Last Updated:November 27 @ 11:19 am

Movie massacre: Shock, sadness, a search for clues

By Thomas Peipert and P. Solomon Banda

AURORA, Colo. (AP) - A Colorado suburb shocked and saddened by a deadly shooting spree at a midnight unveiling of the latest Batman movie grieved for the victims while authorities sought a motive and a safe way to reach clues inside the suspect's apartment, still apparently rigged with an elaborate booby trap.

Police grimly went door to door late Friday with a list of the victims killed in the worst mass shooting in the U.S. in recent years, notifying families who had held out anxious hope that their loved ones had been spared inside the packed theater near Denver.

Twelve people died and 58 were injured in the attack early Friday, a few of those not by gunfire but in the chaos that ensued as the audience tried to flee the smoke-filled theater, authorities said. Among the wounded, 11 were listed in critical condition.

The deceased victims included 23-year-old Micayla Medek, said Anita Busch, the cousin of Medek's father. The family took the news hard, but knowing her fate after waiting without word brought them some peace, Busch said.

"I hope this evil act, that this evil man doesn't shake people's faith in God," she said.

Besides Medek, relatives confirmed that Alex Sullivan and Jessica Ghawi were among those killed, Sullivan on his 27th birthday.

Hours after the shootings, it remained unclear what drove the suspect, identified as 24-year-old James Holmes, to fire round after round at the unsuspecting audience watching "The Dark Knight Rises." Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said Holmes used a military-style semi-automatic rifle, a shotgun and a pistol that he had bought at local gun stores within the last two months. He also recently purchased 6,000 rounds of ammunition over the Internet, the chief said.

The suspect's stellar academic record, apparent shy demeanor and lack of a criminal background made the attack even more difficult to fathom.

It also wasn't known why the suspect chose a movie theater to stage the assault, or whether he intended some twisted, symbolic link to the film itself.

The new Batman movie, the last in the trilogy starring Christian Bale, opened worldwide Friday with midnight showings in the U.S. The plot has the villain Bane facing Bale's Caped Crusader with a nuclear weapon that could destroy all of fictional Gotham.

In New York City, Police Commissioner Raymond 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."

Oates would not confirm that information, but did say he had spoken to Kelly. The two used to work together in New York. Asked whether Holmes had makeup to look like the Joker, Oates said: "That to my knowledge is not true."

Near the entrance to the Aurora theater's parking lot, a makeshift memorial of 12 candles sat in a row near piles of flowers. Up the hill, about 20 pastors led an emotional vigil for about 350 people, some hugging and crying. A sign read, "7/20. Gone Not Forgotten."

An emotional Gov. John Hickenlooper said earlier Friday that people would not be defined by the tragedy.

"We are clear that we are going to rise back and lift ourselves above this," he said.

A federal law enforcement official said Holmes bought a ticket to "The Dark Knight Rises," went into the theater as part of the crowd and propped open an exit door as the movie was playing. The suspect then donned protective ballistic gear and opened fire, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.

Authorities said he hit scores of people, picking off people who tried to flee. At least one person was struck in an adjacent theater by gunfire that went through the wall. Adding to the terror and chaos were gas canisters thrown by the suspect that filled the packed suburban Denver theater with smoke.

Tanner Coon, a 17-year-old Aurora resident who was watching the film with two friends, said he first thought the gunshots were firecrackers. When he realized what was happening, he ducked between the seats and waited for the shooter to say what he wanted.

"When is he going to start telling us what to do? When is this going to become a hostage situation?" Coon said.

When the firing ended, Coon said he started running up the row but slipped in blood and fell on top of a woman who was lying on the ground. He tried shaking her, he said, but she didn't respond, so he left her behind and ran out of the theater.

Within minutes, frantic 911 calls brought some 200 police officers, ambulances and emergency crews to the theater. Holmes was captured in the parking lot. Police said they later found that his nearby apartment was booby trapped and ordered other residents in the building and surrounding homes out of the area.

Police were not able to enter the apartment Friday night and Oates said they will try again on Saturday.

"It is a very vexing problem how to enter that apartment safely," he said.

Kaitlyn Fonzi, a graduate student at University Hospital who lives in the apartment below, said she heard loud music coming from that unit apartment. She went upstairs and put her hand on the door handle. She felt it was unlocked, but she didn't know if he was there and decided not to confront him.

Fonzi called police, who told her they were busy with a shooting and did not have time to respond to a noise disturbance. She said she was shaken to learn later that the apartment was booby trapped.

"I'm concerned if I had opened the door, I would have set it off," she said.

The shooting was the worst in the U.S. since the Nov. 5, 2009, attack at Fort Hood, Texas. An Army psychiatrist was charged with killing 13 soldiers and civilians and wounding more than two dozen others. It was the deadliest in Colorado since the 1999 attack at Columbine High School, where two students killed 12 classmates and a teacher and wounded 26 others before killing themselves.

Holmes had enrolled last year in a neuroscience Ph.D. program at the University of Colorado-Denver, though he left the program last month for unknown reasons. In academic achievement, "he was at the top of the top," recalled Timothy P. White, chancellor at the University of California, Riverside, where Holmes earned his undergraduate degree before attending the Denver school.

Those who knew Holmes described him as a shy, intelligent person raised in California by parents who were active in their well-to-do suburban neighborhood in San Diego. Holmes played soccer at Westview High School and ran cross-country before going to college.

Police released a statement from his family Friday that said, "Our hearts go out to those who were involved in this tragedy and to the families and friends of those involved."


Associated Press writers Kristen Wyatt, Steven K. Paulson, Ivan Moreno and Mead Gruver in Aurora, Dan Elliott, Gillian Flaccus, Nick Riccardi and Colleen Slevin in Denver, Tom Hays in New York, Monika Mathur and Jennifer Farrar at News Research Center and Alicia A. Caldwell and Eileen Sullivan in Washington contributed to this report.

VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
Rate this post:
Rating: 6.4/10 (18 votes cast)
Movie massacre: Shock, sadness, a search for clues, 6.4 out of 10 based on 18 ratings

Don't leave yet! Add a comment below or check out these other great stories:


  1. bdfgrlComment by bdfgrl
    July 21, 2012 @ 9:44 am

    It’s interesting to me that this massacre came in the week leading up to the UN small arms treaty. I see some politician or another choosing to use this tragedy to enact some form of gun control. They like to use people’s fear to push change through that takes away our freedoms. Perhaps, if one of the moviegoers had been packing a concealed weapon, the insane shooter could have been stopped before he killed 12 people. Criminals always find ways to circumvent the law, so I don’t know why situations like this always lead to more gun control.

    VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
    Rate this comment:
    Rating: 4.6/5 (25 votes cast)
    • joelinpdxComment by joelinpdx
      July 21, 2012 @ 10:51 am

      There’s a simple reason no one fired on Holmes. He broke through the door and immediately lobbed a grenade, complete with flash and bang, into the auditorium. He then immediately opened fire while the audience was still recovering from the flash and bang. By the time anyone had recovered from the grenade, the damage had been done.

      There’s also the fact that Holmes was wearing a complete set of armor…so it’s unlikely he could have been stooped by a handgun. Concealed carry works to a point but it isn’t going to stop a committed left-wing terrorist like Holmes.

      VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
      Rate this comment:
      Rating: 4.4/5 (7 votes cast)
    • cxComment by genesal
      July 21, 2012 @ 11:35 am

      Two or three shots to ‘body armour’ will put you down and incapacitate long enough to disarm, depending on the weapon and round, one round will suffice. Head shot will dispatch the culprit immediately, which would actually be the safest shot(s).

      VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
      Rate this comment:
      Rating: 5.0/5 (9 votes cast)
    • Dingbat36Comment by Dingbat36
      July 21, 2012 @ 3:27 pm

      Was he wearing body armor on his knees? If you have any expertise with a handgun you can hit a small target.

      VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
      Rate this comment:
      Rating: 5.0/5 (2 votes cast)
    • LAPhilComment by LAPhil
      July 22, 2012 @ 9:58 am

      joel: Where did you hear he was a left-wing terrorist? According to all the reports I’ve heard he was just some bat whack job with no connection to any terrorist organization.

      VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
      Rate this comment:
      Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
  2. Terry RasmussenComment by Terry Rasmussen
    July 21, 2012 @ 10:26 am

    This is so sad. But it is happening one week before the UN small arms treaty. This is unfortunate because it will probably cause them to take more civilians rights away to carry concealed weapons. I agree with the other poster who said if someone in the theater had been carrying a gun, this crazy kid might have been stopped before killing 12 people and injuring close to 60. We don’t need any more gun control for our citizens. If that happens, then only crazy people like Holmes will have weapons!

    VA:F [1.9.6_1107]
    Rate this comment:
    Rating: 4.6/5 (12 votes cast)
  3. gopjonesComment by gopjones
    July 21, 2012 @ 10:27 am

    bdfgrl..Simply put, opportunism. A patchwork FIX. This does not address the real problem. Look at the vacant face that heads this entry. Thats what needs fixing. There are more and more of these faces. No law will cure that. It’s a societal issue. Parenting to education to, dare I say politics, media & even advertising. No ONE to blame, no LAW to blame? Or EVERYONE to blame & ALL the laws to blame?

    VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
    Rate this comment:
    Rating: 4.2/5 (5 votes cast)
    • Comment by AcadGrad81
      July 22, 2012 @ 9:14 pm

      Mike Huckabee’s TV show on Fox Saturday night started with the ex-Governor giving a short monologue about God and “right and wrong” being forced out of public schools and discourse; and now we ask these questions to probe “why” when vicious, cold and senseless evil things happen to innocent people. I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Huckabee’s take on our society relative to shutting God out and seeing the direct and dreadful correlations that have steadily arisen since probably the 60s.

      I also wish media outlets would do as Huckabee did on his show, i.e., refusing to show the shooter’s picture or provide his name. Lunatics like this are losers in life’s lottery in some form or another and this could be a warped way for him to claim “notariety” and a brief period of fame (or infamy) for himself. The Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher refused to bargain or pay ransom to terrorists or kidnappers to deny them their fear factor on society and media splash and we should be doing likewise.

      Maybe there can be some sort of secondary justice system in prison to eliminate this outcast and get him off taxpayer expense ledgers, just as the inside “system” took care of Jeffrey Dahmer three years after his imprisonment.

      VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
      Rate this comment:
      Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
  4. jaycee1234Comment by jaycee1234
    July 21, 2012 @ 11:15 am

    While someone carrying a concealed weapon could stop him maybe true, but what if everyone had a concealed weapon and everyone started firing and hit a young child or elderly lady by mistake,then what? I also agree with Joel above that Holms was wearing a complete set of body armour so that wouldn’t have stopped him.

    VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
    Rate this comment:
    Rating: 1.0/5 (10 votes cast)
    • cxComment by genesal
      July 21, 2012 @ 11:43 am

      Let’s see possibility of shooting an innocent or 12-14 dying and 50 wounded? They hypothetical of ‘everyone’ having a cc is preposterous to say the least, for one thing children moviegoers don’t have cc permits.

      VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
      Rate this comment:
      Rating: 4.5/5 (8 votes cast)
    • commonsenseneededComment by commonsenseneeded
      July 21, 2012 @ 2:56 pm

      This was a midnight showing of a PG13 rated movie! There should not have been any young children there, especially babies. If parents want to go see the movie, fine, hire a babysitter. But don’t bring those little ones into a movie that isn’t rated for that, and is too loud for infant ears to be exposed to! Parents need to start using their brains, and stop acting like kids themselves.

      VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
      Rate this comment:
      Rating: 5.0/5 (8 votes cast)
    • KAHR50Comment by KAHR50
      July 23, 2012 @ 10:41 am

      Hello sheeple-person, this is your wolf slaying Sheep-Dog:

      I aks you, since when does the fantasy land of “What-If” trump the facts of what actually happened? A Maniac shot innocent people – 12 dead – does that not sink into your miniscule brain?

      One man interviewed stated that the maniac entered, tossed a smoke grenade (not flash bang) and he watched him, from behind his seat a few feet away, empty a shotgun then change to the AR configured semi-automatic rifle.

      Had this one particular sheeple been 1) allowed to be armed and 2) accepted his moral responsibility to be armed, shots to any part of his armor or legs or arms from a few feet away would have ended this before the rifle even came into play.

      VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
      Rate this comment:
      Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)
  5. MarvComment by Marv
    July 21, 2012 @ 11:21 am

    It was A NO FIREARM ZONE – people had no way of defending themselves – Blame anti-gun rules.

    VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
    Rate this comment:
    Rating: 4.7/5 (12 votes cast)
  6. mvotano58Comment by mvotano58
    July 21, 2012 @ 11:40 am

    “There’s a fine line between genius and insanity.” Oscar Levant I believe that to be a very true statement. Apparently this person is academically gifted especially to be in a PhD program at 24. And it is astoundingly apparent that he is insane. Not by the legal definition because we all know he knows right from wrong and knew what he was doing was wrong when he did it. I know some “beautiful minds” and they are odd ducks. There seems to be a disconnect from reality and the norms or social convention. They seem to not understand the conventional boundaries that most of us accept. Without that “disconnect” we might not have Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and most of the time that brilliance leads us to great things. The tragedy is that sometimes that “disconnect” leads to a national tragedy. It’s not my fault, the media’s, movies’ or comic book’s fault either. By all accounts it isn’t his family’s fault either. Some people are just messed up in their heads and there is nothing anyone can do to stop it. Laws won’t stop it, prayers won’t stop it, money won’t stop it, prison won’t and neither will prescription drugs or the President. It’s a tragedy and tragedies will continue to occur as they have throughout history. All we can really do is be there for one another to pick up the pieces and move on.

    VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
    Rate this comment:
    Rating: 4.8/5 (10 votes cast)
  7. gggtexasgalComment by gggtexasgal
    July 21, 2012 @ 3:06 pm

    You might wish to take a look at this article appearing a few minutes ago at the Western Jounalism site. Article is entitled “Was Shooting Staged by Obama?

    VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
    Rate this comment:
    Rating: 3.5/5 (2 votes cast)
  8. Dingbat36Comment by Dingbat36
    July 21, 2012 @ 3:30 pm

    The theater chain where this happened has a nationwide “policy” of no guns allowed in direct violation of the laws of many states, like Colorado, where concealed carry is allowed. Cinemark’s “policy” didn’t stop the bad guy did it? Shame on the idiots at the top of this corporate dung pile!

    VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
    Rate this comment:
    Rating: 5.0/5 (3 votes cast)
  9. mbanyackiComment by mbanyacki
    July 21, 2012 @ 3:32 pm

    Already the “Brady Gang” has spoken in the papers that they “want action”. It’s just the kind of shooting that they now feel they can influence legislators to restrict your 2nd Amendment rights with more gun control laws or try to eliminate your right given to us by our Constitution to take away your 2nd Amendment rights. It’s time to fight back like they like to do. We have too many restrictive laws curtailing the rights of citizens to protect themselves. Well, if we had less restrictive rules such as being denied the right to carry a concealed weapon and stupid rules that are imposed on people by stupid people, perhaps if some movie theater people had the ability to pack a weapon when they went to the movies they could have countered with head shots or leg shots to hurt James Holmes enough that his tolerance for continuing to fire weapons would have been shortened and less would have died or become injured. But you better believe that if you want to keep your 2nd Amendment rights to be able to protect yourself and your family, you’ll have to fight the Brady nusiance who want to take away those rights granted to each of us. Let’s not let that happen. Write your Congressional legislature to allow a federal law be passed to take charge that all “States” will give each of us the right to carry a concealed weapon if he or she chooses to do so.

    VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
    Rate this comment:
    Rating: 4.6/5 (5 votes cast)
  10. handymanherbComment by handymanherb
    July 21, 2012 @ 4:54 pm

    I got an answer to places that don’t allow you to carry weapons, they can’t have my money and I let them know in a letter and in person.

    Because it doesn’t work on nuts like this, neither did the Bible , Thou shall not kill, or murders laws, they don’t follow your dumb *** rules, but I will take my money down the road.

    VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
    Rate this comment:
    Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)
  11. middlegroundComment by middleground
    July 21, 2012 @ 8:43 pm

    “He spent much of his time immersed in the computer, often participating in role-playing online games…”.

    A trip in fantasyland seems the most probable thought for this man’s disturbed mind, but after the fiasco of “fast and furious”, you know that people will and probably should speculate this is simply another Obama-Holder attack on the 2nd amendment. After all the approaches are similar in character — guns and munitions given to create a dreadful event that will motivate the MSM to say government needs to outlaw guns held by civilians.

    VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
    Rate this comment:
    Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)
  12. dtowndComment by dtownd
    July 21, 2012 @ 8:48 pm

    We had what might have been a similar tragedy in Colorado in 2007, where a deranged idiot (curiously, the son of a neurosurgon) shot and killed a couple people involved in a church youth group, then proceeded to drive to a different church where he intended to go on a shooting spree. Instead, after killing two more people, an armed female security guard shot and killed him. Jeanne Assam, a church member who volunteers as a security guard, shot Murray, who was found with a rifle and two handguns. Massacre, no massacre. Much less of a story, since it ends with someone stopping the guy before he could finish.

    Go armed. Save lives. God gave you your rights, including self-defense. No goverment can take those rights away unless you choose to permit them to.

    Read more:,2933,316322,00.html#ixzz21JQxGFK2.

    VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
    Rate this comment:
    Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)
  13. joshua0853Comment by joshua0853
    July 22, 2012 @ 11:34 pm

    I would also agree that the timing of this tragedy is “interesting”, to say the least.

    Every time there is a shooting anywhere in the country, the reaction from the left is–invariably–a call for stricter gun control. We all agree that even one life lost to gun violence is a tragedy, and we mourn the victims of such mindless evil. However, taking guns away from law-abiding citizens is absolutely the wrong thing to do.

    Has anyone ever wondered for example, why Switzerland was virtually the ONLY country bordering on Germany that Hitler did NOT invade during WWII? Sure, the Alps Mountains presented somewhat of an obstacle (tanks in mountains is not a good idea—too many factors against them), but the main reason was that the Swiss are probably the best-armed populace in the world. Every able-bodied male (maybe now female as well) is required to undergo (I believe) two years of training/military duty. Afterward, each person takes his/her weapon home and receives periodic refresher training.

    In such an environment, one would expect mayhem and daily “shoot-em-ups” to occur, according to liberal logic. Does it? No—the Swiss have one of the lowest incidence of gun violence in the world, as well (whodda thunk?).

    Now, imagine what would have happened if EVERY country bordering Germany had followed Switzerland’s lead? There is no question that Hitler would probably NOT have invaded his neighbors. Even if he had, the conflict would have ended long before 1945 and Hitler (including the other two Axis Powers—Italy and Japan) would have been soundly defeated.

    I have seen estimates ranging from about 50-70 million killed in World War II. Sensible gun policies worldwide could have prevented that Great War. Six million more Jews would be alive today (actually many times that because of their progeny). Over 20 million Soviet citizens, and their progeny—also alive!

    Another consideration is this: Out of 50 million people, about 1 in 250 would statistically be in the 140+ intelligence range (50,000,000 / 250 = 200,000). Even assuming a paltry 5 percent rate, at least 10,000 of them could be expected to have made some meaningful contribution to mankind, if they had lived (200,000 X .05 = 10,000). This number is actually way low, because I have not factored in their progeny. However, I don’t think there can be any argument that at LEAST 10,000 meaningful contributions (advancements in…inventions, engineering, sciences, agriculture, political, diplomatic, etc) to society at large has been destroyed—by Gun Control!

    Would we have had a cure for cancer by now…discovered by a Hungarian Doctor? What about a breakthrough in agriculture that doubles food production worldwide? Perhaps a Jew from the old Soviet Empire would have pioneered in that area. Would the Israeli/Palestinian “problem” be just a dim memory by now? Perhaps a brilliant statesman (or stateswoman) to-be from Kansas was struck down while storming the beaches of France–never to fulfill that destiny. Thousands of potential examples abound.

    I would therefore argue, that gun control has been one of the most devastating evils of all time! Think about it.

    VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
    Rate this comment:
    Rating: 5.0/5 (3 votes cast)
  14. krodrichComment by krodrich
    July 23, 2012 @ 11:49 am

    This guy was a total wack job. Like Timothy McVeigh. Like any serial killer. Like the Jihadists who took down the WTC and damaged the Pentagon.

    This type of insanity will find a way to wreak havoc and cause harm whether they have access to guns or not. They are driven and will find a way.

    Sad that this close to an election such a tragedy should occur. As much as I dislike the current POTUS, I don’t have enough evidence yet to even consider a conspiracy is behind it. As much as I think the UN had run its course long before the Cold War was over. And as much as I hate for all the Gun Conrol liberals to have the ammunition to try and fail again to overturn 2nd Amendment to our Constitution – one fact remains. A gun does not have a brain. It cannot make a conscious decision to fire or not to fire. It is a tool – both for peacekeeping and for aggression.

    I’m a peace keeper. I keep guns and taught my children self defense as a force equalizer. I also taught them to think. The chance that they will use a gun in their lifetime to defend themselves is probably slim to none. The fact that they will have the option and that cannot ever be taken from them – is further evidence that The Founding Fathers knew what they were doing when they created the Union of States and our underlying Constitution.

    I pray for the victims in Colorado. But guns are not the issue here – a sick, deranged mind was the stimulus for pulling the trigger. Let’s remove those from society before we ever consider removing our right to bear arms.


    VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
    Rate this comment:
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
  15. standinghereallaloneComment by standinghereallalone
    July 23, 2012 @ 2:58 pm

    This mass murderer could have killed 12 people out in the parking lot of this theater, with no planning, no guns, no ammo, or other equipment. He could have done this with only his car. Yet he chose to dress all up in black, stock pile weapons and equipment and staged this elaborate plot. He went to all this trouble because he was inspired and created by the News Media’s 24/7 detailed coverage of Columbine and many other massacres of similar design. He is copy cat killer like many of the other copy cat killers the Media has spawned. The blood is on your hands News Media. In your rush to slosh through the blood of victims for hot ratings, and the opportunity to exploit the emotional climate so you can push your Leftist agenda for more gun control, you have completely abandoned any moral or ethical obligation to make sure you aren’t creating the tragedies you are reporting on. Shame on you!

    VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
    Rate this comment:
    Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)

Leave a Comment

Reference Pages

  • About
  • Network-wide options by YD - Freelance Wordpress Developer