Colo. movie theater shooting rampage kills 12, injures 59

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by AP/WHAS11

AP

Posted on July 20, 2012 at 4:57 PM

Updated Saturday, Jul 21 at 11:46 PM

AURORA, Colo. (AP) -- Police in Colorado say they will start meeting with the families of shooting victims to tell them the fate of their loved ones. According to Colorado police, 70 people were injured in the movie theater, 12 were killed and 11 are in critical condition as of Friday night.

Aurora Police Chief Dan Coates says the last of the 10 deceased victims from the midnight showing of a Batman movie was removed from the theater Friday afternoon.

Coates says officers expect to get a confirmed list of the deceased and meet with their families Friday night.

In addition to the 10 people who died at the theater, two others later died from their injuries. Coates says there are 70 victims but not all were shot. Eleven are in critical condition.

The chief says suspect John Holmes, 24, purchased four guns at local gun shops and 6,000 rounds of ammunition through the Internet. Holmes was in custody Friday.

Police say Holmes stood at the front of the theater and fired into the crowd about 12:30 a.m. at a multiplex theater in a mall in Aurora. According to police Holmes had an assault rifle, shotgun and two pistols.

Moviegoers did not know what was happening and some thought the attack was part of the show.

According to witness reports to local media, the man threw a canister which erupted in smoke before opening fire indiscriminately on the crowd. One witness tells KUSA the gunman said nothing before or during the early Friday shooting.

PHOTOS: Scene of shooting, reaction

"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.

FBI spokesman Jason Pack said there's no indication in the investigation of any connection to terrorism.

It was the worst mass shooting in Colorado since the Columbine High School massacre on April 20, 1999. Students Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, opened fire at the school in the Denver suburb of Littleton, about 15 miles west of Aurora, killing 12 classmates and a teacher and wounding 26 others before killing themselves in the school's library.

Aurora police spokesman Frank Fania on ABC's "Good Morning America" said he didn't know yet if all the injuries were gunshot wounds. He said some might have been caused by other things such as shrapnel.

Police, ambulances and emergency crews swarmed on the scene after frantic calls started flooding the 911 switchboard, officials said.

Officers came running in and telling people to leave the theater, Salina Jordan told the Denver Post.  She said some police were carrying and dragging bodies.

WATCH: YouTube video of shooting aftermath (Warning: GRAPHIC)

Officers later found the gunman near a car behind the theater.

"A gas mask, rifle, handgun at least one additional weapon (were) found inside," he said.

There was also no immediate word of any motive.

The suspect spoke of "possible explosives in his residence. We are dealing with that potential threat," Oates said

A large truck lettered "bomb squad" arrived near an Aurora apartment complex where the suspect is believed to have lived, about four miles from the theater. Dozens of police squad cars, vans and other vehicles were already at the scene, along with black-clad officers carrying automatic weapons.

Police evacuated residents of the building. Oates did not say whether any explosives had been found.

He said police also checked for explosives in the parking lot and at the Century 16 theater and secured those areas.

STORY: Background information about shooter

President Obama held a news conference Friday to express his sympathy. In a statement released by the White House Friday morning, President Obama said: "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. All of us must have the people of Aurora in our thoughts and prayers as they confront the loss of family, friends, and neighbors, and we must stand together with them in the challenging hours and days to come."

Moviegoers spoke of their terror as violence erupted and people around them fell victim.

Witness Shayla Roeder said she saw a young teenage girl on the ground bleeding outside the theater.

"She just had this horrible look in her eyes .... We made eye contact and I could tell she was not all right," Roeder said.

Benjamin Fernandez, 30, told the Post that he heard a series of explosions. He said that people ran from the theater and there were gunshots as police shouted "get down!"

Fernandez said he saw people falling, including one young girl.

Hayden Miller told KUSA-TV that he heard several shots.

"Like little explosions going on and shortly after that we heard people screaming," he told the station.

Hayden said at first he thought it was part of a louder movie next door. But then he saw "people hunched over leaving theater."

Twelve people were taken to the Medical Center of Aurora with gunshot wounds and ranged from minor to critical condition. Three were treated for chemical exposure, most likely from tear gas. They ranged in age from 16 to 31.

The University of Colorado hospital was treating 21 people, including a four-month-old baby, for gunshot wounds. The oldest is 45.

A 6-year-old was being treated at Children's Hospital Colorado, where a total of six victims ranging were taken. The oldest patient there is 31. Their condition wasn't known.

The U.S. Department of Defense says three members of the U.S. Armed Forces were wounded in a movie theater shooting in Colorado and one is unaccounted for.

The agency says a Navy sailor was injured and a male sailor who was at the theater early Friday morning cannot be located. The sailors are part of a Navy Cyber Command unit at nearby Buckley Air Force base.

Two Air Force airmen based at Buckley were also wounded, but their specific unit hasn't been released.

Both branches of the military are working with the families of the service members to make sure they are cared for.

The Defense Department also says the suspect, James Holmes, is not a past or current member of any branch or component of the Armed Forces.

Aurora is on Denver's east side and is Colorado's third-largest city with 327,000 residents. It is home to a large Defense Department satellite intelligence operation at Buckley Air Force Base, as well as The Children's Hospital, the University of Colorado Hospital and a future Veterans Affairs hospital.

INTERACTIVE LOOK: Key questions surrounding the mass shooting:

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