A masked gunman opened fire at a sold-out Colorado theater during the midnight Friday showing of “The Dark Knight Rises,” killing 12 people and injuring at least 50 others, according to published news reports.
The bloodshed occurred at a multiplex theater in Aurora, CO at around 12:30 a.m. The theater is near the scene of the Columbine high school shooting in 1999.
The gunman, James Holmes, 24, stood at the front of the theater and released a canister of gas, setting off pandemonium. Witnesses say theater goers began sputtering, choking and coughing as the gunshots rang out.
“Witnesses tell us he released some sort of canister. They heard a hissing sound and some gas emerged and the gunman opened fire,” Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said at a news conference.
Officers apprehended Holmes near a car in the parking lot of the theater. A gas mask, rifle, handgun and at least one other weapon were located inside the theater, according to Aurora police.
Holmes reportedly told police he had bombs or bomb making materials at his home. SWAT teams and the bomb squad evacuated the suspect’s apartment building, but no live bombs were found inside his apartment. Police report “items of interest” were found inside the apartment.
There were reports that as many as 15 people had been shot dead. Police say dozens of injuries may have been caused by shrapnel and the chaos of theater patrons fleeing the theater. The injured range in age from 6-31. Some of the injured are listed in critical condition.
President Obama released a statement saying: “Michelle and I are shocked and saddened by the horrific shooting… We will do everything we can to support the people of Aurora in this difficult time.”