Bomb Squads Disarm Traps at Colo. Suspect's Apt; Motive Remains Mystery

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A girl leaves flowers at a memorial near theater where 12 people were killed July 20, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado. (DON EMMERT/AFP/GettyImages)

Authorities on Saturday began disarming trip wires and explosive devices "set up to kill" inside the apartment of the suspect in the deadly Colorado movie theater shooting, hoping to find clues to his motive without destroying key evidence in a blast.

Federal authorities detonated one small explosive and disarmed another inside James Holmes' suburban Denver apartment, but several other explosive devices remained, said Aurora police Sgt. Cassidee Carlson.

Makeshift memorials sprang up for the 12 victims, including a U.S. navy sailor, an aspiring sportscaster and a man celebrating his 27th birthday, after police grimly went door to door with a list of those killed in the worst mass shooting in recent U.S. history. Holmes, 24, was arrested early Friday outside the Aurora theater after witnesses say he unleashed gunfire and gas canisters on a crowd of moviegoers watching the midnight showing of the new Batman film, "The Dark Knight Rises."

On Saturday, law enforcement officials began trying to disarm up to 30 devices in Holmes' booby-trapped apartment, and set off a small explosion to detonate one device.

The devices were "set up to kill that person and that could have been a police officer executing a search warrant," Carlson said. Police planned an intricate procedure to disarm the possible weapons without destroying evidence that could be in the apartment.

"We don't want to lose evidential value," Carlson said.

Federal officials said in a bulletin obtained by The Associated Press that they still hadn't determined a motive for the suspect as families grieved and others waited at hospitals, where seven of the wounded remained in critical condition on Saturday with some injuries that could be permanent.

In his Saturday radio address, President Barack Obama urged Americans to pray "for the victims of this terrible tragedy, for the people who knew them and loved them, for those who are still struggling to recover

It was one of the deadliest mass shooting in recent U.S. history. 

"He looked like an assassin ready to go to war," said Jordan Crofter, a moviegoer who was unhurt in the attack early Friday, about a half-hour after the special midnight opening of "The Dark Knight Rises."

Police say Holmes, 24, tossed gas into the theater before pumping “many, many rounds” into the packed theater – using an AR-15 assault rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun and a .40 caliber Glock.

The suspect marched up the aisle in the stadium-style theater, picking off those who tried to flee, witnesses said.

A cellphone video shows the chaos inside the theater as a crush of moviegoers rushed to the exit, many of them shrieking and at least one emerging in a shirt soaked in bloodstains.

“Let’s get out of here!” one theater-goer screamed.

Some of the victims were treated for chemical exposure apparently related to canisters thrown by the gunman. Those hurt included a 4-month-old baby, who was treated at a hospital and released.

Authorities gave no motive for the attack. The FBI said there was no indication of ties to any terrorist groups.

(Photo: A man in a bloodstained shirt exits a Colo. theater where a gunman opened fire during the premiere of "Dark Knight Rises."/Courtesy of YouTube)

Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said photos of the apartment appeared to show trip wires, jars full of ammunition and liquid and other items unlike anything the chief has ever seen, which made entering the apartment a “vexing” problem.

The building, as well as several around it were evacuated on Friday as the fire department continued to monitor the building for gases.

Holmes remains in police custody. He was found in the back parking lot of the theater near his white Hyundai.

Those who knew Holmes described him as a shy, intelligent man who grew up in San Diego with parents who were active in their well-to-do suburban neighborhood.

He came to Denver as a Ph.D. student at the University of Colorado-Denver last year, but school officials said he was in the process of withdrawing. They gave no reason for why. The school said in a statement later that Holmes was a student there until early June 2012.

Police in San Diego read a statement from family members in which they said their hearts go out to those involved. The Holmes family said they're cooperating with authorities in San Diego and Aurora, and are trying to process everything.

Denver police were confirming a list of the 12 people who died and planned to meet with their families Friday night.

The new Batman movie, the last in the trilogy, opened worldwide Friday. The film's director, Christopher Nolan, speaking for the cast and crew, expressed their "profound sorrow at the senseless tragedy," lamenting the violence brought into the cinema, where moviegoers had gathered for what was supposed to be a celebratory opening night.

“I believe movies are one of the great American art forms and the shared experience of watching a story unfold on screen is an important and joyful pastime," said Nolan. "The movie theatre is my home, and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me."

Share your thoughts on the Colorado shooting by joining the conversation in the comments section below.

Stephen Nessen/WNYC

NYPD officer stationed outside of a theater in midtown following the shooting in Colorado at a screening of "The Dark Knight Rises."

A girl leaves flowers at a memorial near theater where 12 people were killed July 20, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado.
Two women mourn the loss of a relative near the theater where 12 people were killed July 20, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado.
Lin Gan, wipes away her tears as her mother Juan Gan guides her to their car after meeting with counselors at the Gateway High School where families are meeting after theater shooting.
Thomas Cooper/Getty Images
Police break the window of the apartment of James Holmes, the suspect of a shooting.
David McNew/Getty Images
Television news crews gather in front of the San Diego home of Robert and Arlene Holmes, parents of 24-year-old mass shooting suspect James Holmes.
Stephen Nessen/WNYC
A poster for "The Dark Knight Rises" at a theater in midtown Manhattan.
Stephen Nessen/WNYC
The NYPD increased police presence around movie theaters in the wake of the Colorado shooting.


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Comments [8]

Ok, Let's say it was founded one nation under allah, just for you Mark. Either way, that's not the point, way to focus! I am a Christian, and I believe it was founded UNDER GOD, you can have your opinion too, because that's what our fore fathers gave us. Jake, he shot the place up for 15 minutes before any emergency personel showed up, at some point, someone would have been able to take him down. Would there have been casualties? Yes, but there were casualties without anyone being able to defend himself. I would rather the people present have had the option and means to take action, rather than trample each other and add to his victim list. The concern I would have over the time concern would be the fact that he was heavily armored. Instead of going after guns, maybe someone should go after the items that make self defense more difficult for those of us that choose to protect ourselves and the ones around us.

Jul. 22 2012 07:10 PM
Jake from Nassau County

Why is the media breathlessly waiting to learn the "motive" ? Who cares ? The guy is obviously nuts and the only mystery here is why we make it so easy for insane people to acquire machine guns and explosives in this country.

Even if you believe everyone has a right to bear arms, the government should track these outsize purchases of ammo by a single individual.

@cprdnick - Let's say there were some gun-toting good guys in the theater, there would have been no time to prevent fatalities by the time they figured out what was going on in the dark and the chaos.

Jul. 21 2012 09:03 PM

The country was founded "one nation under god"? Really? What makes you think that? That phrase was added to the pledge of allegiance in the 1950s for anti-communist purposes. The pledge of allegiance itself was created in the late 19th century anyways and has nothing to do with the founding of the country.

Also I'm kind of curious which well regulated militia you're a member of?

Jul. 21 2012 06:02 PM


Jul. 21 2012 05:46 PM

Unfortunately, I've made this same comment over 100 times in the last 24 hours. You ask for "real effective gun restrictions". That's great. I'm sure people like Holmes would NEVER harm someone again if we had more laws, because, Lord knows, it's perfectly legal to murder people. I'm sure if it was illegal, this would have never happened, right? OH WAIT, it is illegal...but happened. So let's make more gun restrictions, let's blame the second amendment supporters, because we're the violent ones. Shame on you! Not me! This nation was founded "One nation under GOD", this nation was founded by people that knew for a fact, that one day, the second amendment would be something in need. History repeats itself. Those 13 colonies went through years of "gun control" prior to writing our constitution, and they gave up every other freedom they had left England for. Give up our second amendment, and we no longer have anything protecting an of our other amendments. How much are you willing to give up? No, the second amendment is not a commandment, but here's the one you mentioned;

Exodus 20:13 You shall not murder.
Murder: to kill or slaughter inhumanly or barbarously
Self Defense: the act of defending one's person when physically attacked, as by countering blows or overcoming an assailant

Friday mornings tragedy, had absolutely nothing to do with firearms freedom. It did, however, provide a perfect example of "restrictive gun laws" aka, gun control. The location staged for this shooting had up "no guns" signs. Colorado is an open carry why didn't anyone shoot except for Holmes? Because he didn't care about your gun control laws, the people that did are either now dead, or kicking themselves for paying attention to the laws. Remove every known firearm from American soil, and people like Holmes, will be the only people in posession of them. What do you think of your gun control now? What's your violent crime rate per cap in NJ? Now look up mine. I will gladly take and defend arguments about my statement. For now, that's one of our freedoms.

Exodus 22:2-3 2 "If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed. 3 "If the sun has risen on him, there shall be guilt for his bloodshed.

Jul. 21 2012 05:19 PM
Marie from Roseland NJ

The Second Amendment needs to be reviewed. The USA has not needed militias in a very long time. Let's control the guns.

Jul. 21 2012 05:10 PM
Mike from New Jersey

Once again we are presented with a horrific slaughter of innocent Americans. We look around the world and see violence and unrest, yet we don't seem to realize how Violent our own society has become. We have thousands of Americans killed each and every year because of gun violence. Then we get a mass killing and their is a brief period of national angst and soul searching. Where our are elected representatives? When do they speak out in favor of real effective gun restrictions and real concern for the well being of our citizens? They are so afraid to challenge those who raise the second amendment as a shield for any well intended gun controls. Shame on them, it is an amendment not a Commandment.! We already have the Fifth Commandment!!

Jul. 21 2012 03:34 PM
Brenda from New York City

Such a terrible rampage naturally raises the volume on the gun control conversation. But when we talk about these kind of horrific attacks we must also talk about mental health care/policy in this country. Since deinstitutionalization we've done little to address the real needs of an increasingly fragile/damaged/ill populace.

Jul. 21 2012 08:05 AM

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