2012 Aurora shooting

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2012 Aurora shooting
Location of the shootings
Century 16 at Town Center at Aurora

Bottom left: Map of Colorado with Aurora marked
Top: Map of central Aurora
Bottom right: Town Center at Aurora and the location of the Century 16 multiplex
Location 14300 E. Alameda Avenue,
Aurora, Colorado, U.S.
Coordinates 39°42′21″N 104°49′14″W / 39.7059°N 104.8206°W / 39.7059; -104.8206Coordinates: 39°42′21″N 104°49′14″W / 39.7059°N 104.8206°W / 39.7059; -104.8206
Date July 20, 2012
12:38 a.m.-12:45 a.m. (MDT)
Attack type Mass murder
Deaths 12
Injured 58
Suspected perpetrator James Eagan Holmes (in custody)

On July 20, 2012, a mass shooting occurred at a Century movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, during a midnight screening of the film The Dark Knight Rises. A gunman, dressed in tactical clothing, set off tear gas grenades and shot into the audience with multiple firearms, killing 12 people and injuring 58 others. The sole suspect is James Eagan Holmes, who was arrested outside the cinema minutes later.


[edit] Shooting

The shooting occurred in theater 9 at the Century 16 multiplex (operated by Cinemark), located at the Town Center at Aurora shopping mall[2] at 14300 E. Alameda Avenue.[3] Police said the shooter bought a ticket, entered the theater, and sat in the front row; about 20 minutes into the film, he left the building through an emergency exit door, which he propped open.

It is alleged that he then went to his car, which was parked near the exit door, changed into protective clothing, and retrieved his guns.[4][5] About 30 minutes into the film, police say, around 12:38 a.m.,[6] he re-entered the theater through the exit door. He was dressed in black and wore a gas mask, a load-bearing vest, a ballistic helmet, bullet-resistant leggings, a throat protector, a groin protector and tactical gloves.[7] Initially, few in the audience considered the masked figure a threat. He appeared to be wearing a costume, like other audience members who had dressed up for the screening. Some believed that the gunman was playing a prank,[8] while others thought that he was part of a special effects installation set up for the film's premiere as a publicity stunt by the studio or theater management.[9]

It is also alleged that the gunman threw a canister emitting a gas or smoke, partially obscuring the audience members' vision, making their throats and skin itch, and causing eye irritation.[10] He then fired a 12-gauge Remington 870 Express Tactical shotgun, first at the ceiling and then at the audience. He also fired a Smith & Wesson M&P15[11] semi-automatic rifle with a 100-round drum magazine, which malfunctioned after reportedly firing fewer than 30 rounds.[11][12][13] Finally, he fired a Glock 22 handgun.[14][15] He shot first to the back of the room, and then toward people in the aisles.[9] Some bullets passed through the wall and hit people in the adjacent theater 8, which was screening the same film.[2] Witnesses said the multiplex's fire alarm system began sounding soon after the attack began and staff told people in theater 8 to evacuate.[16] One witness said that she was hesitant to leave because someone yelled that there was someone shooting in the lobby and that they shouldn't leave.[17]

The first phone calls to emergency services via 9-1-1 were made at 12:39 a.m. Police arrived within 90 seconds[18] and found at least three .40-caliber magazines, a shotgun and a large drum magazine on the floor of the theater.[19] Some people reported the shooting via tweets or text messaging rather than calling the police.[12]

About 12:45 a.m., police apprehended Holmes[5] behind the cinema, next to his car, without resistance. According to two federal officials, he had dyed his hair red and called himself "the Joker", although authorities later declined to confirm this.[20][21] Three days later, at his first court appearance in Centennial, Colorado, Holmes had reddish-orange hair.[20][22][23] The officers found several firearms in the theater and inside the car, including another Glock 22 handgun.[24] Following his arrest, he was initially jailed at Arapahoe County Detention Center, under suicide watch.[25] The police interviewed more than 200 witnesses.[26] Investigators say that the shooter acted alone and was not part of a larger group or terrorist organization.[18]

[edit] Victims

Seventy people were shot or otherwise wounded, the most victims of any mass shooting in United States history[27] and the deadliest shooting in Colorado since the Columbine High School massacre on April 20, 1999.[28] Ten people died at the scene and two died in local hospitals. Those killed were: Jonathan Blunk, age 24; Alexander J. Boik, 18; Jesse Childress, 29; Gordon Cowden, 51; Jessica Ghawi, 24; John Larimer, 27; Matt McQuinn, 27; Micayla Medek, 23; Veronica Moser-Sullivan, 6; Alex Sullivan, 27; Alexander C. Teves, 24; and Rebecca Wingo, 32.[29] The youngest shooting victim was three months old.[30] Ashley Moser, Veronica Moser-Sullivan's mother, was critically injured in the shooting and suffered a miscarriage a week after the attack.[31]

The injured were treated at Children's Hospital Colorado, Denver Health Medical Center, The Medical Center of Aurora, Parker Adventist Hospital, Rose Medical Center, Swedish Hospital, and University Hospital, as well as at a makeshift hospital set up at the scene of the attack.[30] On July 25, three of the five hospitals treating victims announced that they would limit medical bills or forgive them entirely.[32]

The Community First Foundation collected more than $5 million for a fund for victims and their families.[33] In September, victims and their families received surveys asking about their preferences for how collected funds should be distributed, either by dividing it equally among victims or through a needs-assessment process.[34]

On November 16, 2012, the Aurora Victim Relief Fund announced each claimant will receive $220,000.[35]

[edit] Suspect

The suspect, James Eagan Holmes, shown with his hair dyed in a booking photo released July 23, 2012 by Arapahoe County Sheriff's Department

[edit] Court proceedings

Holmes' booking photo was released and he first appeared in court on July 23, 2012. According to press reports, he seemed dazed and largely unaware of his surroundings.[36] [37] [38] On July 30, Colorado prosecutors filed formal charges against Holmes that included 24 counts of first degree murder and 116 counts of attempted murder. Two charges were filed for each victim to expand the opportunities for prosecutors to obtain convictions.[39]

Judge Sylvester has placed a gag order on lawyers and law enforcement, sealing the court file and barring the University of Colorado from releasing public records relating to Holmes' year at the school. Media organizations are challenging the sealing of the court file.[40]

Holmes' attorneys said on August 9, 2012, that their client is mentally ill and that they need more time to assess the nature of his illness. The disclosure was made at a court hearing in Centennial, Colorado, where news media organizations asked a judge to unseal court documents in the case.[41]

Prosecutors alleged on August 24, 2012, that Holmes told a classmate that he wanted to kill people four months before the shooting.[42]

A judge ruled on August 30 that a notebook written by Holmes, in which he allegedly described a violent attack, was covered by physician–patient privilege. This made it inadmissible as evidence unless Holmes' mental health became an issue in the case. Prosecutors eventually dropped their request to gain access to the notebook on September 20, 2012.[43]

[edit] Explosive devices

When apprehended, Holmes told the police that he had booby-trapped his apartment with explosive devices before heading to the movie theater.[7] Police then evacuated five buildings surrounding his Aurora residence, about 5 miles (8 km) north of the cinema.[44] The apartment complex is limited to University of Colorado Medical Center students, patients, and employees.[45][46] One day after the shooting, officials disarmed an explosive device wired to the apartment's front entrance, allowing a remotely controlled robot to enter and disable other explosives.[47] The apartment held more than 30 homemade grenades, wired to a control box in the kitchen, and 10 gallons of gasoline.[48] Neighbors reported loud music from the apartment around midnight on the night of the massacre, and one went to his door to tell him she was calling the police; she stated that the door seemed to be unlocked, but she chose not to open it.[49][50][51] A law enforcement official said that a Batman mask was found inside the apartment.[52] On July 23, police finished collecting evidence from the apartment.[53] Two days later, residents were allowed back in.[54]

[edit] Responses to the shooting

[edit] Government

President Barack Obama visiting shooting victims at University of Colorado Hospital on July 22, 2012

The evening after the shooting, a candlelight vigil was held at the site in Colorado.[55] President Barack Obama ordered flags at government buildings flown at half-staff, in tribute to the victims, until July 25.[56] Both Obama's and Mitt Romney's campaigns temporarily suspended television advertising in Colorado for the 2012 presidential election.[57][58] On July 22, President Obama met with victims and local and state officials and gave a nationally televised speech from Aurora.[59][60][61][62][63] Many world leaders sent their condolences, including Queen Elizabeth II,[64] French President François Hollande,[65] Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,[66] Russian President Vladimir Putin[67] and Pope Benedict XVI.[68]

Memorial across the street from the Aurora Century movie theater where shooting occurred. This was taken about a month and a half after the attack.

[edit] Entertainment industry

Warner Bros., the distributor of The Dark Knight Rises, stated that it was deeply saddened by the shooting. The studio canceled the film's gala premieres in Paris, Mexico, and Japan,[69][70] scaled down its marketing campaign in Finland,[71][72] and decided not to report box office figures for the movie until July 23.[73] Some television advertisements for the film were also canceled.[74] Other major film studios joined Warner Bros. in withholding early box office numbers on July 21.[75] It was reported that Warner Bros. would be making a "substantial" donation to Colorado's Community First Foundation to benefit victims of the shooting.[76]

Christopher Nolan, the film's director, spoke on behalf of his cast and crew and called the event "savage" and "devastating."[77] Christian Bale, who plays Batman in the film series, privately visited victims on July 24.[78] Members of the Colorado Rockies baseball team also visited victims. [79]

Warner Bros. instructed cinemas to stop screening a trailer for the film Gangster Squad, which preceded The Dark Knight Rises screenings in some cities (though not in Aurora),[80] because it contained a scene involving the main characters shooting at a movie theater audience with machine guns.[81][82] A later decision was made to cut or rework the scene, leading to the film's release date being rescheduled to January 2013.[83]

In the wake of the shooting, DC Comics delayed the release of Batman Incorporated #3,[84] which includes a scene in which a female Leviathan agent brandishes a handgun in a classroom full of children while disguised as a schoolteacher.[85] Additionally, it was reported that Warner Bros. Animation would edit the upcoming Cartoon Network series Beware the Batman to make the firearms look less realistic.[86]

Hans Zimmer, who composed the soundtrack for The Dark Knight Rises, recorded a choral song entitled "Aurora" in honor of the victims.[87]

Cinemark agreed to pay any funeral expenses incurred by the deceased victims' families not covered by the Crime Victims' Compensation Fund.[88] Cinemark has kept the entire Century Aurora 16 multiplex closed since the shooting, but plans to reopen it by January, 2013 with "reconfigured space."[89]

Soon after the shooting, police departments and cinemas across the United States and around the world increased security for fear of copycat incidents.[90][91] In New York City, police officers were deployed to theaters screening the new film.[92]

The National Association of Theatre Owners distributed checklists from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to its members and said in a July 21 statement that members were "working closely with local law enforcement agencies and reviewing security procedures."[93][94] AMC Theatres announced that it would "not allow any guests into our theatres in costumes that make other guests feel uncomfortable and we will not permit face-covering masks or fake weapons inside our buildings."[95] Security Director News raised the possibility in a July 23 article that "the massacre could be a Virginia Tech for movie theaters, causing security to become a bigger part of the conversation and more stringent security procedures to be adopted at theaters across the country."[96]

[edit] Civil litigation

In the aftermath of the shooting, several legal experts pointed out that it would be extremely difficult for victims and their families to pursue claims for civil liability against the shooter or anyone else.[97][98]

Regardless, three victims, represented by plaintiffs' personal injury law firm Keating, Wagner, Polidori & Free P.C., sued Cinemark in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado (i.e., a federal trial court) on September 21, 2012 for the company's alleged negligence in failing to provide adequate safety and security measures.[99] Cinemark retained catastrophic personal injury defense law firm Taylor|Anderson LLP, which filed a motion to dismiss on September 27, 2012 on the grounds that there was no liability under Colorado law for failure to prevent an unforeseeable criminal act.[100] Cinemark's motion quoted extensively from the landmark California appellate opinion[101] that held McDonald's had no duty of care to prevent the 1984 San Ysidro McDonald's massacre.

Survivors of the shooting lost a court action on October 30, 2012, that would have let them access sealed evidence in the criminal case for review in their civil suit against the theater chain.[102][103]

[edit] Related incidents

In the days following the attack, several people around the U.S. were arrested for threats and suspicious activities at or near screenings of The Dark Knight Rises.

  • On July 22 in Los Angeles, California, a man at a The Dark Knight Rises screening yelled, "Does anyone have a gun?" and "I should go off like in Colorado," and was arrested for making criminal threats.[104]
  • On July 22 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a man faced criminal charges for being involved in a fight in a cinema restroom. During the fight, a moviegoer shouted "Gun!", causing panic inside the theater showing The Dark Knight Rises.[105]
  • On July 23 in San Jose, California, someone threw a package into a theater showing The Dark Knight Rises and reportedly yelled that it was a bomb, leading to an evacuation.[106]
  • On July 23 in Sierra Vista, Arizona, a moviegoer's confrontation with an intoxicated man with a backpack at a The Dark Knight Rises screening led to "mass hysteria" and 50 people evacuating the theater.[107]
  • On August 4 in Westlake, Ohio, a man was arrested for carrying several weapons in a satchel into a screening of The Dark Knight Rises.[108]

[edit] Sale of guns and gun control debate

Colorado gun sales spiked after the shooting, with the number of background checks for people seeking to purchase a firearm in the state increasing to 2,887, up 43% from the previous week.[109] Gun sales in Washington, Florida, California, and Georgia also increased.[110] The shooting reignited the political debate on gun control, with one issue being the "easy access" Holmes had to "assault weapons and high-capacity magazines", which were banned federally from 1994 to 2004.[111][112] The results of a survey released on July 30, 2012 by the Pew Research Center suggested that the incident did not change Americans' views on the issue.[113]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ James Holmes appears in court being accused of killing 12 people in Aurora cinema shooting Belle News. Retrieved August 8, 2012.
  2. ^ a b Brown, Jennifer (July 21, 2012). "12 shot dead, 58 wounded in Aurora movie theater during Batman premier". The Denver Post. http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_21124893/12-shot-dead-58-wounded-aurora-movie-theater. Retrieved July 21, 2012.
  3. ^ Parker, Ryan; Lee, Kurtis; Ingold, John; Steffen, Jordan; Brown, Jennifer (July 20, 2012). "Family identifies 27-year-old victim of Aurora theater shooting". The Denver Post. http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_21118201. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
  4. ^ Carter, Chelsea J.; Pearson, Michael (July 20, 2012). "Gunman turns 'Batman' screening into real-life 'horror film'". CNN. http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/20/us/colorado-theater-shooting/index.html. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
  5. ^ a b "Aurora, Colo theater shooting timeline, facts". KABC-TV. July 22, 2012. http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/story?section=news/world_news&id=8743134. Retrieved July 22, 2012.
  6. ^ Bustillo, Miguel; Banjo, Shelly; Audi, Tamara (July 21, 2012). "Theater Rampage Jolts Nation". The Wall Street Journal. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444464304577538292604705890.html. Retrieved July 23, 2012.
  7. ^ a b Burnett, Sara; Fender, Jessica (July 20, 2012). "Aurora shooting suspect left apartment "booby trapped," music blaring". The Denver Post. http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_21118947. Retrieved July 23, 2012.
  8. ^ Muskal, Michael (July 20, 2012). "Questions, but few answers, in Colorado shooting; 12 dead, dozens hurt". Los Angeles Times. http://www.latimes.com/news/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-colorado-shooting-update-batman-20120720,0,5201212.story. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
  9. ^ a b Pilkington, Ed; Williams, Matt (July 20, 2012). "Colorado theater shooting: 12 shot dead during The Dark Knight Rises screening". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/20/colorado-theater-shooting-dark-knight. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
  10. ^ "Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates on Movie Shooting". Channel 7 - Denver. July 20, 2012. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LF7Fs9TLJog. Retrieved July 25, 2012.
  11. ^ a b "Rifle failure that stopped yet more batman carnage". Daily Express. July 23, 2012. http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/334642/Rifle-failure-that-stopped-yet-more-Batman-carnage. Retrieved July 23, 2012.
  12. ^ a b Paul Toohey Horror inside a heart of Darkness The Advertiser July 28, 2012 Pg 52 - 61
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  14. ^ "Police: Suspect wore body armor, used assault rifle, shotgun, Glock handgun in theater attack". Associated Press. CBS News. July 20, 2012. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-501368_162-57476870/police-suspect-wore-body-armor-used-assault-rifle-shotgun-glock-handgun-in-theater-attack/. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
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  37. ^ During his first court appearance on Monday, the 24-year-old frequently closed his eyes and appeared sleepy or dazed before the judge. James Holmes Mugshot: Aurora Shooting Suspect's Booking Picture Released (PHOTO) Posted: 07/23/2012 5:10 pm Updated: 07/23/2012 8:59 pm http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/23/james-holmes-mugshot-theater-shooting_n_1695461.html
  38. ^ "Again appearing dazed in court, Holmes charged Prosecutors and defense attorneys spar over whether a notebook that he reportedly sent to a psychiatrist is privileged information." Alex Brandon Dubuque Telegraph Herald Posted: Tuesday, July 31, 2012 12:00 am Associated Press http://www.thonline.com/news/national_world/article_f4be532b-9826-56fa-b293-5b8266cea402.html CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- James Holmes appeared just as dazed as he did in his first court hearing after the deadly Colorado movie theater massacre.
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