AURORA, Colo. (MCT) — A masked gunman opened fire in a Colorado movie theater showing the new Batman movie early Friday morning, leaving 12 people dead and 50 wounded, according to police and local media. Children are among the injured, officials said.
The shooting came minutes after the 12:05 a.m. premiere showing of the widely-anticipated “Dark Knight Rises.” A suspect is in custody. The Denver Post said the suspect is 24 years old.
An eyewitness told the Los Angeles Times that the gunman “busted in” through a door near the front of the screen in Theater No. 9 at Century 16 in Aurora, a suburb of Denver. The gunman then “threw a canister across the theater,” unleashing gas, “then started shooting,” the witness said.
The witness said he saw a man two seats over shot in the head. “I can’t get his image out of my head,” the witness wrote in a message. The victim was wearing a shirt with the Joker’s face on it, and after he was shot, slumped back in his chair, his face covered in blood.
The witness declined to be identified.
Some of the bullets pierced into the adjacent theater, No. 8, and injured people, Denver’s NBC affiliate, 9News, reported. A Denver Post reporter and 9News said the youngest gunshot patient being treated at University Hospital is 3 months old.
“This is a horrific event,” Aurora police chief Daniel J. Oates told reporters during a press conference carried live by local TV stations. There was no evidence of a second gunman, Oates said.
The shooting occurred just after hundreds of theater-goers had lined up for hours, excited to watch the first showing of the much-anticipated Batman movie.
9News said the gas made it difficult for spectators to escape, and also appeared to make it difficult for police to initially enter the theater.
Quoting authorities and witnesses, 9News reported that the gunman wore a riot helmet and bulletproof vest and was dressed in black, entering the theater minutes after the movie began and releasing a gas canister. Witnesses said they heard a hissing sound and saw smoke.
The suspect was found outside the theater holding a rifle and a handgun, the TV station reported, quoting police.
9News reported that the suspect indicated to police that his apartment building might have explosives, and authorities were evacuating and searching that structure.
©2012 Los Angeles Times
Distributed by MCT Information Services