12 Dead, 59 Wounded in Colorado Theater Shooting; Suspect in Custody

BY Tom LeGro  July 20, 2012 at 6:03 PM EDT

Tammi Stevens is overcome with emotion as she picks up her son, Jacob Stevens, outside Gateway High School in Aurora, Colo., on Friday. Jacob was a witness to the shooting inside the Aurora movie theater where 12 people were killed. Photo by R.J. Sangosti, The Denver Post.

A gunman fired into a suburban Denver movie theater Thursday night during a midnight opening of the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises,” killing 12 people and injuring 59 others, authorities in Aurora, Colo., said. The shooter, who was wearing a gas mask, had also set off an unknown gas inside the theater.

A 24-year-old man named James Holmes was arrested shortly after the attack. An FBI spokesman said there was no indication of any connection to terrorist groups.

More from the Denver Post:
“12 killed, 59 injured in Aurora movie theater shooting”
“Photos: Shooting at Aurora Theater”

Update 11 p.m. ET: Names of 11 of the victims killed in the shooting have been released by the Arapahoe County Coroner’s Office. Officials notified their families before releasing the names. NPR has posted the list with information on the victims here.

Update 7:51 p.m. ET: Tayler Trujillo, 18, of Denver, Colo. was in theater 9 and said she initially thought the man in “black armor with a black mask and black helmet” was part of the show.

Then he threw something and it landed a row in front of the row I was in. It went off and gas filled the air. That’s when he pulled the gun . . . but it was not enough time to get out from where we were before shots were fired again. So I just laid on the ground until everything was done. At one point everyone got up and started running. I looked next to me when we got upstairs and the guy next to me was bleeding I think that’s when it hit me, what had just happened before.

Updated 5:45 p.m. ET: Witness Shayla Roeder describes what she saw after the Aurora shootings:

Updated 4:30 p.m. ET:

Jordan Ghawi, brother of shooting victim Jessica Ghawi, posted this on his web site. He describes the final moments of his sister’s life.

“This is what I have been told by Brent, who was with my sister at the time of the shooting. This will be the only statement that I will make on the events surrounding what appears to be her death.

Jessica and Brent were seated in the middle portion of the theatre when a device was thrown into the theatre that produced a “hissing” sound. The theatre than began to fill with smoke which is when patrons began to move from their seats. At that time, shots were fired. Brent and Jessica immediately dropped to a prone position for cover. Jessica advised multiple times for someone to call 911, which Brent immediately attempted to do. Brent then heard Jessica scream and noticed that she was struck by a round in the leg. Brent, began holding pressure on the wound and attempted to calm Jessica. It was at this time that Brent took a round to his lower extremities. While still administering first aid, Brent noticed that Jessica was no longer screaming. He advised that he looked over to Jessica and saw what appeared to be an entry wound to her head. He further stated that Jessica presented with agonal respirations. Brent then took what may have been his only chance to escape the line of fire and exited the structure where he then contacted my mother. Brent’s actions are nothing but heroic. The veracity of any other statements not issued by myself or Peter Burns should be questioned.”

Updated 3:15 p.m. ET: NewsHour production assistant Allie Morris spoke to a woman who was inside the theater with three friends, Silvana Guillen:

My friend and I were in the third row from very front right next to the emergency exit. We got into the movie pretty late. It was a full theater….About fifteen minutes into the movie, I just heard someone trying to mess around with emergency exit door. A man came in with a gun, all black, wearing a bulletproof vest and he had a shotgun in his hand. He threw something into the crowd, tear gas or something.

At first no one did anything, we all thought it was part of the movie, someone joking around. As soon as he lifted up the shotgun and releasing rounds, my friend and I got down to the ground and hid under the seats. A guy got on top of us to try to shield us. I was hiding my face into my friend’s hoodie because there was tear gas, or some gas.

It was so hard to breath. I kept coughing. I turned around, and I just saw him walk by and I just didn’t even look up. I was too afraid. I saw his feet walk down the aisles….As soon as he looked away, I grabbed my friend from under the chair and told her we had to run. I remember thinking, “If he looks over, he is going to shoot us.” I was bracing myself to get shot, waiting for it.

We ran out of the exit door. My friend and I were running as fast as we could, he lost his shoes. We just ran behind the movie theater as fast as we could.

Updated 2:29 p.m. ET: NewsHour deputy national affairs editor Mike Melia spoke to an eyewitness at the theater, Lin Gan:

I was in theater one and the shooting was in theater nine. I was also watching the Batman movie. After the movie started, 15 or 20 minutes in, the emergency alarm and lights started flashing. Everyone thought it was a fire emergency. We did not know it was so serious. We all thought it was a fire emergency. And then we heard a voice over a speaker say, “This is an emergency report. Someone has a gun inside the building and you have to evacuate.” We don’t know what is going on and had to run outside to get out of there. We walked to the door there and a police man said, “Run, run” so seriously and we were so shocked. We were so shocked when we got out. Some people were covered by blood. It was terrible. As I ran to the outside in the hallways I heard gun shots. I didn’t see the suspect. At that moment I did not know what was going on there. Now that I think about it, I am sure they were gun shots. I got out of there and I wanted to go back home and see my mom. There were four of us – me, my two cousins, and a good friend. We get into one car and drop me off at home and my car is still in the theater parking lot and my phone is in the car.

It was hard to find a way to get out of there. We were driving to find a way to get out and finally we found a way. Police were checking all the vehicles if we had any weapons in the car and they checked my car, too. We didn’t have any weapons. They said, “Just go quick, go,” so we got away from there.

Updated 2:22 p.m. ET:

 

Update 1:43 p.m. ET: Officials from Aurora, Colo., gave a news conference on the theater shooting:

Updated 12:30 p.m. ET: The University of Colorado, where Holmes was enrolled, released this photo of the shooting suspect:

Updated 12:17 p.m. ET: In New Hampshire, Mitt Romney expressed shock and grief at the news of the shooting, saying he was praying for the families of the loved ones lost.

Updated 11:52 a.m. ET: We gathered some reaction from the web:

Here’s raw video of the scene, courtesy of the Denver Post:

The shooting occurred minutes after the 12:05 a.m. premiere showing, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times.

Eyewitnesses said the gunman entered the movie theater through the emergency exit door near the front of the screen in theater No. 9 at the Century 16 in Aurora. A witness, who declined to be identified [said] the gunman then “threw a canister across the theater,” unleashing gas, “then started shooting.” The witness said he saw a man two seats over who was shot in the head. “I can’t get his image out of my head,” the witness wrote in a message. The victim was wearing a shirt bearing the face of the face of the Joker from the Batman series; after he was shot, he slumped back in his chair, his face covered in blood.

On the campaign trail, the shooting is expected to influence the day’s rhetoric.

 

The Morning Line reported:

The tragic killing of at least a dozen people will likely result in the pause button being hit for at least a day in what has been a brutal stretch of the campaign.

Politics editor Christina Bellantoni on President Obama’s reaction to the shooting:

 

President Obama released a statement Friday after the shooting in Aurora:

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. We are committed to bringing whoever was responsible to justice, ensuring the safety of our people, and caring for those who have been wounded. As we do when confronted by moments of darkness and challenge, we must now come together as one American family.

Mitt Romney also released a statement after the shooting:

Ann and I are deeply saddened by the news of the senseless violence that took the lives of 15 people in Colorado and injured dozens more. We are praying for the families and loved ones of the victims during this time of deep shock and immense grief. We expect that the person responsible for this terrible crime will be quickly brought to justice.

Additional reporting and video editing by Joshua Barajas, Kelly Chen, Travis Daub, Larisa Epatko and Meena Ganesan.

We’ll have updates throughout the day and on Friday’s NewsHour.