A masked gunman shot dead 14 people and wounded 50 others at a suburban US cinema during the screening of the latest Batman movie.
Eyewitnesses said 6-ft tall Jack Holmes, dressed in black body armour and a gas mask, burst into the front of the theatre through a fire exit, threw a smoke grenade and started firing at the audience with three different guns.
More than 60 people were shot — at least 14 of those fatally — as he walked up and down the aisle firing indiscriminately with a semi automatic rifle into the screaming crowd.
Reports were that a baby had been shot and that a six-year-old child was among the victims about half an hour into the midnight screening in Denver, Colorado.
Eyewitnesses said that they initially thought the attack was a publicity stunt for the movie, while others in nearby theatres said that they thought the gunfire was coming from the film.
After the attack the gunman was arrested at his car, which was parked in a car park at the rear of the cinema which police say was not a car park normally used by members of the public.
Later the FBI named the arrested man as James, Holmes, 24. He is said to live in an apartment in north Aurora, Colorado. He told police that his apartment was stacked with explosives and officers have evacuated the building and are searching his home.
A woman claiming to be Holmes’s mother told ABC News she had woken up unaware of the shooting and had not yet been contacted by authorities.
She immediately expressed concern that her son may have been involved. “You have the right person,” she said. “I need to call the police... I need to fly out to Colorado.”
And it comes just 13 years after 13 people were killed at Columbine High School in Colorado, less than 30 miles from the cinema.
Afterwards, US President Barack Obama urged the US to come together “as one American family” and pledged all necessary support for the people of Aurora, Colorado.
Evan, an eyewitness said that initially people thought it was part of the show but it soon became “very real”. “The gunman came through the exit and threw a canister of smoke and then started shooting up the place with a semi-automatic weapon,” he said. “We thought it was part of the movie but it became very real, very quickly. He must have shot 19 or 20 rounds. Somebody behind us. Maybe a straggler was hit. He said ‘I am hit’.”
According to local reports, the gunman carried out the shooting because the new Batman movie was sold out.
Dark Knight killer was neuroscience PhD student
The 24-year-old accused of a movie theater shooting rampage was attending medical school and studying for his PhD until just last month, says a rep for the University of Colorado.
The spokeswoman didn’t know why James Holmes dropped out of the university. He lived in an apartment building exclusive to med school affiliates, according to a fellow tenant—and police say Holmes’ apartment is filled with complex booby traps, including explosives. “We could be here for days” disarming the sophisticated traps, said police chief Dan Oates. Police, firefighters, and FBI officials were been at the apartment, with some taking photographs through the window via a fire engine's ladder. Neighbours say Holmes was reclusive: “No one knew him. No one,” says another student who lives in the building. Holmes ignored it when others greeted him, the tenant says.
Curse of the Dark Knight strikes again
The Batman film franchise is said by some to be cursed after a series of accidents and other events have dogged it through the years. The shooting at a premiere of the new Batman film is the latest in a string of incidents to befall a franchise said to be cursed. One of the greatest tragedies to strike was the death of Heath Ledger. The actor was found dead in January 2008 after taking an accidental drugs overdose, six months before the film’s release. But his was not the only death to mar the big screen blockbuster. Wickliffe, a special effects technician, died while working on the film. He was on a camera truck filming a car when it crashed into a tree in October 2007. In August 2008, Morgan Freeman, was also hit by the “curse” but survived.
Paris premiere cancelled
The star-studded Paris premiere of the new Batman movie was cancelled as actors said they were ‘absolutely devastated’ by the Denver shootings. “They are all in a state of shock – absolutely devastated,” said a source.