– Batman cinema shooting: James Holmes ‘told police he was The Joker’ (Telegraph, July 20, 2012):
James Holmes, the alleged gunman who shot 71 people during the midnight premiere of the new Batman film, told police he was “the Joker” as they interrogated him about the massacre in Aurora, Colorado.
The 24-year-old was reported to have dyed his hair and beard red before he stepped into the crowded cinema, hurled a tear gas grenade and opened fire, killing 12 people and leaving 59 more injured.
As terrified viewers fled through the smoke and blood, Holmes was said to calmly walk out into the car park where he surrendered to officers and later identified himself as Batman’s sadistic nemesis from the Dark Knight series.
“It clearly looks like a deranged individual,” said Raymond Kelly, the Commissioner of the New York Police Department. “He had his hair painted red, he said he was ‘The Joker’, obviously the ‘enemy’ of Batman.”
While detectives continued to interview the former PhD student, who they say acted alone, explosives experts were working to disarm “chemical and incendiary” devices that he planted at his apartment.
The massacre began at 12.39 this morning as the gunman – wearing a bullet proof helmet, vest, leggings and a throat and groin protector as well as gloves – entered through a fire door at the front of the multiplex’s theatre 9.
He carried four weapons, a Remington 12 gauge shotgun, an AR15 assault rifle and two .40 calibre Glock handguns, but began his attack with a tear gas canister that some cinema-goers mistook for a special effect until they began to feel the sting in their throats. He fired at least one round into the air before turning his weapon on the crowd and methodically opening fire.
Within moments Aurora Police, who are headquartered less than a mile away, began to receive frantic phone calls from victims pleading for help. Chief Dan Oates said that officers arrived within “a minute and a half” but not before Holmes allegedly fired dozens of rounds – hitting 71 people, including a victim in an adjacent theatre and a three-month-old child.
“He pointed the gun at my face. I was like a deer in the headlights. I panicked. I thought, ‘I’m going to die if I don’t do something,'” Jessica Seeger, 22, told CNN. ” I just saw dead bodies everywhere.”
Of the 12 people killed, ten died on the scene and a further two succumbed to injuries in nearby hospitals.
Among the victims was Jessica Ghawi, a 24-year-old aspiring sports journalist who narrowly avoided being involved in another shooting in Canada a month previously. In a harrowing final blog post, written in June, she said: “I saw the terror on bystanders’ faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change. I was reminded that we don’t know when or where our time on Earth will end.”
Chief Oates said he was “confident” that Holmes had acted alone and his officers were not seeking any other suspects. However, he said explosives experts were involved at an “active and difficult scene” at Holmes’s apartment at 1690 Paris Street and that it could take days before they were able to safely disarm the devices they found there.
Holmes himself told detectives about the explosives after being taken into custody but was reportedly refusing to cooperate beyond that. Chief Oates refused to speculate on the motive for the killing.
The suspect is due to appear in court on Monday but already a picture began to emerge of him as a highly-educated young man who had never previously been in trouble with the police, save for a single parking ticket.
Raised California, by his parents Arlene and Robert, he moved from San Diego to Colorado after graduating from The University of California, Riverside, in 2010 with a degree in neuroscience.
In June 2011 he enrolled in a PhD course in neurosciences at the University of Colorado, Denver. But last month he began the process of withdrawing from the course, the university confirmed.
Shortly before he dropped out, Holmes had taken a class on psychiatric disorders.
Even more recently, just a few weeks ago according to the building manager, he moved to apartment 10 on the third floor at 1690 Paris Street, Aurora. On a rent application he described himself as “quiet and easy going”, according to the Denver Post.
Unlike many previous massacres, where signs of a motive have been immediately apparent, Holmes appears to have gone “under the radar”. The authorities said that he was not on any watch list nor was he a member of any terrorist organisation. He apparently bought all the weapons legally.
His family released a statement saying: “Our hearts go out to those who were involved in this tragedy and to the family and friends also involved.” They said they were fully cooperating with the police investigation.
John Hickenlooper, the governor of Colorado, said the killer had a “deranged mind”.
Both President Barack Obama and his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, called off their campaigning for the day, giving only short and sober speeches reflecting on the tragedy.
“If there is anything to take away from this tragedy, it is a reminder that life is fragile,” Mr Obama said. “Our time here is limited and it is precious. What matters at the end of the day is not the small things, not the trivial things that so often consume us.”
The President cut short a campaign trip to Florida and returned to the White House where he chaired an emergency meeting of senior law enforcement officials. Flags on government buildings and military bases across the country were flown at half mast.