While everybody were watching the new Batman movie in the theater in Aurora, a gunman in black wearing a helmet, body armor and a gas mask stepped through a side door, reports The Telegraph.
According to witnesses, at first he was just a silhouette, taken by the audience for a stunt that was part of one of the summer’s most highly anticipated films.
However, the man threw gas canisters into the middle of suburban Denver theater and thus filled the packed it with smoke, and opened fire as people screamed and dove for cover.
“He looked like an assassin ready to go to war,” said Jordan Crofter, who escaped the attack early Friday, of the special midnight opening of “The Dark Knight Rises.”
The suspect, who reportedly named himself as “the Joker”, was identified by police officials as 24-year-old James Holmes. The gunman used a military-style semi-automatic rifle, a shotgun and a pistol, stopping only to reload.
James Holmes “marched up the aisle in the stadium-style theater, picking off those who tried to flee,” witnesses said. In total, 71 were hit, as the officials report. One of the victims was struck by gunfire that went through the wall.
“He would reload and shoot and anyone who would try to leave would just get killed,” said Jennifer Seeger, adding that bullet landed on her head and burned her forehead.
Tanner Coon, 17,said: “I slipped on some blood. I fell on a lady and told her: ‘We’ve got to go’. There was no response. I presumed she was dead.”
At 12.39am local time, a few minutes later after the theater massacre hundreds of 911 call were received, and within 90 seconds 200 police officers, ambulances and emergency crews arrived at the theater but by then it was already too late.
The police chief of Aurora, Dan Oates, reported that there was no evidence of a second gunman. He said the police has already checked for explosives in the cinema and car park and secured both areas, claims The Guardian.
“This is a horrific event,” he told reporters.”Our hearts go out to all of the family. We have mobilised the witnesses that we could get our hands on to an area high school where de-briefings are under way.”
However, police still has no idea of motive for the attack. The authorities reported that there was no indication of ties to any terrorist groups.
In New York City, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said: “It clearly looks like a deranged individual. He has his hair painted red. He said he was the Joker, obviously the enemy of Batman.”
President Barack Obama said he was “heartbroken” by the bloody shooting in Aurora, and stopped campaigning in Florida for a day. Obama said: “There are going to be other days for politics. This, I think, is a day for prayer and reflection.”
His GOP rival, Mitt Romney, continued: “Today is a moment to grieve and remember.” Both Obama and Romney pulled advertising in Colorado.
Dark Knight Rises director Christopher Nolan has released a statement condemning the attack: “Movies are one of the great American art forms and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me.”