A gunman in a gas mask barged into a crowded Denver-area theatre during a midnight premiere of the Batman movie on Friday, lobbed a gas canister and then began firing into the packed cinema, murdering 12 people as well as injuring at least 50 others in what is described as the deadliest mass-shooting in recent U.S. history.
When the gas began to dispersed, some moviegoers believed this was a stunt that was part of the “The Dark Knight Rises” – one of this summer’s most highly anticipated films. At that point they saw a figure of a person in the smoke in close proximity the screen, aiming a weapon at the audience and shooting.
“There were bullet (casings) just falling on my head. They were burning my forehead,” said a witness, Jennifer Seeger, adding that the gunman was dressed like a SWAT team member, and fired steadily except when stopping to reload.
“Every few seconds it was just: Boom, boom, boom,” she said. “He would reload and shoot and anyone who would try to leave would just get killed.”
Authorities speaking on the condition of anonymity, due to the on-going investigation, said the suspect was apprehended and identified by federal law enforcement officials as 24-year-old James Holmes and authorities did not reveal or discuss a possible motive.
Victims of the shooting are being treated for chemical exposure, related to canisters thrown by the gunman. Among the injured are children, including a 3-month-old infant who may have been shot.
Officials said they were unsure whether all injuries were from gunshots – adding some might have been caused by other things that include shrapnel.
“The Dark Knight Rises” opened all over the world Friday, with midnight showings in the U.S. The shooting prompted officials in Paris to cancel its premier – workers were dismantling special displays at a theater on the famous Champs-Elysees Avenue.