12 dead in US 'Dark Knight' massacre
AP and AFP July 21, 2012, 12:05 am TWN
AURORA, Colorado/WASHINGTON/, FORT MYERS, Florida -- A gunman wearing a gas mask set off an unknown gas and fired into a crowded Colorado movie theater at a midnight opening of the latest Batman movie, killing at least 12 people and injuring at least 50, authorities said.
It was the worst mass shooting in the U.S. since the 2007 shooting on the Virginia Tech campus, and it immediately brought memories of the massacre at nearby Columbine High School in 1999, where two students opened fire and killed 12 classmates and a teacher.
Some moviegoers said they thought Friday's attack was part of the show. Then they saw a silhouette of a person in the smoke at the front of the theater, pointing a gun at the crowd.
"There were bullet (casings) just falling on my head. They were burning my forehead," Jennifer Seeger said, adding that the gunman, dressed like a SWAT team member, fired steadily except when he stopped to reload.
"Every few seconds it was just boom, boom, boom," Seeger said. "He would reload and shoot and anyone who would try to leave would just get killed."
The shooter was arrested shortly after the attack near a car outside the multiplex theater in Aurora. Federal law enforcement officials said the suspect is 24-year-old citizen James Holmes. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.
There was no immediate word of a motive. Some of the injured were children, with the youngest a 4-month-old baby who has been released from treatment. Victims were being treated for chemical exposure apparently related to canisters thrown by the gunman.
"The Dark Knight Rises" is one of the most highly anticipated films of the summer. The movie opened across the world Friday, but the shooting prompted officials to cancel the Paris premiere, with workers pulling down the red carpet display at a theater on the famed Champs-Elysees Avenue.
"Warner Bros. and the filmmakers are 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," the studio said.
FBI spokesman Jason Pack said there was no indication in the investigation so far of any connection to terror groups.
"This is a local law enforcement investigation at this point, and what we can say is that we do not believe at this point that there is an apparent nexus to terrorism," said Jay Carney, spokesman for U.S. President Barack Obama.
Obama said he was saddened by the "horrific and tragic shooting," and he cut short campaigning to return to the White House.
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