More details on the massacre at last night’s midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado have trickled in throughout the day. According to Aurora police, the suspected gunman, a 24-year-old male named James Eagan Holmes, appeared near the front of a movie theater wearing a gas mask and heavy, black body armor and threw two gas canisters. Some eyewitnesses say he came from the fire exit, though an anonymous federal official told the AP that Holmes bought a ticket to the show.
As moviegoers were disoriented by the smoke, some even thinking that it was a special effect, the shooter wordlessly opened fire. Aurora police would later find a AR-15 semiautomatic assault rifle, shotgun, and .40-caliber glock on the scene and fourth firearm, a handgun, in Holmes’ car. He stopped only to reload, and when he finished, 71 people had been shot, including one in an adjacent theater who was hit when a bullet tore through the wall. Ten died where they fell. Two more died on the way to the hospital.
“There were bullet (casings) just falling on my head. They were burning my forehead,” Jennifer Seeger told the AP. “Every few seconds it was just: Boom, boom, boom,” she said. “He would reload and shoot and anyone who would try to leave would just get killed.”
Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said in a press conference that 25 policemen rushed to the scene, and that Holmes was apprehended near the back of the theater, and “surrendered without any significant incident for our officers.” When FBI and Aurora police went to search Holmes’ apartment, they found the entry booby-trapped and had to evacuate surrounding buildings before attempting to disarm explosives inside.
Holmes moved to Aurora from San Diego to pursue a medical degree in neuroscience at the University of Colorado-Denver. According to Oates, Holmes had no criminal record, save a speeding ticket. Aurora police are confident he was alone, though they have yet to find a motive.
In New York, NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly would later address press, saying, “As a precaution against copycats and to raise the comfort levels among movie patrons in the wake of the horrendous shooting in Colorado, the New York City Police Department is providing coverage at theaters where The Dark Knight Rises is playing in the five boroughs.”