Aurora: The suspected US gunman, who killed 12 people and wounded nearly 50 others during the screening of the Batman movie at the Colorado movie theatre, referred to himself as the Joker who is the villain from the Batman movies.
The gunman had painted his hair red, was heavily-armed and was wearing gas mask when he opened fire at the midnight premiere of the new Batman movie in suburban Denver on Friday.
The suspected gunman, James Holmes, a 24-year-old doctoral student in neuroscience who was about to drop out of the University of Colorado-Denver, was arrested near a car behind the theatre.
While investigations continue, authorities have so far found no links indicating any ties with the terrorist group.
"There were bullet (casings) just falling on my head. They were burning my forehead," Jennifer Seeger said, adding that the gunman, dressed like a SWAT team member, fired steadily, stopping only to reload. "Every few seconds it was just: Boom, boom, boom," she said. "He would reload and shoot and anyone who would try to leave would just get killed."
Police said 71 people in all were shot.
Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said the gunman wore a gas mask, a ballistic helmet and vest, and leg, groin and throat protectors. He said he had an AR-15 military-style, semi-automatic rifle, a shotgun and two pistols.
While some witnesses said the gunman entered through a side-door emergency exit at the front of the theatre, a federal law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Holmes bought a ticket and went into the theatre as part of the crowd. The official said Holmes then apparently propped open an exit door in the theatre as the movie was playing, donned the protective ballistic gear and opened fire.
FBI agents and police used a hook-and-ladder fire truck to reach Holmes' apartment in Aurora. They put a camera at the end of a 12-foot pole inside the apartment and discovered the unit was booby-trapped. Authorities evacuated five buildings as they tried to figure how to disarm the flammable and explosive material.
In New York City, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said: "It clearly looks like a deranged individual. He has his hair painted red. He said he was the Joker, obviously the enemy of Batman."
Police released a 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."
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."
It was the worst mass shooting in the US since the November 5, 2009, attack at Fort Hood, Texas. An Army psychiatrist was charged with killing 13 soldiers and civilians and wounding more than two dozen others.
In Colorado, it was the deadliest since the Columbine High School massacre on April 20, 1999, when two students opened fire in the Denver suburb of Littleton, killing 12 classmates and a teacher and wounding 26 others before killing themselves. Columbine High is about 12 miles from the theatre.
(With Agency inputs)
First Published: Saturday, July 21, 2012, 09:26