A masked gunman shot dead at least 12 people and injured up to 50 others after an attack on moviegoers on Friday in Denver, USA, according to reports. The attack occurred in the early hours of the morning, as the masked and armed 24 year old, reportedly identified as 24 year old James Holmes, shot at over 60 audience members attending a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises.
Holmes is said to have killed a baby, targeting several children in the shooting.
Eyewitnesses described the gunman as 6″ tall, dressed in black body armour and a gas mask. Holmes is said to have “burst” into the front of the theatre – where the film was being screened – through a fire exit, throwing a smoke grenade before firing at the audience using three different guns.
Several eyewitnesses explained they initially thought the attack was a publicity stunt for the screening, while others in nearby theatres believed the gunfire was coming from the movie.
The gunman was arrested at his car after the attack, which was stationed in a car park at the rear of the cinema which police say was is not used by members of the public.
The FBI identified the attacker as 24 year old James Holmes. The gunman is reported to live in an apartment n north Aurora, Colorado. Holmes is said to have revealed to the police that his apartment was “stacked with explosives”. Officers have evacuated the building and are searching his home.
A woman who claimed to be Holmes’ mother told ABC News that she had been unaware of the shooting and had not been contacted by the authorities. “You have the right person,” she said. “I need to call the police… I need to fly out to Colorado.”
The tragic events are reminiscent of the Columbine High School tragedy in Colorado, just 30 miles away from the cinema in which Holmes’ attack took place.
Local reporter, Justin Joseph of KDVR, explained: “As people ran this gunman opened fire hitting people. Police sources have told us there are at least 10 bodies inside the cinema, most of them children or teenagers, and one baby. A baby was shot at point blank range, the family were gathered around screaming.”
Brenda Stuart, of 850 KOA Radio, added: “People inside tell us they thought it was part of the movie. They heard what they thought were firecrackers, loud bangs and all of a sudden they saw the bullets flying.”
“Police officers are carting the injured to the hospital in their own cars, not waiting for the ambulances.”
President Obama issued a statement expressing his shock and sadness at the tragedy. The President and the First Lady said that their “thoughts and prayers” were with the victims of the attack, and urged the country to come together “as one American family”; pledging all necessary support for the people of Aurora, Colorado.