President Obama was awakened early on Friday morning (July 20) and informed by national security advisors of the midnight shooting at a screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colorado.
The White House released a statement from the president about the incident, which read, "Michelle and I are shocked and saddened by the horrific and tragic shooting in Colorado ... 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."
The shootings at a theater less than10 miles east of downtown Denver came as fans were settling in for the first screening of the blockbuster film. The 24-year-old male gunman, wearing a bulletproof vest, goggles, black camouflage gear and a gas mask, reportedly kicked open the back door of the theater and opened fire with at least two weapons, killing at least 12 and injuring at least 45. The youngest victim is reported to be a three-month-old baby who is listed in fair condition, with the range of the injured spanning victims 6-31 years old.
Police took a shotgun and rifle off the shooter and found two other guns inside the theater after calmly apprehending him outside the complex. A local mortician told Denver's ABC 7 News that several people were injured by what was described as a "scrap metal pepper bomb" and hospital officials told CNN that some victims were brought in with what was described as "shrapnel" wounds consisted with an explosive or incendiary device. Eyewitness Chris Jones told ABC 7, "Everybody thought it was fireworks." He didn't see the gunman himself, but "when the shooting cleared, we just ran. When we got outside, it was chaos."
Aurora is less than 20 miles from Littleton, scene of the horrific Columbine High School shootings that left 13 teenagers dead in 1999.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his wife Ann also responded to the tragedy with an early morning statement. "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," it read. At press time, CNN was reporting that there were 12 confirmed deaths, along with a number of critical injuries. "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."
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