Mass shooting at Batman screening in Aurora, Colo.; At least 12 dead, dozens more wounded
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(CBS/AP) AURORA, Colo. - A gunman clad in body armor and wearing a gas mask opened fire on moviegoers at a midnight showing of the latest Batman movie Friday, killing 12 and injuring dozens more in one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent U.S. history.
The violent and chaotic scene erupted at about 12:30 a.m. local time as the suspected gunman, identified as 24-year-old James Holmes, stood at the front of one of the Century 16 theaters at the Aurora Mall where "The Dark Knight Rises" was playing. Witnesses reported that the gunman entered the theater through an emergency exit door and authorities said he threw two gas canisters before opening fire.
"Then it was a blur," Spenser Sherman told "CBS This Morning" said. "Then I heard a couple gunshots."
"I thought it was part of the movie, like a fun little prank - that it would be over in a few seconds. It obviously wasn't."
She said she only saw a silhouette of the suspect, and that the gunman said nothing.
"Everybody had dropped to the floor after the first couple gunshots, and then he fired some more. And then after that, there was a pause in the gunshots. Some people say he was reloading, I don't know. But at that point, my boyfriend was like 'This is the time, we need to go, we need to get out of the theater right now.' So we ran."
Aurora Police chief Dan Oates said a total of 71 people were shot, including the dead. Of the 59 people wounded, some were critically injured, though Oates couldn't give an exact figure.
Jennifer Seeger told CBS station KCNC the suspect first fired up towards the ceiling, as if to scare people, and then started spraying the audience. He pointed the gun directly at her; she ducked. "He had a gas mask on so I couldn't see his face," she said. "All I smelled was gunpowder in the air, and gas was getting to me."
Officers found Holmes near a car behind the theater. He surrendered without resistance, police said.
Holmes wore body armor, used an assault rifle, a shotgun and a Glock handgun, Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said. He said investigators are confident the gunman acted alone. A second Glock handgun was found in Holmes' car. All four firearms were purchased legally in Colorado in the last two months, CBS News correspondent Bob Orr reports.
FBI agents and police also discovered Holmes' apartment was booby trapped. Authorities evacuated five buildings as they determined how to disarm flammable and explosive material.
"It's something I've never seen before," Oates said.
CBS News has learned that some loud music blaring from Holmes' apartment around the time of the attack allegedly was designed to draw a noise complaint from a neighbor, thus luring police into his residence, sparking a firebomb and diverting resources from the movie theater.
A federal law enforcement official said the suspect bought a ticket and went into the theater as part of the crowd. He is believed to have propped open an exit door as the movie was playing, put on protective ballistic gear and opened fire. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.
Federal law enforcement officials said there is no indication it is terrorism-related.
Authorities said 10 bodies were still in the theater Friday afternoon. Some of the injured were children, with the youngest a 4-month-old baby who has been released from treatment. Victims were being treated for chemical exposure apparently related to canisters thrown by the gunman.
The Pentagon said three military members - one sailor and two airmen - were wounded in the incident. Another sailor remained unaccounted for. Aurora is home to a large Defense Department satellite intelligence operation at Buckley Air Force Base.
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The nature of the attack suggests it was well planned. The suspect's vehicle was parked at the rear of the complex, near the emergency exit where he was reported to have entered from.
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Holmes has no known criminal record. He previously lived in San Diego, records show.
He was studying neuroscience in a Ph.D. program at the University of Colorado-Denver graduate school, university spokeswoman Jacque Montgomery said. University officials earlier said he was a student at the university's medical school.
Holmes was in the process of withdrawing at the time of the shootings, Montgomery said.
Police released a written statement from Holmes' family: "Our hearts go out to those who were involved in this tragedy and to the families and friends of those involved."
A man who lives next door to the family said Holmes seemed to be shy. Tom Mai said the mother told him Holmes couldn't find a job after earning a master's degree from a public university in California.
It was the worst mass shooting in the U.S. since the Nov. 5, 2009 attack at Fort Hood, Texas, when an Army psychiatrist killed 13 soldiers and civilians and more than two dozen others wounded.
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.
The shooting occurred in Theater 9, which has a capacity of around 300 people, according to KCNC.
Corbin Dates told CBS News correspondent Barry Petersen he saw a man take a phone call by the emergency exit and possibly try to signal or look for somebody during the movie's opening credits. After the movie started, the emergency exit door swung open.
"Somebody walks in dressed all in black, helmet, gas mask, black outfit, you cannot see anything but the person's eyes," said Dates, "and there was a gas can that was thrown into the audience behind me. It went off. I thought it was a stunt of the movie, so I didn't think anything serious of it once it went off."
When gunshots went off, Dates and his friend dropped to the floor and started to crawl through the theater, he said.
"I felt the caps from the bullets burn my leg," Dates said.
William Kent, who was in an adjacent theater, said bullets came through the wall but with the action on screen, people didn't realize what was happening.
"And they started the fire alarm or the emergency alarm, said that there had been something that happened in the building and evacuated everybody. There was a huge commotion to get out of the theater. When I exited, there were police officers with assault rifles running in," Kent told CBS News.
Benjamin Fernandez, who was also in an adjacent theater, said he saw a young girl, around 12 or 13 years old, lying on the concrete when he exited the building.
"From what I saw, she had two bullet wounds in her leg and just blood all over her stomach. Her friends were all just yelling, crying. ... We were just all pretty much in shock," he said on "CBS This Morning."
The police said 10 victims died at the theater and two at area hospitals.
Aurora is located on the southeast outskirts of Denver, about 10 miles from downtown.
President Barack Obama addressed the shooting from Fort Myers, Florida, calling for a moment of silence.
"There are going to be other days for politics," Mr. Obama said. "This, I think, is a day for prayer and reflection."
The president thanked the gathered crowd and told them he was grateful for their support.
"I was looking forward to having a fun conversation with you about some really important matters we face as a country ... the differences between myself and my opponent in this election," he said. "But this morning we woke up to news of a tragedy that reminds us of all the ways we are united as one American family."
Mr. Obama also ordered to fly at half-staff or half-mast at the White House, all public buildings, military posts, naval stations, naval vessels, and U.S. facilities abroad until July 25.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney also planned to address the shooting. In a statement, he said that he and his wife, Ann, were "deeply saddened by the news of the senseless violence" that led to the loss of life and injuries. He said they were 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."
"The Dark Knight Rises" opened across the world Friday, but the shooting prompted officials to cancel the Paris premiere, with workers pulling down the red carpet display at a theater on the famed Champs-Elysees Avenue. Two police officers were stationed outside the AMC theater in New York's Times Square.
Warner Bros., which produced "The Dark Knight Rises" said the company was "deeply saddened to learn about this shocking incident. We extend our sincere sympathies to the families and loved ones of the victims at this tragic time."
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