US military personnel were among the 71 casualties in a deadly shooting at a “Batman” movie in Colorado on Friday but it was not immediately clear whether any were killed, the Defence Department said.
Initial indications are that some service members were casualties and the alleged shooter did not have any military ties, spokesmen for the Pentagon and the military’s joint chiefs of staff told reporters.
Police arrived on the scene within about a minute after the first distress call, and took the suspect, James Eagen Holmes, into custody shortly thereafter. Holmes was wearing extensive body armour and had three firearms when arrested by police, Oates said. He had left one gun behind in the theatre.
Holmes, 24, is a University of Colorado medical school student who was in the process of dropping out of a graduate programme in neurosciences, the university said in a statement. His family issued a statement of sympathy for the victims and asked for privacy while they “process this information.”
‘Suspect working alone’
The suspect had no prior criminal record and seems to have been working alone, the police chief in Aurora, Colorado said Friday at the scene. “His history with the police department is one traffic summons for speeding in October of 2011. We have no other criminal history,” said Dan Oates, adding that it was not yet clear whether he held his guns legally.
‘US flag at half mast’
US President Barack Obama on Friday ordered US flags to be flown at half-mast for six days to honour the victims of the deadly shooting at the premiere of a Batman movie in Colorado.
“As a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence perpetrated I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels … until sunset, July 25,” Obama said in a statement.
Obama, who was notified of the shooting early on Friday morning by his homeland security adviser, John Brennan, urged Americans to “stand together” with the people of Aurora and said political campaigning ahead of the Nov. 6 election should be set aside.
“There are going to be other days for politics. This, I think, is a day for prayer and reflection,” Obama told supporters at a previously scheduled campaign event in Fort Myers, Florida, which he cut short to address the shooting.
White House officials saw no connection to terrorism, an Obama spokesman said.
The living room of the suspect’s apartment was crisscrossed with trip wires connected to what appeared to be plastic bottles containing an unknown liquid, said Chris Henderson, Aurora’s deputy fire chief. Authorities planned to detonate the suspected explosives with a robot, he said.
“The pictures are fairly disturbing. It looks very sophisticated, how it’s booby-trapped. It could be a very long wait,” Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates told reporters.
The gunman appeared at the front of the theater during the movie and released a canister which let out a hissing sound before gunfire erupted, police said.
“When we got out of the theatre it was just chaos. There was this one … guy, was on all fours crawling. There was this girl spitting up blood,” witness Donovan Tate told KCNC television.
“There were bullet holes in some people’s backs, some people’s arms. There was this one guy who was stripped down to just his boxers. It looked like he was shot in the back or something. It was crazy.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2012.
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