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12 Dead, 58 Injured In Aurora, Colorado Theater Shootings at 'Batman' Movie Premiere, James Holmes, 24, in Custody

7:02 PM, Aug 28, 2012   |    comments
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AURORA - There is one suspect in custody Friday after 12 people were shot and killed at the Century 16 Movie Theaters at the Aurora Town Center. There were at least 58 people injured, according to Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates. Oates says 10 died at the theater and two died at the area hospital.

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The new Batman movie called "The Dark Knight Rises" was opening at the theater during the shooting.

Metro Crisis Hotline for victims, families and friends: 1-888-885-1222.

9NEWS has confirmed Jessica Ghawi, a former intern at the Fan, was one of the victims of the shooting. Ghawi survived the Eaton Center mall shooting in Toronto on June 2 which left seven people injured and one dead. Read her blog about the experience.

NBC News has confirmed through two federal sources the shooting suspect's name is James Holmes. He is 24 years old. 

"The University of Colorado Denver - Aschutz Medical Campus can confirm that Holmes was in the process of withdrawing from the University of Colorado Denver's graduate program in neurosciences," the university released on Friday.

Holmes family in California released the following statement regarding the shooting:

"Our hearts go out to those who were involved in this tragedy and to the families and friends of those involved. We ask that the media respect our privacy during this difficult time. Our family is cooperating with authorities in both San Diego, California and Aurora, Colorado. We are still trying to process this information and we appreciate that people will respect our privacy."

Police say Holmes "appeared" at the front of one of the theaters, threw some type of gas or explosive device and started shooting. Police recovered two handguns, one shotgun and an assault rifle. Holmes was wearing a bulletproof vest, according to federal authorities.

"It was chaotic," one witness told 9NEWS. "We saw people running. We heard screaming from other theaters."

"I walked out and to my right, there was a girl shot in her knee - holding onto her mom and crying," another witness said. "I actually went to the back of the building where there were more victims. A guy with his leg blown open ... another guy shot in the foot ... a lady shot in her hand."

Defense officials tell NBC News that two US Air Force reservists and one Navy service member were among those wounded in the overnight shooting spree in Aurora.

The identities and condition of the three US military service members are unavailable.

The defense officials say as of now, no US service members were killed.

"The first thing we saw when we got out of the doors is a girl - [maybe] 13 or 14 years old with a gunshot wound to her chest," Shayla Roeder, who was in theater 8 at the time of the shooting, said. "She had this horrible look in her eyes. That's when we realized I think things were actually real. Every time we walked 10 or 15 steps, we would see someone walk out with blood [all] over them [and] cops following them saying they needed an ambulance."

"When you first see him, you don't know if he's a part of the movie, or a part of the act," Auston Ivey said. "When [the gas canisters] hit the ground, it just started spinning. Being that it went off right next to us, it was hard to breathe. The first thing we immediately did was duck. All we could think about was getting to the door as fast as I could. "There was people limping, saying 'I've been shot, I've been shot.'"

"He pulled out a gun and just started randomly shooting people," Sierra Graves, who was also in theater 9, said. "He was hitting families, and people, just randomly, nobody specific."

Holmes, after being captured by police, told authorities he had explosive materials in his apartment. The police went to Holmes' apartment building at East 17th Avenue and Peoria Street in Aurora and evacuated the building immediately as a precautionary measure. 

Police searched Holmes' apartment to confirm that claim. 9NEWS is waiting to hear more information to see if they discovered any explosives in his apartment. 

9NEWS has confirmed Holmes is scheduled to appear in court to face charges Monday at 8:30 a.m.

9NEWS Reporter Jeremy Jojola interviewed two eyewitnesses who were in the theater when the shooting started.

"I saw a man walk in through the exit," one eyewitness told Jojola. "[He] looked like he had a gas mask on."

The witnesses say he threw two gas canisters into the theater after busting down the door. The witnesses said no one reacted at first - thinking he was a stunt for the movie.

"He looked so calm when he did it," the eyewitness said. "It was like scary. He waited for both the bombs to explode before he did anything. Then, after both of them exploded, he began to shoot."

The witnesses said he - at first - fired into the air and then started shooting towards the people.

"He had no specific target. He just started letting loose," the eyewitness said.

Both witnesses said one of the scariest parts was the shooter didn't say a word.

"Honestly, I thought I was gonna get shot," the eyewitness said. "I thought there was no way I was going to get out of there without getting shot."

Another eyewitness spoke to 9NEWS Reporter Brandon Rittiman about the mass shooting.

"It was a shootout scene," Alex Milano, who was in the movie theater next to the one where the shooting took place, said. "There were guns firing. Then, loud bangs came from the right of the theater. Smoke took over the entire theater and everything, and it was really thick. No one could really see anything."

Milano told Rittiman he and her sister thought the shooter was part of the movie.

"Me and my sister and my friends were wondering what was going on," Milano said. "Then, at that point, I saw something come through the wall. Multiple objects flew through the wall. I saw holes in the wall."

People slowly started to get up out of their seats and evacuate, Milano said. 

"People stood up and started checking themselves," Milano said. "A couple of people were walking away, holding areas. I heard moaning like they were in pain. That's when I started to get worried."

Even at that point, Milano said there was mass confusion in the theater. 

"We didn't really know something was happening until someone came [in] from the left entrance and told us we shouldn't go outside because there was a guy with a gun out there," Milano said. 

Milano said he walked out of the theater and instantly smelled the tear gas bomb in the nearby theater.

"It was very thick, and it was choking me," Milano said. "I couldn't breathe at all. That's when the alarm started to sound, and that's when we knew things were serious. As soon as the alarm sounded, everyone stood up and started to make their way to the exit."

Milano said, at that point, he started to talk to witnesses who were in theater 9.

"I don't want to upset anybody by anything I say, but I don't think anyone should be kept in the dark about what happened," Milano told Rittiman. "The witness in theatre 9 was a young woman. I had asked her if she saw anything or if anything happened. What she described, at first, I didn't translate well because it sounded like madness to me. She said a man taller then her kicked through the door, and she said he was in a riot helmet. She said he had a bulletproof vest on. She said he was completely covered in black with guns. She said, after that point when she saw he was holding a gun, her and her boyfriend dropped to the floor and started to crawl to see if they could get away. They got up and started to run through the emergency exit. She said that when she turned around, all she saw was the guy slowly making his way up the stairs and just firing ... just picking random people."

Milano saw people coming out of the theater injured.

"I saw at least four or five people limping, wounded [and] slightly bloody," Milano said. "The most that I saw was a girl who was covered in blood, and she didn't have any wounds on her. It made me think the worst."

Milano says he also saw a little girl who looked extremely injured.

"A cop came walking through the door carrying a little girl in his arms and she wasn't moving. The really messed up part to me was [another witness] told whoever that she was talking to that she saw bullet holes in the little girl's back. I honestly can't think of any person who would intentionally hurt a little girl, so unfortunately, I think she just got caught in the crossfire."

Milano says his sister grabbed his arm and wanted to leave immediately.

"It was terrifying," Milano said. "As the older brother, you tell yourself over and over again, 'Don't lose your mind, don't lose your head. Keep calm and keep stress free so that you can help the ones who can't.' My little sister, unfortunately, was one of those. She was in tears, shaking, gripping as tight as she could to my arm and not letting go. Where I went, she wanted to be close to me. It is the scary thought that runs through your mind that you know you have to do everything you can do keep her safe, and at the same time you are worrying about everyone else."

Nicole Williams, with Swedish Medical Center, says the hospital was alerted to a mass casualty incident at 1:15 a.m. Friday.

Williams says the hospital was told to prepare for at least 20 patients. University Hospital confirmed to 9NEWS the youngest patient they had in their care was 3 months old. Hospital officials say the baby was not shot, but was taken into the hospital as a precautionary measure after the shooting.

"This is ridiculous," the eyewitness told Jojola. "We really want to know what was the point of it? There's no sense to it. We have no idea what to make of it. He's shooting little kids, he's shooting adults, he's shooting our friends we went to school with. It's just sad."

Both of the eyewitnesses grew up going to this movie theater.

"It was just a terrible sight," the eyewitness said.

Watch the full interview with two eyewitnesses below:

People started to flock to the theater once they learned about the shooting - checking to see if their friends and family were OK.

"We've been saying for a long time, this theater is not the safest theater in Aurora," one witness told 9NEWS Reporter Kevin Torres. "But when we go see movies here - I came to see Men in Black III [the other day] - there were two or three officers up front all the time. How are you supposed to know who's the bad guy and who's the good guy when something like this happens."

The witness said he knew a 12-year-old who was going to see the movie at the theater.

"All I know is the 12-year-old is OK," the witness said. "I'm not sure if he was in the theaters, but we know that he came to see the movie. I know he was taken to Gateway High School."

Corbin Dayton was sitting in the second row of the theater when the shooting started.

"The only image that sticks with me is the guy walking in through the door, throwing a gas can and a gun," Dayton said. "That's the only thing that sticks and replays."

Aurora Police set up a tipline at 303-739-1862. 

Bonfils Blood Center is currently accepting appointments from community members wanting to donate blood on behalf of the Aurora movie theatre shootings that occurred early this morning. All six Denver metro donor centers are open today until 7 p.m. and there are also mobile drives open to the public. Please call 303-363-2300 or visit www.bonfils.org to schedule your appointment and find a donor center/mobile drive nearest you. We are particularly in need of O-, A- and platelets and ask that donors with those blood types please consider donating. As of this time, Bonfils has met the needs of the local hospitals involved in this tragedy and is asking that donors not only donate today but make appointments in the coming days to help replenish our blood supply. 

The Simon Mall in Aurora is closed on Friday out of the respect of the victim's family and to help cooperate with the investigation.

The Aurora Town Center is in the 14000 block of East Alameda Avenue in Aurora.

The FBI responded to the shooting to investigate further. Officers and deputies responded from almost every local police and sheriffs' department in the metropolitan area.

9NEWS has crews on scene. This article will be updated as more information is confirmed.

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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