AURORA, CO (AP/WAOK) – A gunman wearing a gas mask set off an unknown gas and fired into a crowded movie theater in suburban Denver at a midnight opening of the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises,” killing 12 people and injuring at least 38 others, authorities said.
Moviegoers didn’t know what was happening and some thought the attack was part of the show. Then they saw a silhouette of a person in the smoke at the front of the theater near the screen, pointing a gun at the crowd.
Some of those injured are children, including a 3-month-old infant who was not seriously injured and a 6 year old child who may have died from their injuries. Police earlier said 14 people were dead, but later revised the number to at least 12.
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.
Victims are being treated for chemical exposure apparently related to canisters thrown by the gunman. The shooter, a man in his 20s, was arrested shortly after the attack at 12:30 a.m. MDT at the multiplex theater at a mall in Aurora.
FBI spokesman Jason Pack said there’s no indication so far of any connection to terror groups.
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 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.
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.
The suspect was taken into custody. He has been identified as 24 year old James Holmes a white male. There is no evidence of any other attackers. There was also no immediate word of any motive.
The suspect spoke of “possible explosives in his residence. Police and the FBI checked the suspects apartment but found no explosives.
Police also checked for explosives in the parking lot and at the Century 16 theater and secured those areas.
President Barack Obama said he was saddened by the “horrific and tragic shooting,” pledging that his administration was “committed to bringing whoever was responsible to justice, ensuring the safety of our people, and caring for those who have been wounded.”
The youngest victim reported was a 6-year-old being treated at Children’s Hospital Colorado, where a total of six victims were taken. Their condition wasn’t known.
Two people in critical condition were rushed to nearby Swedish Medical Center, spokeswoman Nicole Williams said.
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.
More continous coverage now from our CBS Denver affiliate