Dark Knight Rises Shooting: Everything We Know So Far

Attack during a midnight screening of the film in Aurora, Colo., that killed 12 and injured 58 people has been labeled the biggest mass shooting in U.S. history

By Natalie Finn Jul 23, 2012 3:40 PMTags
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It's unfathomable to think that anyone lining up for a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises on Thursday had reason to fear for their lives.

But in what can only be described forever onward as the epitome of senseless tragedy, a lone gunman opened fire on a theater full of people in Aurora, Colo., killing 12 and injuring 58.

The 70 casualties (revised from an initial tally of 71) make this the biggest mass shooting in U.S. history, according to available data.

Here's what we know so far:

• At 12:30 a.m. MT, about 25 minutes into the film, 24-year-old James Holmes allegedly walked into Theater 9 at the Century 16 movie complex in Aurora (about nine miles from Denver), toting gas canisters, an AR-15 assault rifle, a shotgun and at least one .40-caliber Glock handgun. Authorities say he wore protective body armor and a gas mask. Survivors later told reporters and authorities that they thought it had to be some sort of a stunt in connection with the movie, whose main villain's most notable feature is the creepy gas mask he always wears. Holmes triggered two canisters and opened fire with the rifle.

• Within 10 minutes, police were inundated with "hundreds" of emergency calls. Within 90 seconds of arriving at the scene, officers apprehended Holmes toward the rear of the theater. Before long, the number of cops at the scene grew to an estimated 200.

• Within the hour, the Associated Press was reporting that as many as 14 people could have been killed in a shooting in Colorado. Holmes had been taken into custody but not yet identified. Investigators later recovered a second handgun, but have not yet specified whether that or the one found on Holmes when he was arrested was used in the shooting.

• Aurora Police Chief Daniel Oates said that Holmes legally purchased four guns within the last 60 days. (He reportedly made his purchses from Bass Pro Shops and Gander Mountain Guns.) Holmes also bought 6,000 rounds of ammunition on the Internet, all through legal channels.

• Police eventually confirmed that 12 people had died—10 were killed at the scene and two were pronounced dead at a nearby hospital—and the number of wounded, some "critically," was at 58. The 23 people treated at University Hospital ranged in age from 3 months to 45 years, a hospital spokesman said. Medical Center of Aurora confirmed it treated another 18 victims.

Among the dead were sports blogger Jessica Ghawi, who narrowly avoided being involved in a mass shooting in Toronto last month, and at least one member of the U.S. military.

• The 10 bodies were not removed from the theater until later in the afternoon while investigators processed the scene and collected evidence.

Thomas Cooper/Getty Images

• Law-enforcement sources quoted Holmes telling the police who nabbed him that he was "the Joker" and that he had booby-trapped his apartment. E! News confirmed that New York Police Commissioner Ray 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."

• After police had examined the interior with a hook-and-ladder fire truck and a camera attached to a pole, the bomb squad was called to Holmes' apartment to disarm and clear the area of explosives, which authorities said appeared to be rigged to harm whoever entered the place. "As a layman, it's not something I've ever seen before," Oates said. Authorities suspended their efforts Friday night after evacuating five apartment buildings in the area and plan to bring in more resources to defuse the situation tomorrow.

• The details of Holmes' life began to unfold: Despite early speculation that he was a medical student, the University of Colorado confirmed he was a graduate student in the neurosciences department who had been working as research assistant but was in the process of withdrawing from the program after enrolling in June 2011. Police say he had no criminal record and his only infraction to date was a speeding ticket.

• ABC News was first to contact Holmes' mother, reaching her in San Diego; she said she needed to get on a plane to Colorado. The family later released a statement:  "Our hearts go out to those who were involved in this tragedy and to the family and friends of those involved. We ask that the media respect our privacy during this difficult time. Our family is cooperating with authorities in both San Diego and Aurora, Colo. We are still trying to process this information and we appreciate that people will respect our privacy."

• Warner Bros. canceled the red-carpet Paris premiere of The Dark Knight Rises and pulled the gun-violence-heavy trailer for Gangster Squad from all subsequent theatrical screenings. The studio said, "Warner Bros. is deeply saddened to learn about this shocking incident. We extend our sincere sympathies to the families and loved ones of the victims at this tragic time." The studio also announced it will not be releasing box office figures for the weekend "out of respect for the victims and their families."

• As of now, premieres are still scheduled next week in Mexico City and Tokyo. Sources tell us that a Moscow premiere was discussed but never came together.

• AMC and and the National Association of Theater Owners announce that they would be beefing up security for both day and nighttime screenings of the film. AMC also said theatergoers wearing masks and other costume paraphenalia would not be welcome. The NYPD announced an extra police presence at 40 theaters showing The Dark Knight Rises around the city.

• President Barack Obama ordered that flags on government buildings be flown at half-staff. "If there's anything to take away from this tragedy, life is fragile, time here is limited and precious," he said in a statement offering his thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families. "The federal government will do whatever is necessary to bring this heinous crime to justice," Obama said. "We will take every step possible to ensure the safety of all of our people. We will stand by our neighbors in Colorado."

• Director Christopher Nolan issued this statement: "Speaking on behalf of the cast and crew of The Dark Knight Rises, I would like to express our profound sorrow at the senseless tragedy that has befallen the entire Aurora community. I would not presume to know anything about the victims of the shooting but that they were there last night to watch a movie. I believe movies are one of the great American art forms and the shared experience of watching a story unfold on screen is an important and joyful pastime. The movie theatre is my home, and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me. Nothing any of us can say could ever adequately express our feelings for the innocent victims of this appalling crime, but our thoughts are with them and their families."

• Holmes' first appearance in court is scheduled for Monday at 9:30 a.m. MT.

• Police announced that all hazards had been removed from Holmes' booby-trapped apartment Saturday, after a bomb squad spent the day defusing a variety of incendiary devices and explosives Holmes allegedly placed throughout his 800 square foot apartment, including IEDs, trip wires and accelerants with trigger mechanisms.

• The identities of the twelve people who died as a result of the shooting were revealed Saturday: Jessica N. Ghawi, 24, Veronica Moser-Sullivan, 6, John T. Larimer, 27, Alexander J. Boik, 18, Jesse E. Childress, 29, Jonathan T. Blunk, 26, Rebecca Ann Wingo, 32, Alex M. Sullivan, 27, Gordon W. Cowdon, 52, Micayla C. Medek, 23, Alexander C. Teves, 24, Matthew R. McQuinn, 27.

• The mother of the 6-year-old girl who passed away is still in critical condition from gunshot wounds to the throat and abdomen. Her great-aunt Annie Dalton told ABC: "Nobody can tell her [Ashley Moser] about it...She is in critical condition, but all she's asking about is her daughter." Dalton also revealed the young girl had just begun swimming lessons and "was excited about life."

• Law-enforcement officials confirm that several Batman items were found at Holmes' 850-square-foot apartment, including a poster on a wall, a Batman mask and other Batman paraphernalia.

• President Obama meets with the families of victims Sunday at the University of Colorado Hospital, where he honors the memories of those who perished, celebrates the heroism of those who put their lives ahead of others, and vows to bring the "full force" of justice on Holmes. "Out of this darkness a brighter day is going to come," he says afterward while delivering his remarks.

• A stoic-looking Holmes makes his first public appearance Monday morning at a courthouse in Centennial, Colo., where a judge rules that the 24-year-old, who has remained in solitary confinement, be held without bail. Prosecutors now have 72 hours to file formal charges against him; he's expected to be formally arraigned on July 30.

• The global fallout from the tragedy continues, as Finnish film executives announce that they'll be indefinitely suspending The Dark Knight Rises' promotional campaign in the Scandinavian country, according to published reports. The decision includes canceling TV and Internet marketing campaigns.