A gunman dressed head-to-toe in body armour and brandishing three weapons,including an assault rifle and a shotgun,opened fire in a theatre crowded with families and children at a midnight showing of the Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises in a Denver suburb early Friday morning,killing at least 12 people and wounding at least 59,police and federal officials said.
The suspect,James Holmes,24,told the police after his arrest that he had booby-trapped his Aurora apartment with explosive devices,leading the police to evacuate five buildings in the neighbourhood.
During the attack,he had entered through a side door of the packed theatre and set off at two smoke devices before firing randomly at audience members,who had just settled into their seats. Within minutes,he was arrested in a parking lot behind the theatre near his car,the police said.
During the attack he wore a gas mask and was armed with an AR-15 assault rifle,a shotgun and a Glock handgun. A fourthgun,another Glock,was found in his car. The authorities believe that Holmes acted alone,and that the death toll may increase because some of the injuries were serious.
With the investigation in its earliest stages,the authorities said they were unsure what prompted the attack,or whether Holmes had ties to any hate groups. No motivation yet, one senior law enforcement official said,adding,The kids not talking.
At a midday news briefing,Aurora Police Chief Daniel Oates said that a total of 71 people had been shot at.
The shooting erupted at the Century 16 Theatre during the first showings of The Dark Knight Rises. Throngs had gathered,some dressed as characters from the highly anticipated Batman sequel. Witnesses said the gunman appeared to have entered the theatre through an exit door and described smelling either pepper spray or tear gas in the
theatre as the gunfire rang out.
Reports suggested Holmes was a graduate student studying neuroscience at the University of Colorado. He had been in the process of withdrawing from the programme that he had begun in June of last year.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York,who has waged a national campaign for stricter gun laws,called on President Barack Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney to more concretely address the issue of gun violence in their campaigns.
Cellphone video appeared to show the traumatic scene outside of the multiplex. Some people wandered away with bloodstained shirts as others could be heard screaming,Get out of here!
It was the worst mass shooting in the US since the 2007 shooting on the Virginia Tech campus,and it immediately brought memories of the massacre at nearby Columbine High School in 1999,where two students opened fire and killed 12 classmates and a teacher.
Was there a link to batman?
Bruce Waynes drive to become Batman arose from witnessing the deaths of his parents,Thomas and Martha Wayne,at the hands of a small-time criminal who shot and killed them after they left a movie theatre.
The Batman video game called Arkham City takes place in an abandoned movie theatre (The Monarch,outside which Waynes parents were killed).
In the third issue of DC Comics Batman: The Dark Knight,a gritty retooling of the Batman character that was written by Frank Miller in the 1980s,the Joker kills an entire late-night TV audience with gas.
In the same book,a man starts shooting up a porn theatre after getting fired from his job.
The Dark Knight Rises features at least two scenes where unsuspecting people are attacked in a public venue: the stock exchange and a football stadium. At the latter,a masked villain leads a murderous crew and wages an attack involving guns and explosives.