Aurora: In a bid to know the motive of the suspect in the Friday’s deadly Colorado movie theatre shooting, authorities on Saturday began disarming trip wires and explosive devices "set up to kill" inside the third-floor apartment of James Holmes.
Aurora police Sergeant Cassidee Carlson said federal authorities detonated one small explosive and disarmed another inside Holmes' Denver flat, but several other explosive devices remained.
Law enforcement officials today began trying to disarm up to 30 devices in Holmes' booby-trapped apartment, and set off a small explosion to detonate one device.
The devices were "set up to kill that person and that could have been a police officer executing a search warrant”, Carlson said. Police planned an intricate procedure to disarm the possible weapons without destroying evidence that could be in the apartment.
"We don't want to lose evidential value," Carlson said.
Makeshift memorials sprang up for the 12 victims, including a US Navy sailor, an aspiring sportscaster and a man celebrating his 27th birthday, after police grimly went door to door with a list of those killed in the worst mass shooting in recent US history.
Holmes, 24, was arrested early Friday outside the Aurora theatre after witnesses say he unleashed gunfire and gas canisters on a crowd of moviegoers watching the midnight showing of the new Batman film, "The Dark Knight Rises”.
Federal officials said in a bulletin obtained by a news agency that they still hadn't determined a motive for the suspect as families grieved and others waited at hospitals, where seven of the wounded remained in critical condition on Saturday with some injuries that could be permanent.
In his Saturday radio address, US President Barack Obama urged Americans to pray "for the victims of this terrible tragedy, for the people who knew them and loved them, for those who are still struggling to recover.
Seven of the wounded remained in critical condition on Saturday, some with injuries that could be permanent, a trauma surgeon said.
Police grimly went door to door late Friday with a list of victims killed in the worst mass shooting in the US in recent years, notifying families who had held out hope that their loved ones had been spared.
Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said Holmes used a military-style semi-automatic rifle, a shotgun and a pistol to open fire on the unsuspecting theatre-goers. He had bought the weapons at local gun stores within the last two months. He also recently purchased 6,000 rounds of ammunition over the Internet, the chief said.
The suspect's stellar academic record, apparent shy demeanour and lack of a criminal background made the attack even more difficult to fathom.
It also wasn't known why the suspect chose a movie theatre to stage the assault, or whether he intended some twisted, symbolic link to the film's violent scenes.
The Batman movie, the last in the trilogy starring Christian Bale, opened worldwide Friday with midnight showings in the US. The plot has the villain Bane facing Bale's Caped Crusader with a nuclear weapon that could destroy all of fictional Gotham.
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."
Oates would not confirm that information, but did say he spoke to Kelly. Asked whether Holmes had makeup to look like the Joker, Oates said: "That to my knowledge is not true."
A federal law enforcement official said Holmes bought a ticket to the movie, went into the theatre as part of the crowd and propped open an exit door as the movie was playing. The suspect then donned protective ballistic gear and opened fire, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to discuss the investigation.
Authorities said Holmes shot scores of people, picking off victims who tried to flee. At least one person was struck in an adjacent theatre by gunfire that went through the wall. Adding to the terror and chaos were two gas canisters thrown by the suspect that filled the theatre with smoke.
The shooting was the worst in the US since the November 05, 2009, attack at Fort Hood, Texas. An Army psychiatrist was charged with killing 13 soldiers and civilians and wounding more than two dozen others. It was the deadliest in Colorado since the 1999 attack at Columbine High School, where two students killed 12 classmates and a teacher and wounded 26 others before killing themselves.
Holmes had enrolled last year in a neuroscience PhD program at the University of Colorado-Denver, though he left last month for unknown reasons. In academic achievement, "he was at the top of the top”, recalled Timothy P White, the chancellor at the University of California, Riverside, where Holmes earned his undergraduate degree before attending the Denver school.
Those who knew Holmes described him as a shy, intelligent person raised in California by parents who were active in their well-to-do suburban San Diego neighbourhood. Holmes played soccer at Westview High School and ran cross-country before going to college.
Police released a statement from his family on Friday that said, "Our hearts go out to those who were involved in this tragedy and to the families and friends of those involved."
(With Agency inputs)
First Published: Saturday, July 21, 2012, 18:50