Early reports from Colorado say that as many as 12 people are dead and 38 are injured after a masked gunman opened fire at a premiere of the latest Batman movie in a cinema in Aurora, a suburb of Denver. Witnesses say that shortly after midnight, a man wearing a gas mask set off either a smoke bomb or tear gas in the theater and began shooting during a shooting scene in the movie. One suspect is in custody, according to Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates, and has now been identified as local resident James Holmes.
"The only thing that I will tell you is that he made a statement to us about explosives in his residence and we are dealing with that potential [threat] right now," Oates says. According to the police chief, there is no evidence of a second gunman.
Charles Murphy, social media editor at the Denver Post, has the latest from the city. "There is one suspect in custody, he is described as a 24-year-old man, and we don't know any more about him than that," Murphy says. "Police are searching his apartment in North Aurora after he made some statements about having additional explosives."
At first, moviegoers in adjacent theaters believed the smoke and gunfire to be a part of the film, but people began to panic as the shots continued, and even penetrated through the walls. Ben Fernandez, a moviegoer, described the situation as "complete chaos." He saw a number of victims covered in blood.
The shooter was described as wearing a bulletproof vest, and carried several firearms, including an "AK-type" rifle, a shotgun, and two handguns, according to a federal law enforcement official. "People here are still mindful of Columbine and thinking about that, but there's no connection that we know of, other than they happened in the same metro area," Murphy says.
Dr. Steven Wolf is an on-duty emergency physician at the Denver Medical Health Center. He says that his team has seen six patients, all over the age of 18, who were injured in the shooting. Two remain in serious condition, and will likely undergo surgery.
"Our physician teams that were called to action, so to speak, have started to break down and go about catching up with the work that they had to put on hold," Wolf says. "The patients here have been stabilized, and definitive care plans are being arranged."
Twenty of the victims are reportedly receiving treatment at the University of Colorado Hospital, including a patient who is three months old. "You try to do your best to triage and prioritize all the patients together recognizing that penetrating injuries like the gunshot wounds that we saw are critical and can hide life-threatening injuries," Wolf says.
Both President Obama and Mitt Romney released statements of condolences and, in the President's case, pledges to aid the victims.