someone ran into Theater 8 yelling “they’re shooting out here!”, said Jordan.
The masked man set off a smoke or tear gas bomb and then started shooting indiscriminately. Reports said that he ‘coordinated’ the gun attack – he opened fire during a shoot-out scene in the movie, leading to confusion.
He then walked out of the theatre and was apprehended near a car behind the theatre; the gunman did not resist. He was carrying a knife, another gun and was wearing a bulletproof vest at the time of his arrest.
“A gas mask, rifle, handgun at least one additional weapon (were) found inside,” Oates said.
Police also added that there is no evidence of second gunman. There was also no immediate word of any motive.
The suspect spoke of “possible explosives in his residence. We are dealing with that potential threat,” Oates added.
Police were at the Denver-area apartment and had evacuated other residents of the building. Oates did not say whether any explosives had been found.
He said police also checked for explosives in the parking lot and at the Century 16 theatre and secured those areas.
In the meantime, the injured have been shifted to the Swedish Medical Centre and other hospitals in the vicinity.
The Denver suburb of Aurora is near the scene of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, in which 13 people were killed and 24 others injured.