Police neutralize Colorado suspect's booby-trapped apartment
AP, AFP and Reuters
July 23, 2012, 12:14 am TWN
AURORA -- The semiautomatic assault rifle used by the gunman in a mass shooting at a midnight showing of the latest Batman movie jammed during the attack, a federal law enforcement official told The Associated Press, which forced the shooter to switch to another gun with less fire power.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to in order to discuss the investigation, said the disabled weapon had a high-capacity ammunition magazine. Police have said that a 100-round drum magazine was recovered at the scene and that such a device would be able to fire 50 to 60 rounds a minute.
That account of what happened inside the Century 16 theater emerged with other details of a suspect described as a budding scientist, brimming with potential, who pursued a graduate program even as he planned the attack with "calculation and deliberation," police said Saturday.
James Holmes, 24, received shipments that authorities believe armed him for battle and were used to booby trap his home with dozens of bombs.
In Aurora, investigators spent hours Saturday removing explosive materials from inside Holmes' apartment a day after police said he opened fire and set off gas canisters in a theater minutes into a premiere of the "The Dark Knight Rises." The massacre left 12 people dead and 58 injured.
Inside the apartment, FBI Special agent James Yacone said bomb technicians neutralized what he called a "hypergolic mixture" and an improvised explosive device containing an unknown substance. There also were multiple containers of accelerants.
"It was an extremely dangerous environment," Yacone said at a news conference, noting that anyone who walked in would have sustained "significant injuries" or been killed.
Bomb experts spent Saturday inching their way into Holmes's apartment. A small boom from a controlled detonation blew out a few pieces of debris, and a short time later police announced they had defused all major threats.
By late Saturday afternoon, all hazards had been removed from the Holmes' apartment and residents in surrounding buildings were allowed to return home, police said.
The exception was Holmes' apartment building, where authorities were still collecting evidence. Inside the apartment, authorities covered the windows with black plastic to prevent onlookers from seeing in. Before they did, a man in an ATF T-shirt could be seen measuring a poster on a closet that advertised a DVD called "Soldiers of Misfortune." The poster showed several figures in various positions playing paintball, some wearing masks.
About 8 p.m. Saturday, police left the apartment building carrying a laptop computer and a hard drive.
Aurora police chief Dan Oates did nothing to hide his anger at what the authorities found inside the apartment.
"Make no mistake, this apartment was designed to kill whoever entered it. And who was most likely to enter that location after he planned and executed this horrific crime? It was going to be a police officer," he said.
Sources familiar with the investigation said that some 30 shells filled with gunpowder were spread through the 800-square-foot apartment and wired to a control box in the kitchen.
There were also at least two containers filled with "incendiary liquids" intended to fuel a fire from the initial explosions, and an undetermined amount of bullets meant to ricochet around the apartment.
"Given the amount of explosives that were there, if they detonated ideally, you would have had a very ample explosion with an ensuing thermal effect from the incendiary liquids that would have destroyed that apartment complex," a law enforcement official said.