Aurora, Colorado, police gave an update on the investigation into the deadly shooting rampage at a sold-out midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” on Friday afternoon, revealing new details about the alleged shooter and the panicked scene inside the theater.
Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates confirmed that the alleged shooter is 24-year-old James Eagen Holmes , a local resident who has no known criminal record and whose only previous police contact was a speeding ticket in October 2011. He said that police are not looking for any other suspects at this time and are confident that Holmes acted alone.
When a reporter asked Oates to confirm eyewitness reports of an unidentified “suspicious” person who allegedly opened the door to let Holmes into the theater — whose exit only opens from the inside — he would not comment on those reports, or describe how Holmes gained access to the theater.
The alleged shooter, a San Diego native who recently dropped out of the PhD program in neuroscience at a local university, was described as wearing head-to-toe tactical gear during the attack. Oates said Holmes was dressed all in black, including a ballistic helmet, ballistic leggings, throat and groin protectors, a gas mask, black tactical gloves and a bullet-proof vest.
Oates confirmed that the first 911 call came in to authorities at 12:39 a.m., followed by hundreds of others and that police were on the scene and had apprehended Holmes within 60-90 seconds. He said that 25 officers were on the scene within “minutes” and that in addition to taking Holmes into custody and beginning their investigation, a good portion of the responding police spent time loading victims into their cars and transporting the them to local hospitals.
The death toll in the shooting stood at 12 at press time, with two victims pronounced dead at local hospitals and 10 others dead at the scene, where they remain as police work to identify them and collect evidence. The number of injured, was originally pegged at 50, but Oates said that a total of 71 people were shot during the spree, bringing the number of wounded up to 59.
Holmes was apprehended behind the theater outside of his white Hyundai, where police found four weapons: an AR-15 assault rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun and two .40-caliber Glock handguns. Three are believed to have been used in the shooting and the fourth, one of the Glocks, was found in the car. It is unclear if the second handgun was used during the spree.
While Oates said there is no way of knowing yet how many shots were fired, he described it as “many, many rounds” fired very rapidly and said that two incendiary devices that released “some sort of irritant or smoke” were set off in the theater to distract the crowd during the assault. In total, more than 200 officers from surrounding precincts responded to the scene and the injured were taken to six local hospitals.
Some of the rounds penetrated the wall of an adjoining theater and at least one person was hit. Emergency response personnel have described the damage suffered by victims as ranging from “horrific” bullet injuries to shrapnel wounds and burns, with a number requiring decontamination from the unknown incendiary device set off in the theater.
Oates would not speculate on any motive in the attack and while he confirmed that Holmes surrendered without any “significant incident,” he denied reports that the alleged suspect was dressed as the Batman villain the Joker. “He was dressed as described, not like the Joker,” Oates said.
Oates also updated the ongoing investigation at Holmes’ apartment , which is three miles from the scene. He said there were incendiary devices in Holmes’ apartment, including rigging with trip wires and one liter soda bottles filled with an unknown liquid. Police responded to that location “fairly quickly” after identifying Holmes and determined that the suspected chemical and incendiary devices and trip wires made it an “active and difficult” scene that could take days to untangle. Residents from five surrounding buildings were evacuated and investigators are reportedly sending robots into the apartment to hit the wires and disarm any devices.
Holmes is reportedly no longer cooperating with investigators and Oates said officials are not sure why he tipped them off to the booby-trapped apartment.
Special Agent Jim Yacone of the FBI said his organization has 100 agents on the scene working with the Aurora police department, in addition to 25 investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. At press time there was believed to be no tie to terrorism in the case, though agents from the Joint Terrorism Task Force were on site to gather evidence as well.
According to reports, Holmes was not on a terror watch list, did not have a concealed weapons permit, hunting license or arrest history and had no connection to the military. Oates said while there is an “awful lot of forensic and ballistic evidence” to sort through, it is not yet known if the weapons in Holmes’ possession were legally obtained; the ATF is investigating their legal status.
The Pentagon has confirmed that several members of the military were either injured or killed in the shooting. The medical school at the University of Colorado revealed that Holmes was in the process of getting his PhD in neuroscience but withdrew from the university in June. On Friday afternoon the University of California, Riverside also confirmed that Holmes graduated from the university with a BS in neuroscience in the spring of 2010. He reportedly recently moved into the apartment near the movie theater.
Holmes is due in court on Monday for his first appearance in the case and local news organizations have reportedly requested that the judge allow cameras in the courtroom.
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