The massacre began around 12:30 a.m. when the gunman entered through an exit door, dressed in black and wearing a gas mask, and threw two tear gas canisters into the audience and then opened fire.
Law enforcement apprehended a white male, James Holmes, a 24-year-old local resident, near a car in the theater parking lot after the massacre. He did not resist arrest.
Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates confirmed "a gas mask, rifle, handgun at least one additional weapon (were) found inside." He later added that the suspect spoke of "possible explosives in his residence. We are dealing with that potential threat.” A search of the suspect's residence is ongoing and may take days. The apartment, in a large complex, is confirmed to be booby-trapped. Five nearby buildings have been evacuated.
Moviegoers described the horrific scene to the Denver Post. Bejamin Fernandez, 30, said it began with a series of explosions. As patrons ran for the exit, shots were fired and people shouted “Get down!”
Salina Jordan thought the gunfire sounded like firecrackers, until someone ran in screaming, “They’re shooting out here.” Jordan later witnessed officers carrying and dragging bodies after the massacre and saw victims, some as young as about 9-years-old, shot in the stomach -- she saw one little girl who was struck in the cheek.
Victims were rushed to six area hospitals, some by responding officers. The recovering moviegoers are of varied ages, with wounds of varying severity.
FBI spokesman Jason Pack said there was no connection to terrorism. Over 100 federal agents are now involved in the investigation. The shooter does not appear to have any affiliation with known terror groups. He has no military record, nor any apparent police record. ABC News and AP report that James Holmes was a student at the University of Colorado Denver Medical Campus. He withdrew in June.
The White House released a statement in which President Obama said, "Michelle and I are shocked and saddened by the horrific and tragic shooting in Colorado ... We are committed to bringing whoever was responsible to justice, ensuring the safety of our people, and caring for those who have been wounded. As we do when confronted by moments of darkness and challenge, we must now come together as one American family."
President Obama canceled campaign appearances in Florida and is returning to Washington.
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. released a statement saying that "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."
Photo: The scene outside the canceled premiere in Paris. Credit: Splash.
A Paris premiere of the film was canceled by the company, saying it would be inappropriate in view of the tragedy.
Security has been beefed up at other screenings around the world.
The massacre took place at the Century Cinema, 28 miles from Columbine High School in Littleton, scene of a mass shooting that killed 13 and injured 21 on April 20, 1999.
A gunman opened fire during a midnight showing of “Dark Knight Rises” at an Aurora, Colo. movie theater early Friday morning. Fifty victims were shot in the rampage, with twelve confirmed dead.