A gunman wearing a gas mask, helmet and full body armor opened fire early Friday in a crowded suburban Denver theater at the opening of the Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises, killing 12 people and injuring 58 others.
Federal law enforcement officials identified the suspect as James Holmes, 24, who lives about 4 miles away from the theater in Aurora. He is in custody.
Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said at an evening news conference that 58 are injured in addition to the 12 dead. He said all 10 bodies in the theater have been removed.
No one expects these events to happen, just as people didn't expect John Lee Malvo and John Allen Muhammad's deadly sniping spree, or Timothy McVeigh's massacre via fertilizer bomb.
Folks, this is what terrorism looks and feels like, and it doesn't always have to come at the hands of someone with a noticeably swarthy appearance and a book full of calligraphic scribbles:
Moviegoers spoke of their terror when the violence erupted and people around them fell victim.
Benjamin Fernandez, 30, told the Post he heard a series of explosions. He said people ran from the theater and there were gunshots as police shouted, "Get down!"
Fernandez said he saw people falling, including one young girl.
Jordan told the paper one girl was struck in the cheek, others in the stomach, including a girl who looked to be around 9 years old.
Jordan said it sounded like firecrackers until someone ran into Theater 8 yelling, "They're shooting out here!"
Hayden Miller told KUSA-TV that he heard several shots.
"Like little explosions going on and shortly after that, we heard people screaming," he told the station.
Hayden said at first he thought it was part of a louder movie next door. Then he saw "people hunched over, leaving the theater."
Some people in the audience thought the thick smoke and gunfire was a special effect accompanying the movie, police and witnesses said.
"We just heard a pop, pop, pop, pop," Quentin Caldwell, who was attending the Batman showing in an adjacent theater, told CNN.
Ryan Ruden of Pleasant Hill thought the movie theater was providing special effects when he started to hear firecrackers during the movie. Seconds later Ruden's friend, Gage Hankins, 18, of Ohio, yelled out and blood was running from his arm.
Ruden was in the adjacent Theater 8 with his sister Haley, 19, and his brother Pete, 14.
"We didn't think anything of it — we just thought he was bleeding," said Ruden, 22, who was attending a conference with the others. "(When we got out) everyone was freaking out and saying somebody had a gun. It seems unreal."
Ruden grabbed Pete and said he shielded him with his body. The theater was smoky and chaotic, but they were able to leave out the main exits.
Once outside they found an ambulance for Hankins, who had surgery on his arm.
This is the fucked up part. Moviegoers assumed the noises they heard were just a part of the experience -- it was The Dark Knight Rises, after all -- until they saw others yelling, running, slumped over, dead. One moviegoer survived a mall shooting in Canada, only to get killed in this one.
Meanwhile, some people can't bring themselves to let a good tragedy go to waste. Breitbart's minions gleefully intimated the shooter's affiliation with the Democrat party, yet blanched when others began intimating possible links to the Tea Party. Nevertheless, the die was cast and now plenty of loyal Breitbart followers and fellow conservatives have a fix for their anti-Democrat jones.
For those who think gun control would have prevented this, it wouldn't have. There are simply too many ways a determined person can kill en masse.
A family member of mine mentioned the death penalty as a deterrent. That won't work, either. The mindset of James Holmes and others is such that the prospect of death will never be a deterrent. In fact, many would welcome the prospect of death with open arms.
The only thing that could have remotely helped to prevent this and other similar tragedies is a renewed focus on delivering proper and effective mental health care, something that hasn't been a big priority for this country for the past few decades. And even then, that might not be enough.
My heart goes out to the victims and their families. They need all the time they can get to process this terrible event and most importantly, to grieve.