Aurora, Colo., Police 'Confident' Shooter Acted Alone

Originally published on July 20, 2012 6:56 pm
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

And first this hour to Aurora, Colorado, and the mass shooting there. Twelve people have died after a gunman opened fire in a crowded movie theater during a midnight showing of the new Batman movie. Fifty-nine other people were wounded. The suspected shooter has been identified as 24-year-old James Holmes. He's a graduate student at the nearby University of Colorado in Denver. He was immediately arrested after the attack. Authorities are trying to secure his apartment, which they say is booby-trapped.

NPR's Carrie Kahn is in Aurora, Colorado, and she joins us now. Carrie, I understand that you're at the shopping mall rather in front of the movie theater, and I want you to describe the scene for us.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Well, as you can imagine, the mall is closed, and police have cordoned off a huge section of it. The crime scene is very large. There's hundreds of press here too, a large press presence. There are - sadly, there are still bodies in the theater. Ten people died right on the scene, and police are trying to identify them, they say, as quickly as possible. And the police chief told us that it was within a minute to a minute and a half after the first 911 call that police were on the scene, and it was a massive response by police. Headquarters is just a block from the theater and the mall from here, and police were carrying the injured out. They were putting them in their patrol cars, and they were driving them to local hospitals.

SIEGEL: Well, walk us through what the police have said about what actually happened in the movie theater?

KAHN: Well, they just described a horrifying scene, Robert. As I said, the first 911 call came in. The police said it was about 12:39 a.m. Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates says the shooter came in through a backdoor, and then he dropped some sort of gas-emitting device, possibly teargas, and then just started shooting. He emptied one gun, dropped it to the floor and then started shooting with a different weapon. Some of the bullets even penetrated the wall and struck people in the next-door theater.

The police chief said James Holmes, the suspected shooter, was arrested, like, he said, right outside the backdoor to the movie theater, and they do believe he acted alone. And here's what the police chief said at this press briefing today right outside here at the movie theater.

DAN OATES: We are not looking for any other suspects. We are confident that he acted alone. However, we will do a thorough investigation to be absolutely sure that that is the case. But at this time, we are confident that he acted alone.

KAHN: The chief said the suspect was quickly taken into custody. And I asked, you know, what did the suspect say to police at the time, but the chief said he would not answer those questions.

SIEGEL: And what about questions about mental state or motive of the shooter?

KAHN: Yeah. The chief said he would not talk about any possible motive or anything the shooter has been saying. What we do know about him is that he's 24 years old. He was taking graduate classes in the neuroscience Ph.D. program right here at the University of Colorado in Denver. They gave particularly chilling details about him as he came into the theater. He was all dressed in black. He wore bulletproof gear all over his entire body. He wore a helmet, teargas mask, a neck guard, and he was in possession of four weapons.

And federal officials have confirmed to NPR that all four were purchased legally in the state just in the past few months. The police quickly went to the shooter's apartment, which isn't far from here, and they encountered a scene that the police chief said he just didn't quite know how to handle, although bomb experts are on the scene. And he said the apartment was booby-trapped. There's chemicals in glass bottles. There are tripwires and explosives. And several apartment buildings around there have been evacuated.

SIEGEL: And, Carrie, update us as to what we know about the victims?

KAHN: There were 71 people shot. Twelve died, 10 right there at the movie theater and two at local hospitals. The ages of them range from a 3-month-old infant who was hospitalized but later released, and most people were between the ages of 16 and 31. And governor - the Colorado governor, John Hickenlooper, talked to reporters, and he expressly spoke about the victims.

GOVERNOR JOHN HICKENLOOPER: Our hearts are broken as we think about the families and friends of the victims of this senseless tragedy. We will come back stronger than ever than this, although it's obviously going to be a very hard process.

KAHN: And the police are saying that it's going to take a while to confirm all the identities of those who died here.

SIEGEL: Thank you, Carrie.

KAHN: You're welcome.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Carrie Kahn speaking with us about the shooting in Aurora, Colorado, at a movie theater just after midnight. Twelve people have been killed, and the suspect, James Holmes, is in custody. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.