20 Jul 2012

US gunman kills 12 at Batman screening

A gunman in a gas mask kills 12 people and leaves up to 50 wounded at a screening of the new Batman film in Denver, United States. A 24-year-old suspect is arrested and named by police.

A man wearing a gas mask and riot gear opened fire at the midnight screening of the new Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises, at a Century 16 cinema in a suburb of Denver, Colorado.

Ten people were killed on site and two more died at hospital, said Police Chief Dan Oates. Initial estimates suggest that 40 to 50 people, including children, were also injured in the incident at the shopping centre in the Aurora suburb of the city. A four-month-old baby was released from hospital after treatment.

The suspect has been named as 24-year-old James Holmes, a resident of the area, by FBI sources. He was carrying a knife, a rifle, and a handgun when arrested in the car park behind the cinema, and was wearing a bullet-proof vest. “He did not resist, he did not put up a fight,” said police spokesman Frank Fania about his arrest.

The suspect’s apartment building was evacuated after he told police that he had explosives in his home, and when police tried to access the apartment it was “booby-trapped”, a local police chief told Reuters news agency.

Speaking from the scene as police were working to gain access to the apartment, Aurora Police Chief Daniel Oates said: “His apartment is booby-trapped. We are trying to determine how to disarm the flammable or explosive material. We could be here for hours or days.

“The pictures are fairly disturbing. It looks very sophisticated, how it’s booby-trapped. It could be a very long wait.”

One of the victims has been identified as Jessica Ghawi, a hockey writer and broadcaster from San Antonio, Texas, who went by the name of Jessica Redfield. Her Twitter account shows the moments before the fatal incident and a blog post she wrote on 5 June describes how she narrowly escaped being caught up in a shooting at the Eaton Centre food court in Toronto.

“I noticed this feeling when I was in the Eaton Centre in Toronto just seconds before someone opened fire in the food court. An odd feeling which led me to go outside and unknowingly out of harm’s way…Instead of walking in [to the restaurant] sitting down and enjoying sushi, I changed my mind, which is very unlike me, and decided that a greasy burger and poutine would do the trick. I rushed through my dinner.

“I found out after seeing a map of the scene, that minutes later a man was standing in the same spot I just ate at and opened fire in the food court full of people. Had I had sushi, I would’ve been in the same place where one of the victims was found.

“I was shown how fragile life was on Saturday. I saw the terror on bystanders’ faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change.”

US gunman kills 12 at Batman screening (G)

‘We must now come together’

US President Barack Obama was notified of the shooting first thing on Friday morning and urged Americans to “stand together” with the people of Aurora. He cut short a campaigning trip to Florida and cancelled ads and events to promote his presidential election campaign.

“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,” President Obama said in a statement.

We heard anywhere from 10 to 20 shots and little explosions going on. Shortly after that we heard people screaming. Then they came on PA system and said everyone needed to get out. As soon as we got out, there were people running around and screaming. Witness

“As we do when confronted by moments of darkness and challenge, we must now come together as one American family,” he added.

The Queen tonight sent her “heartfelt sympathy” to President Barack Obama and the US people after the shootings.

A witness told CNN: “We heard anywhere from 10 to 20 shots and little explosions going on. Shortly after that we heard people screaming. Then they came on PA system and said everyone needed to get out.

“As soon as we got out, there were people running around and screaming.”

“When we got out of the theatre it was just chaos. There was this one who guy was on all fours crawling. There was this girl spitting up blood,” witness Donovan Tate told KCNC television. “There were bullet holes in some people’s backs, some people’s arms. There was this one guy who was stripped down to just his boxers. It looked like he was shot in the back or something. It was crazy.”

Key witnesses have been taken to a nearby high school by police for briefings, said a police spokesman on Aurora Police radio station.

Mass casualty alert

University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora treated 22 patients ranging in age from three months to 45 years. “This is one of the most horrific nights I’ve ever had to work,” said emergeny doctor Comilla Sasson.

Dozens of police were at the scene, and authorities evacuated the area while they checked if there was an explosive device in the area. Four local hospitals treated the casualties.

Colorado has previously been the centre of a mass killing spree. In 1999, two students opened fire at Columbine High School in the suburb of Littleton, 25 miles away from Aurora, killing 12 students and a teacher.

The Paris premiere of the Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises, was cancelled on Friday following the mass shooting in Denver.

Police will be deployed at the New York screenings of The Dark Knight Rises “as a precaution against copycats,” said Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly in a statement.