News guide to mass shooting at Colorado theater


Here’s a guide to some key questions in the wake of the mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater during a showing of “The Dark Knight Rises.”

Q: WHAT HAPPENED?

A: Shortly after midnight Friday, a former graduate student wearing a gas mask set off a gas canister and fired into a crowded theater in the Denver suburb of Aurora, Colo., killing 12 people and injuring nearly 60 others, authorities said. The suspect was taken into custody and identified by federal law enforcement officials as 24-year-old James Holmes. Authorities did not release a motive. The FBI said there was no indication of ties to any terrorist groups.

Q: WHO IS THE SUSPECT?

A: Holmes was studying neuroscience in a Ph.D. program at the University of Colorado-Denver. He enrolled in the program in June 2011 and was in the process of withdrawing, though it wasn’t immediately clear why he was leaving.

Holmes graduated from high school in the San Diego area. Police in San Diego read a statement from family members in which they said their hearts go out to those involved. The family said they’re cooperating with authorities in San Diego and Aurora, and are trying to process everything.

Tom Mai, a man who lives next door to the family, described Holmes as a loner and said the mother told him Holmes couldn’t find a job after earning a master’s degree from a public university in California.

Q: WHAT IS GOING ON AT HOLMES’ APARTMENT?

A: Police said the third-floor apartment was booby trapped, so they’ve evacuated five surrounding buildings and bomb technicians were determining how to disarm flammable or explosive material.

Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said pictures from inside the apartment are fairly disturbing and the devices look to be sophisticated.

The apartment is about four miles from the theater.

Q: ARE MOVIE THEATERS STILL SHOWING THE FILM?

A: Yes, though theaters and police increased security. Some fans were nervous about going to see the film, but many others were undeterred by the tragedy.

Two police officers were stationed outside the AMC theater in New York’s Times Square, which had showings beginning every 20 minutes Friday. Later in the day, the officers gave way to a police cruiser that was parked out front with an officer in it. At the Regal Gallery Place multiplex in downtown Washington, theater employees searched patrons’ bags and purses while taking their tickets.

Q: WHO WAS HURT IN THE THEATER?

A: Many victims treated at hospitals were under 40, including a 4-month-old baby and 6-year-old. The oldest reported patient was 45.

Victims were treated for chemical exposure, apparently related to canisters thrown by the gunman, and gunshot and shrapnel wounds.

The Pentagon said some members of the military were either killed or wounded in the shooting, though it wasn’t clear exactly how many.

Q: WAS THERE ANY LINK BETWEEN THE SHOOTING AND MOVIE’S PLOT?

A: It’s unclear. In “The Dark Knight Rises,” a masked villain leads a murderous crew into a packed football stadium and wages an attack involving guns and explosives. But violent attacks on the public by villains are key components of most superhero movies.

There are general parallels to the shooting, “The Dark Knight” and the comic book character. Bruce Wayne’s drive to become Batman arose from witnessing the deaths of his parents at the hands of small-time criminal who shot and killed them after they had left a movie theater. The Batman video game called “Arkham City” takes place in an abandoned movie theatre, and in the third issue of DC Comics’ “Batman: The Dark Knight,” a gritty retooling of the Batman character, the Joker kills an entire late-night TV audience with gas.

Q: WHEN WAS THE LAST MASS SHOOTING IN THE U.S.?

A: The massacre in Aurora was one of the deadliest in the U.S., and the worst mass shooting in the U.S. since the Nov. 5, 2009, attack at Fort Hood when an Army psychiatrist killed 13 soldiers and civilians and more than two dozen others wounded.

In Colorado, it was the deadliest shooting since the Columbine High School massacre on April 20, 1999, when two students opened fire at the school in the Denver suburb of Littleton, killing 12 classmates and a teacher and wounding 26 others before killing themselves.