Police Chief Responds to Movie Theater Massacre: Confirms 71 People Injured, 12 Dead
By Leischen Stelter
During a press conference on July 20, Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates briefed reporters about the tragic incident that occurred in the early morning hours inside the Century 16 Theatre in Aurora, Colorado. During the conference, Chief Oates confirmed that at 12:39am, a lone gunman entered through the back exit of theater nine during the midnight premier showing The Dark Knight Rises. The theater was packed, Chief Oates said, with four sold-out midnight showings of the movie. He was unable to say exactly how many people were in theater nine during the shooting.
Based on police interviews with more than 200 witnesses, the gunman first ignited two devices to distract the crowd, some sort of irritant or smoke device, and then began shooting moviegoers. In total, 71 people were injured, most of them shot, confirmed Chief Oates. So far, 12 people have died: 10 were killed in the theater and two died later. Chief Oates told reporters that many patients remain in critical condition, but could not give specific information about those 59 injured.
Chief Oates said police responded to the hundreds of 9-1-1 calls it received in one-to-two minutes. Police apprehended the suspect, James Eagan Holmes, 24, outside the back of the theater near his white Hyundai car in less than two minutes. At the time of his arrest, Holmes was dressed all in black and wearing head-to-toe tactical gear including a helmet, throat protector, leg and arm protection, gloves and a gas mask. He surrendered to police without incident.
After Holmes was arrested, Chief Oates said that police spent much of their energy taking victims in police cars and driving them to area hospitals.
Police have found four weapons total. Holmes had three weapons in his car and one was left at the scene including an assault rifle, a shotgun, a 40-caliber Glock and another handgun. Chief Oates said that they currently do know how many rounds were fired in theatre nine, however, nine rounds penetrated an adjoining theatre, injuring at least one person. The crime scene is large and Chief Oates said police will be working to collect forensic and ballistic evidence for a significant amount of time. Police do not know if Holmes possessed those weapons legally or illegally.
More than 200 officers responded to the scene throughout the incident, including more than 100 FBI agents and 25 ATF agents. FBI agent Agent James F. Yacone said during the press conference that the FBI is working closely with the Aurora Police Department and are collecting evidence and leads that extend beyond Colorado. “At this point, we do not believe there is a nexus to terrorism, but we continue to look,” said Yacone. He said that they also have members from the Joint Terrorism Task Force on hand to investigate possible terrorism connections.
Police believe Holmes is the only suspect in this case. “We are not looking for other suspects and we are confident that he acted alone,” said Chief Oates. In terms of a criminal past, Chief Oates said Holmes had one traffic summons, but otherwise no criminal history.
Chief Oates refused to speculate on the motives of Holmes.
Police and bomb squads are currently responding to Holmes’ apartment. Chief Oates confirmed that the apartment was indeed booby trapped with what appears to be incendiary and chemical devices and trip wires. “We have some very smart bomb techs on the scene figuring out what to do,” said Chief Oates. Police have evacuated five nearby buildings and there are numerous fire trucks on the scene. “We’re trying to determine how to disarm the flammable or explosive materials in there,” said FBI agent Yacone, according to this news article. “The pictures are pretty disturbing as far as how sophisticated it is. This could be a very long wait.”
Aurora’s Mayor Steve Hogan also spoke at the press conference and praised those who responded to this tragedy. “We need to thank everyone who responded as quickly as they did: police, fire, hospital staff in the emergency rooms. Everyone who addressed this situation deserves to be thanked,” he said.
You can listen to the first 30 minutes of 9-1-1 dispatch calls here.