Police to Enter Colorado Suspect's Booby-Trapped Home
A day after a gunman opened fire at a packed midnight showing of the new "Batman" film in a Denver suburb, killing 12 people and wounding 59 more, police on Saturday prepared to neutralize explosives in the suspect's booby-trapped apartment.
Dozens of law enforcement officials arrived at the apartment of suspect James Holmes at dawn, but it was not immediately clear if they planned to detonate the suspected explosives using a robot. Police have evacuated five nearby buildings and created a perimeter of several blocks.
Meanwhile, a memorial of flowers and candles has been set up at the Aurora shopping mall where the shooting rampage at a showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" turned a movie screening into a chaotic scene of dead or bleeding victims. A handwritten sign read: "7/20 gone not forgotten."
On Friday, the police chief in Aurora said the apartment was "booby-trapped," and it could be days before the explosives and flammable material could be removed. Police found jars of chemicals in the apartment with wires nearby, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press.
Authorities identified the suspect as 24-year-old James Eagen Holmes and said he had been armed with an AR-15 assault rifle, a shotgun and two Glock pistols.
Investigators ruled out a link to terrorism at this time and said they believed he acted alone. There was no word on a motive.
Holmes has asked for a lawyer and is refusing to talk to investigators, a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation told the AP. A court appearance is scheduled for Monday.
A federal official told the news agency that Holmes bought a ticket to the midnight showing of the latest Batman movie and went into the theater as part of the crowd.
The law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Holmes is believed to have propped open an exit door as the movie was playing, donned protective ballistic gear and opened fire.
Holmes was studying neuroscience in a Ph.D. program at the University of Colorado-Denver, university spokeswoman Jacque Montgomery said. Holmes enrolled a year ago and was in the process of withdrawing, Montgomery said. Earlier, Montgomery was quoted as saying Holmes had recently dropped out of medical school.
Police released a written statement from Holmes' family, who live in the San Diego area: "Our hearts go out to those who were involved in this tragedy and to the families and friends of those involved."
It was the worst mass shooting in the U.S. since the Nov. 5, 2009, attack at Fort Hood, Texas, when an Army psychiatrist killed 13 soldiers and civilians and more than two dozen others wounded.
The production company of one of the most widely anticipated movies of the summer, Warner Bros., and the owner of the Century 16 Movie Theaters in Aurora said in separate statements that they were "deeply saddened."
"We extend our sincere sympathies to the families and loved ones of the victims at this tragic time," the Time Warner company said in a statement.
The company immediately canceled plans for a red carpet premiere in Paris for Friday night and for media interviews there with director Christopher Nolan and cast members Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway and Morgan Freeman. Workers pulled down the red carpet display in front of the theater on the Champs-Elysees and carried away a large mask from the theater facade. Regular showings continued.
In its statement, Cinemark Holdings praised emergency responders for "quick and professional reaction." "Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and loved ones, our employees, and the Aurora community," it said.
Asked at a news conference about security at the theater, Cinemark CEO Tim Warner said the gunman was "well organized." "He had an assault weapon that would probably have overpowered any security that we would have had. Obviously, a very deranged gunman that had access to very powerful weapons."
In New York, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the NYPD will provide extra security coverage at theaters featuring the movie "as a precaution against copycats and to raise the comfort levels among movie patrons."
President Barack Obama said he was "shocked and saddened" by the rampage. He cut short a planned two-day campaign swing through Florida and to return to the White House.
"As we do when confronted by moments of darkness and challenge, we must now come together as one American family," Obama said. "All of us must have the people of Aurora in our thoughts and prayers as they confront the loss of family, friends, and neighbors."
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said he and his wife, Ann, were "deeply saddened by the news of the senseless violence." He said they were praying for the families and loved ones of the victims "during this time of deep shock and immense grief. We expect that the person responsible for this terrible crime will be quickly brought to justice."
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called on Obama and Romney to respond to the mass shooting by detailing their plans to improve gun control.
"Soothing words are nice," Bloomberg said in his weekly WOR Radio appearance, but added that it's time to hear the candidates "stand up and tell us what they're going to do about it."
Police said 12 people were killed atthe multiplex in the Aurora Town Center, lowering an earlier death toll by two. The youngest of those wounded — a 4-month-old baby — survived, authorities said.
"This is one of the most horrific nights I've ever had to work," said Comilla Sasson, an emergency doctor at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, where the baby and 21 other patients were treated. Other victims were treated elsewhere.