Gunman turns ‘Batman’ screening into real-life ‘horror film’

Updated 9:59 PM EDT, Fri July 20, 2012

Story highlights

NEW: 30 people remain hospitalized; 11 in critical condition

NEW: Authorities postpone action on the suspect's booby-trapped apartment until Saturday

Source: The gunman told police he was "the Joker"

Police say 12 people were killed and 58 injured in movie theater shooting

(CNN) —  

The suspect in the mass shooting at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater screening of the new Batman film early Friday had colored his hair red and told police he was “the Joker,” according to a federal law enforcement source with detailed knowledge of the investigation.

At least 12 people were killed in the rampage and 58 were injured, one fewer than earlier reported. Of those injured “nearly everyone was shot,” Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said Friday night, adding that a handful of people were hurt in the resulting chaos.

Ten of the victims were killed inside the theater while two others died at hospitals. As of Friday evening, the 10 bodies had been removed from the complex and authorities were preparing to begin “the agonizing process” of notifying families, Oates said.

A mug shot of suspect James E. Holmes has not been released. Witnesses to the shooting described him as wearing a gas mask that concealed much of his face and head. But the federal law enforcement source’s information about the suspect’s appearance fits with a statement from New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who was briefed by Colorado authorities Friday.

Oates declined to comment on Holmes’ appearance other than to describe what he was wearing, and said he would not release his booking photo “for investigative reasons.”

The Joker has long been a fixture in Batman comics and was famously brought to life by the late Heath Ledger in 2008’s “The Dark Knight,” the predecessor to Friday’s release of “The Dark Knight Rises.” Ledger won a posthumous Academy Award for his sinister portrayal of the iconic villain who encourages anarchists to take over Gotham City.

Meanwhile, authorities were faced with the difficult task of entering Holmes’ Aurora apartment, which was left rigged with traps.

“It’s booby-trapped with various incendiary and chemical devices and trip wires,” Oates said, adding that it could take days to work through the apartment safely.

Five buildings around the apartment building were evacuated, Oates said. Residents were allowed back home briefly Friday night to retrieve such emergency items as medicine.

Authorities have postponed until Saturday any attempts to enter the apartment and are bringing in resources from the federal government to help with the situation, Oates said.

Shootings cast pall over ‘Dark Knight Rises’ blockbuster weekend

Police say Holmes, 24, dressed head-to-toe in protective tactical gear, set off two devices of some kind before spraying the Century 16 theater with bullets from an AR-15 rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun and at least one of two .40-caliber handguns police recovered at the scene.

Oates said the guns were purchased legally by Holmes at stores in the Denver area in the past two months. More than 6,000 rounds of ammunition were also purchased online, according to Oates.

A receipt obtained by CNN shows Holmes bought some of the tactical gear, including a vest and magazine pouch, online on July 2.

Oates said investigators are “confident” that Holmes acted alone.

The shooting unfolded inside a darkened theater packed with Batman fans, some in costume for the premiere of the movie.

Aurora police said how the suspect entered the theater is still under investigation.

A law enforcement source working the investigation told CNN that the gunman walked into the movie theater after purchasing a ticket.

After the movie was under way, he went out a rear exit door, propping it open, and gathered weapons before re-entering through the door, the source said.

As he re-entered, he tossed in a canister before starting to shoot, according to a second law enforcement source involved in the investigation and several witnesses.

Screaming, panicked moviegoers scrambled to escape from the black-clad gunman, who shot at random as he walked up the theater’s steps, witnesses said.

It was a scene “straight out of a horror film,” said Chris Ramos, who was inside the theater.

“He was just literally shooting everyone, like hunting season,” Ramos said.