Nightmare in Colorado, When Violence in Movies Becomes Reality at Midnight Screening

AURORA, Colorado, July 21 (Xinhua) — “I still can’t believe it. It’s still unreal. I can’t believe something just happened so close to our home,” Janelle Janrett told Xinhua, recalling the Aurora theater mass shooting that killed 12 people and injured 58 others early Friday morning.

She was praying at a roadside memorial for the victims of the shooting, one of which was her friend who had been killed.

Magan Saving lights a candle after midnight behind the Century 16 Theater where a gunman open fire at moviegoers in Aurora, Colorado July 21, 2012.

“My friend was in there. I don’t think she made it. It’s going to be tough,” she said. “He (the killer) will get what he deserves. Justice will be served.”

Shao Shanshan, 19, and her sister were watching the Batman film in the theater when the shooting broke out. “I didn’t realize that there was a siren when I watch the film. I had thought it was sort of sound effect,” Shao said.

“I could not get asleep in the night. When I closed my eyes, I just pictured the horrible scene in my mind,” she said, adding that she won’t watch the Batman films any more for fear it may remind her of the tragedy.

The theater was closed. Candles were lit. Flowers were laid out. People in Aurora city did what they could to commemorate those innocent moviegoers outside the Century 16 theaters at the Aurora Mall on Friday evening.

Not far away, a press conference was held by local police, revealing some of the details of the shooting and updating the number of victims.

Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said James Eagan Holmes, the 24-year-old suspect, spent the past two months buying 6,000 rounds of ammunition and four guns.

Holmes claimed 70 casualties, including 12 dead and 11 others in critical condition in what is now dubbed the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, Oates said.

He will be arraigned at Arapahoe County District Court at 8:30 a.m. local time (1430 GMT) Monday when police are expected to file formal charges against the San Diego native, who recently dropped out of a neuroscience Ph.D. program at the University of Colorado.

The deadly scene unfolded at 00:30 Friday morning, about 30 minutes into the third of the Batman trilogy, “The Dark Knight Rises,” when a gunman clad in black body armor and wearing a gas mask burst into the packed theater and marched up the aisle in the stadium-style theater unloading his firearms into the audience, according to police.

Oates said Holmes was arrested with two 40-caliber Lock handguns, a Remington 870 pump shotgun, a Smith & Wesson AR-15 assault rifle and ammunition. He was wearing a helmet, a gas mask, a bulletproof vest, throat and groin protectors and tactical gloves.

Police arrived at the scene within 90 seconds and Holmes was apprehended without incident walking to his car in the parking lot, Oates said.

Friends and family members waited anxiously outside the theater till the final body was removed some 17 hours after the shooting at 5 p.m. local time (2300 GMT).

Two other people died at two of six area hospitals flooded with shooting victims, including 24-year-old aspiring sports reporter Jessica Ghawi, who moved to Denver from Texas last year. Police said a total of 30 people remained hospitalized, including a three-month-old baby.

Marcus Weaver, 41, who was injured by fragments of the bullets, told Xinhua that the shooter “affected lots of lives. He hurt them. He hurt us.”

“I just hope that children don’t try to imitate what they saw on television,” he said.

Police have refused to disclose any details of Holmes’ actions or what he said while in custody, but reports said Holmes told police he was “The Joker,” a reference to a pathological villain in the Batman series, and his hair was dyed “red or orange.”

Holmes also told police his nearby apartment was booby-trapped, and the police evacuated five apartment buildings and relocated as many as 150 families following the threat, according to Oates.

Federal agents joined the investigation at Holmes’ apartment, said Oates, adding the apartment was filled with an assortment of devices and explosives he had never seen before.

Using a fire truck ladder and bucket, police broke through the third floor window of Holmes’ apartment Friday afternoon, but only took photographs of the interior.

“We’ll postpone further action until tomorrow,” an exhausted Oates told media. “Our cops went through a lot,” he said, pausing with emotion.(Liu Si, Peter Mertz)

A total of 200 police officers descended on the Aurora Mall earlier in the morning.