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A single gunman attacked movie patrons at a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” in a Denver suburb, killing at least 12 people and leaving 50 injured from gun shot wounds or tear gas exposure.
Among the victims was Jessica Ghawi, a young Arab American aspiring sportscaster who had moved to Aurora from San Antonio, Texas. Ghawi had narrowly escaped being a victim six months earlier at a shopping center massacre in Toronto. Under the handle @JessicaRedfield, she had posted a tweet about attending the premiere shortly before the attack.
Witnesses say the massacre began 30 minutes into the film showing at a multiplex theater in Aurora, Colorado. The preview trailers had just ended when the gunman, dressed in riot gear, burst into the theater through the emergency exit. He ignited and tossed a tear gas canister into the air in front of the screen, then began hunting and shooting movie patrons at random.
Although some initially thought the explosions were a publicity stunt, screams filled the theater and neighboring parts of the multiplex as panicked movie patrons tried to escape. The gunman, allegedly using one rifle and two handguns, walked through aisles shooting people at random, and anyone trying to escape. Ten people died at the scene, the youngest a 12 year old boy. Among those wounded was a 3 month old baby, shot at point blank range. His bullets pierced through the walls of neighboring theater sections.
"It was very hard to breathe. I told my brother to take cover. It took awhile. I started seeing flashes and screaming, I just saw blood and people yelling and a quick glimpse of the guy who had a gas mask on. I was pushed out. There was chaos, we started running,” said Lamar Lane, a witness who was attending the midnight showing.
In the parking lot of the multiplex, police arrested James Holmes, 24, an Aurora resident. Police found him dressed with a riot helmet, gas mask, and bullet proof vest. He had one rifle and handgun on him. Police immediately searched his apartment after he said he had stored explosives.
A woman claiming to be the suspect’s mother, when contacted by ABC News, expressed confidence that he was the perpetrator. "You have the right person," she said. "I need to call the police….I need to fly out to Colorado."
President Obama, notified of the midnight massacre by a counter-terrorism advisor at 5:25 am EDT, issued a statement expressing shock and sorrow at the incident. Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, issued a similar statement.