Aurora, CO, July 20, 2012. At the midnight premier of Christopher Nolan’s film, “The Dark Knight Rises” tragedy struck as suspect James Holmes tossed a gas grenade into the crowd and then opened fire into the audience.
We still don’t know a lot about James Eagen Holmes, but the reports are coming in. We do know that Holmes is a 24 year old neuro-physicist who graduated from UC Riverside with honors, and had been attending a college in Colorado as a grad student for the past year. He dropped out in June, and four days later purchased the last of the four guns he used in the horrible shooting yesterday.
This is being called the deadliest shooting since the 1999 Columbine Massacre, and one of the worst in U.S. History. With 70 casualties, twelve of those have died with 58 others hurt, and 30 still hospitalized — many of them in critical condition.
A soldier, John Blunk, saved his girlfriend by covering her with his body and was killed in the process. Jansen Young is the girlfriend, and refers to her boyfriend as a hero.
In her interview this morning, Ms. Young shared, “One thing he said once was “Jansen, I was born to serve my country.” It was just what he wanted to do and he loved it. He saved me and gave me the opportunity to live, but he would have done that for anyone. He was a hero. An incredible person.”
Young reports that Blunk immediately pushed her down to the floor and told her to stay down. He pushed her in under the seat, and whispered in her ear that there was someone with a gun who was shooting people. He was covering her with his own body. Young said that she felt wet covering her and thought it was a water balloon. She didn’t realize it was the blood of her boyfriend. Then she realized that everyone had gone and it was just them in the theater, and she couldn’t move him.
All the victims interviewed so far have said that they couldn’t believe it was real. At first they thought it was part of the movie, or fireworks, but then people were screaming that they were shot.
The Washington Post reports “All the weapons that he possessed, he possessed legally,” Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said. “And all the clips that he possessed, he possessed legally. And all the ammunition that he possessed, he possessed legally.”
The semi-automatic rifle, 12 guage shot gun, and two Glock hand guns were purchased by the suspect from retail gun stores in Colorado in the last two months, authorities said Friday. The 6000 rounds of ammunition were purchased on the internet.
“A federal law enforcement officer said Holmes bought one of the four guns — the first of two Glock pistols — on May 22 at Gander Mountain in Aurora, Colorado. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the probe into the shootings is ongoing. Larry Whiteley, a Bass Pro Shops spokesman, said records show that its Denver store followed federal rules in selling a shotgun and a Glock pistol to Holmes.”
Officials are still not sure whether Holmes entered through an exit door, or perhaps, as others believe, he may have stood in line with everyone else and bought a ticket, seating himself toward the front of the theater. Either way, he stood in front of the screen, tossed smoke grenades, fired a single shot into the air, and then began shooting into the audience as he walked up the aisles.
Holmes was caught outside the theater with a gas mask on within a minute of leaving. He had died his hair reddish orange, and told police he was the joker.
The shooter left his Ph.D. program in Neuroscience at the University of Colorado in June. He will be in court on Monday, but it is reported that his attorney has not yet been able to meet with him.
No one who knows Holmes can believe he did it. He is reported as being a quiet, geeky kind of kid who became reclusive later. He is reported as being “book smart, quiet, didn’t say too much.” He played soccer with the team in high school. Team mates referred to him as being quiet, reserved, and an academic high achiever.
Police have not yet entered Holmes’ apartment because it is booby-trapped with bottles of liquid that have wires going into them, and incendiary devices. They studied what they could see until calling it quits for the night, but are back at the scene this morning. Police are still trying to figure out how to get into the apartment safely. “Looks like a movie set from a horror movie” said one officer who was interviewed.
All the other tenants in the building have been evacuated, as well as those in neighboring buildings. They were allowed back into their apartments this morning only to get a few necessities. Reporters say that they may be out of their homes for a few days.
NBC News reported that most of the victims suffered gunshot wounds to head, neck, chest, and abdomen. The youngest victim is reported to be 3 or 4 months old, with the oldest being 45 years old.
Jamie Rohrs and Patricia Legarreta escaped with their infant child and toddler. Jamie said that They were seated in the balcony and he remembers peeking over to see if he could possibly jump with his baby in his arms, and wondering if he could land safely without hurting the baby; and, whether the toddler would jump to him. But then he realized that they needed to try and not to be seen by the shooter. As he slid down off his chair to hide, his baby’s head got caught between the seats in front of him and started crying. He was afraid the shooter would hear the baby and come after them, and was quickly able to get the baby to a safe place of hiding. People in the theater wondered if they should play dead.
There was a point where the gunshots stopped and people were running. Patricia had shrapnel in her leg, and remembers running with her children. She said “We are so happy we made it out, but so sad for those others and their families.” She said she’s been praying for all of them. She wondered “What was going on that he wanted to hurt people? If you feel that way, get help! So many people are affected by this, and it is so sad. Just love each other and treat each other with respect.”
While they waited in the hospital with their two children, Jamie asked Patricia to marry him because he realized what he almost lost. Jamie said, “Call your friends, call your family, kiss your kids, you never know when it’s going to be the last time.”
NBC news interviewed people from the theater next to the shooting, where a military man said he heard popping sounds, saw a girl next to the wall holding the side of her blood covered face. He told those around not to leave their theater yet because the shooters could be ambushing them. He said that the movie never stopped and there was gunfire on the screen too, so it was really confusing. Finally someone came in and told them someone was shooting people. He said “We smelt the tear gas, and saw officers pouring through the doors with guns, and children asking what to do.” He kept telling people “Show them your hands, keep your hands where they can see them and get out.”
Someone said “This was a dangerous person had far too easy access to such highly powerful guns.”
According to ABC News reporter Devin Dwyer, President Obama urges Americans to take “some time for prayer and reflection” this weekend while offering condolences to the families of those who died.
In his weekly address, Obama remembers the victims of the Aurora, Colo., tragedy early Friday morning, calling them lives lost from “senseless” violence that is difficult to understand.