2018-04-16 08:38:21 UTC
By JENNIFER BROWN | ***@denverpost.com | The Denver Post
PUBLISHED: July 20, 2012 at 3:30 pm | UPDATED: August 17, 2016
at 7:08 pm
AURORA A gunman slipped into a midnight premiere of the new
Batman movie through an emergency exit early Friday, tossed two
hissing gas canisters and then methodically, calmly walked up
the aisle firing, killing 12 people and wounding 58.
It was among the worst mass shootings in American history.
Terrorized moviegoers, some dragging bloodied bodies, spilled
out of the Century Aurora 16 complex at Aurora Town Center
trying to escape shortly after 12:30 a.m.
Coloradans woke up Friday to news of the tragedy, an eerie echo
of a similar massacre 13 years ago in a different Denver suburb,
at Columbine High School. Once again, a mass shooting in
Colorado was recounted around the world.
Our hearts are broken, Gov. John Hickenlooper said.
It is beyond the power of words to fully express our sorrow
this morning. Coloradans have a remarkable ability to support
one another in times of crisis. This is one of those times.
President Barack Obama spoke from Florida, saying he instantly
thought about his daughters going to the movies. We never
understand what leads someone to terrorize their fellow human
beings like this, Obama said. Life is very fragile, and it is
James Eagan Holmes, 24, bought a ticket to the show, The Dark
Knight Rises, then left theater 9, propping the emergency exit
open for his return, investigators said. About 15 minutes into
the film, he appeared beside the screen with three guns, dressed
in black and wearing a ballistic helmet, gas mask and body
Holmes surrendered to authorities, who found his north Aurora
apartment booby-trapped with explosives, techno music blasting
from his stereo. His building and five buildings around it were
The names of the victims were not released, but they include
aspiring sports journalist Jessica Ghawi; Alex Sullivan, who was
celebrating his 27th birthday at the movie; 23-year-old Micayla
Medek; Matt McQuinn, at the theater with his girlfriend and her
brother; a U.S. Navy sailor; and a child. Families and friends
of those unaccounted for gathered at Gateway High School in
Aurora, holding up photos and awaiting news from the six
hospitals that cared for victims.
Aurora police spent 90 minutes Friday afternoon with about 70
family members who had not heard from their loved ones since the
shooting. Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said he expected
families of the dead would learn their fate Friday night.
The bodies of the 10 people who died in the theater were left
there until about 5 p.m. as hundreds of police officers and FBI
agents investigated the crime scene. Two other people died at
hospitals, which were slammed with gun-wound surgeries. Most of
the 58 injured had gunshot wounds, but a handful had other
injuries resulting from the mayhem inside the dimly lit theater.
Of the injured, 30 were still in the hospital Friday evening, 11
in critical condition.
It was like something out of a movie, said Jacob King, who was
standing in the lobby when someone carried out a motionless
little girl, covered in blood. You dont want to believe its
real, but it is.
A police officer took the girl and set her in the back of his
squad car, then sped away.
Oates, his voice choked with emotion during an evening news
conference, said his officers will need help coping in the
aftermath of the shootings.
Our cops went through a lot, he said. They were taking people
out of that theater and into their own police cars.
Aurora police began receiving a swath of calls at 12:39 a.m. and
were at the theater within 90 seconds. Holmes was taken into
custody behind the theater, near a white Hyundai.
Investigators found a 12-gauge shotgun, an AR-15 assault-style
weapon and a .40-caliber Glock handgun. A second Glock was found
in Holmes car, and authorities also removed a combat helmet,
duffel bag, an ammunition magazine and a vest.
The guns were purchased legally from local stores, and Holmes
bought more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition online, legally, the
police chief said.
A gas mask, a bloody jacket, popcorn and drinks were strewn on
the pavement outside the theater. A reporter in a news
helicopter saw bloody footprints.
Many of the nearly 200 officers at the theater drove victims to
hospitals, as ambulances were doubled up with casualties.
The Department of Defense confirmed a U.S. Navy sailor who was
at the theater was unaccounted for. One other Navy sailor and
two U.S. Air Force airmen were injured in the attack, according
to the statement. The shooting suspect was never was a member of
the military, federal officials said.
One of the victims died at Childrens Hospital in Aurora, but
officials there would not say whether it was a child or an
adult. The most seriously injured of the other five patients
there had buckshot injuries to the back.
Two of the victims at Childrens were hit with a high-velocity
rifle, perhaps from 60 to 80 feet away, emergency-room physician
Dr. Guy Upshaw said.
Theater filled with smoke
Josh Kelly, 28, was watching the movie with his girlfriend of
about four years. He lost her in the chaos.
Josh called his father, Robert Kelly, from the theater and said:
I cant find my girl. In the darkness and the smoke, and
people panicking and trampling one another, he just lost track,
and he couldnt see, the elder Kelly said. My son is freaked
The dark theater quickly filled with smoke that stung peoples
eyes and throats after the gunman tossed gas canisters,
witnesses said. Moviegoers dropped to the floor and crawled over
one another to get out. Some dragged bloodied bodies to the
I ran. I pushed. I did whatever I had to do to get out, said
Resharee Goodlo, whose friend didnt make it out of the theater
and is feared dead.
Emma Goos, 19, was separated from her friend, but they both made
it out alive. She described 15 seconds of fire, fire, fire. He
let off 20 rounds in 30 seconds.
Goos tried to go home and sleep, but her thoughts were too
A man with soft tissue on his head, blood gushing down his arms,
holding his head and asking, Is there a hole? Is there a hole?
Children walking out, clutching people they had never met. A
girl with shrapnel in her hips being trampled at the door. And
the gunman himself standing there with his feet spread apart as
if he were the king of the world, like a video game or a movie
scene, Goos said.
Jordan Crofter, 19, sneaked into theater 9 even though he had a
ticket for the showing in the theater next door. He wanted to
sit with his friends.
Crofter said the gunman appeared lackadaisical, as calm as can
be, and didnt say a word. He was sitting there like target
practice. He was trying to shoot as many people as he could.
Crofter ran for his life and was the first to the lobby. He
found out later that a friend in the first row had been shot and
collapsed. He didnt know Friday whether he lived.
One of the shots blasted through the wall into theater 8,
hitting a person there.
The University of Colorado said Holmes was withdrawing from the
universitys graduate program in neurosciences, after enrolling
at the university in June 2011. Holmes graduated from the
University of California, Riverside in 2010 with a degree in
neuroscience, the university said.
Authorities saw jars of liquid and ammunition in Holmes
apartment and said they would return Saturday with federal
agents to clean it up. Neighbors were allowed to go home one at
a time to collect medicines or other necessities but not stay
Jackie Mitchell said he had drinks and talked football with
Holmes a few nights ago at the Zephyr Lounge. Holmes was geeky
and had a swagger to him, Mitchell said.
He just didnt seem the type to go into a movie theater and
shoot it up, Mitchell said. He seemed like a real smart dude.
Witnesses said police came running into the theater shouting at
them to run out. Some of the officers carried or dragged victims
Tammi Stevens, whose 18-year-old son Jacob was inside theater 9,
waited for him at Gateway High School.
You let your kids go to a late-night movie you never think
something like this would happen, she said.
Aurora police provide security at the theater on weekends, but
because the movie premiere was playing Friday just after
midnight, they were not there. The police chief said his
officers would provide extra security this weekend at four other
Aurora theaters showing the Batman movie, as a precaution.
Sometime around 1 a.m., patients began arriving at the Medical
Center of Aurora. A total of 15 patients ranging from 16 to 31
years old were sent to the medical center, 12 of them with
gunshot wounds. An additional three patients arrived at the
hospital Friday afternoon, the hospital said.
Two patients in critical condition were at Swedish Medical
Denver Health Medical Center treated six victims; three were
released and three listed in fair condition, hospital officials
said. The University of Colorado Hospital had 23 victims, nine
in critical condition.
More than 100 FBI and 25 Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms
and Explosives agents were deployed to Colorado to help local
authorities in Aurora, U.S. Department of Justice officials said.
The president ordered all flags flown at half-staff in honor of
The Town Center Mall in Aurora was closed Friday but was to
reopen Saturday. A prayer vigil was planned in Aurora for 6:30
Warner Bros. studio canceled the red-carpet premiere event of
The Dark Knight Rises in Paris, and the studio released a
statement saying the company is deeply saddened to learn about
this shocking incident.
Lines from previous Batman movies were quoted online Friday as
news of the shooting spread, including: Some men arent looking
for anything logical, like money. They cant be bought, bullied,
reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the
Aurora police are asking anyone with information about the
shootings to call Crime Stoppers at 720-913-7867. Families
looking for information about loved ones should call 303-739-
Jennifer Brown: 303-954-1593, ***@denverpost.com or