– — – AURORA — Fourteen people were killed and about 50 were injured early Friday when shots rang out at an Aurora movie theater during a premiere showing of the new Batman movie.
A 24-year-old suspect in is custody and an apartment building in north Aurora connected to the suspect was being evacuated and searched for possible explosives, according to Police Chief Dan Oates. Ten people died at the scene and four others died at hospitals.
Oates said there was no evidence of a second suspect, but the man in custody had made a statement about possible explosives in his residence. Police have blocked off a three-block area around an apartment complex in north Aurora. Residents in the area said they were evacuated around 2 a.m. while police searched the third floor of the apartment building. Sometime before 12:30 a.m., police received reports of gunshots at the Century 16 Movie Theaters at the Aurora Town Center. Dozens of ambulances and police vehicles were outside the mall, where three theaters were showing “The Dark Knight Rises.” Most of the wounded and killed were at Theater 9. Police from all over the metro area had been called to the scene. Witnesses said gunman wore a gas mask and was clad in black. “Witnesses tell us he released some sort of canister.” Oates said. “They heard a hissing sound and some gas emerged and the gunman opened fire.” A witness, Benjamin Fernandez, 30, said he was watching the movie when he heard a series of explosions. He said that people ran from the theater and there were gunshots as police shouted ‘get down!” Frenandez said he saw people falling, including one young girl. Salina Jordan, 19, was in Theater 8 and saw people hit in her theater. She said one girl was struck in cheek, others in stomach including a girl who looked to be around 9 years old. Jordan said it sounded like firecrackers until someone ran into Theater 8 yelling “they’re shooting out here!”
The police came running in, telling people to run out. Some police were carrying or dragging bodies, she said. Police set up a command post near the Dillards department store and were interviewing hundreds of possible witnesses. Many were taken by buses to Gateway High School for questioning. Police spokeswoman Cassidee Carlson says “the scene is still very active and we have little information for release at this time.” Robert Jones, 28, was in Theater 9 when the shooting started. Jones said when he first saw smoke billowing from the front of the theater, he thought it was a special effect. Shots rang out almost immediately after. “I thought it was pretty much the end of the world,” Roberts said. Roberts stayed flat on the ground until police came into the theater. Tammi Stevens said her son, 18-year-old Jacob Stevens, was inside Theater 9 when the shooting started. Stevens was waiting for her son at Gateway High School while police interviewed him. Jacob told his mom that he saw a guy walk into the theater wearing body armor and throw some sort of cannister that then emitted some sort of gas. “You let your kids go to a late night movie…you never think something like this would happen,” Stevens said. President Obama was notified about the shooting by homeland security adviser John Brennan. Obama said he is “shocked and saddened” by the “horrific and tragic” shooting, the Associated Press reported. The FBI said that there is no indication that the shooting has any connection to terrorism. Swedish Medical Center spokeswoman Nicole Williams says two people injured at the theater have arrived at the hospital in critical condition. Officials with Children’s Hospital Colorado said six victims, ages 6 to 31 years old, have arrived at the hospital. Updates on their conditions were not available. She says emergency workers said there could be several more patients. Denver Health Medical Center has six patients from the Aurora shooting. One is in critical condition and the other five are in in fair condition. Aurora police are asking anyone with information about the shooting to call 303-627-3100.