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70 shot, 12 dead in Colorado movie theatre massacre

Police have revised the number of people injured in the shooting rampage at a Colorado movie theatre down to 70 from 71.

A gunman wearing a gas mask opened fire at a midnight screening of the latest Batman movie in Aurora, a Denver suburb on Friday morning, killing 12 people and wounding dozens of others – the impacts of which were being felt in Toronto and around the world.

Ten people were pronounced dead at the scene and two others died in hospital. A four-month-old baby and a six-year-old child were among the injured. The infant has since been released from hospital.

Nearly all 70 were shot, but a handful of them suffered other injuries as they tried to escape the chaos, Aurora police chief Dan Oates said during an update Friday evening.

The alleged gunman is now in a county jail and is expected to make his first court appearance at 8:30 a.m. Monday, he said.

A prayer vigil was planned for 6:30 p.m. Sunday in front of the Aurora municipal centre where the governor and the mayor will speak.

Authorities said a man used two devices that released smoke or gas inside a cinema showing The Dark Knight Rises at the Century 16 theatres in Aurora. He then moved to the front of the cinema and opened fire around 12:30 a.m. MST.

The police chief said in the last 60 days the suspect purchased four guns from local gun stores, and through the Internet he bought over 6,000 rounds of ammunition.

One of the 12 people murdered in Colorado on Friday — Jessica Ghawi — was an American woman who narrowly escaped the Eaton Centre shooting just six weeks ago. Click here for more on her story.

The impacts of the mass shooting weren’t just felt in the Denver area as Canada’s Cineplex Entertainment issued a statement in the wake of the shooting, assuring Canadian movie-goers security would be ramped up at its theatres for upcoming shows – despite the fact it believes the Colorado shooting was “an isolated incident.”

The company will donate proceeds from Friday night’s box office to the Red Cross’s violence and abuse prevention program, it said.

In France, The Dark Knight Rises premiere in Paris was cancelled in the wake of the attack.

A 24-year-old man believed to be the gunman is now in police custody. Police have identified him as James Holmes, who hails from Riverside, Calif. The FBI says he has no apparent links to terrorist groups and he has no criminal history. He was a neuroscience PhD student at the University of Colorado-Denver graduate school. According to a university official, he was in the process of withdrawing from the program.

There’s no word yet on a potential motive for the massacre.

In a statement, the suspect’s family in San Diego said they are co-operating with police and offered condolences to victims and their families. They’ve also asked for privacy.

Aurora police searched the area around the movie theatre for explosives using a robot. Officers found the suspect near his car in the theatre’s parking lot. Holmes had an assault rifle, a shotgun and two pistols, police said.

As the investigation progressed, authorities evacuated five buildings near the suspect’s north-Aurora apartment building and used a fire truck ladder to reach the unit. While searching the apartment with a camera on a four-metre pole, they found it had allegedly been booby trapped with flammable and explosive material.

“We could be here for hours, we could be here for days, trying to figure out how to get in there,” Aurora police chief Dan Oates said. “The pictures are pretty disturbing. It looks pretty sophisticated on how it’s booby-trapped.”

Some people said they initially thought the attack was part of the film. Others initially thought the gun blasts were fire crackers.

“I just decided it was some punks with like fireworks, just like ‘do this at the main opening, everybody will notice us’ people trying to get attention,” a witness named Jack, whose friend was shot in the neck, told CNN.

“He like leaned over me and like, I didn’t know he had gotten hurt. I thought he was pretending to hide from the fireworks, because I still thought it was fireworks at the time. Then he got up and ran out and he didn’t like say a word to me or anything.”

The shooting happened not far from the site of the Columbine massacre in 1999, where Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 13 people and themselves at Columbine High School. Friday’s rampage is the worst mass-shooting in the United States since the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech.

“There are various levels of injury, all gunshot wounds, from minor to severe,” University of Colorado Hospital spokeswoman Jacque Montgomery told CityNews on Friday morning. “We have mostly adults, but there is a handful of teenagers here as well.”

One witness, who was in an adjoining theatre when the shots rang out, said he saw a police officer carrying a seriously-wounded child.

U.S. President Barack Obama released a statement Friday morning.

“As we do when confronted by moments of darkness and challenge, we must now come together as one American family,” he said. “All of us must have the people of Aurora in our thoughts and prayers as they confront the loss of family, friends, and neighbors, and we must stand together with them in the challenging hours and days to come.”

Warner Bros. also issued a statement after the shooting.

“Warner Bros. is deeply saddened to learn about this shocking incident. We extend our sincere sympathies to the families and loved ones of the victims at this tragic time.”

With files from The Associated Press & CNN [View the story “Reaction to CityNews’ Francis D’Souza’s question about whether action should be taken here after the Colorado shooting” on Storify]


U.S. President Barack Obama’s statement following the Colorado shooting:

Michelle and I are shocked and saddened by the horrific and tragic shooting in Colorado. Federal and local law enforcement are still responding, and my Administration will do everything that we can to support the people of Aurora in this extraordinarily difficult time. We are committed to bringing whoever was responsible to justice, ensuring the safety of our people, and caring for those who have been wounded. As we do when confronted by moments of darkness and challenge, we must now come together as one American family. All of us must have the people of Aurora in our thoughts and prayers as they confront the loss of family, friends, and neighbors, and we must stand together with them in the challenging hours and days to come.