According to various reports, a man wearing a bulletproof vest, gas mask, and dressed in all black set off tear gas and opened fire at approximately 12:30 a.m., at a midnight premiere of the film in Aurora, CO.
The shooter reportedly kicked open an emergency exit door as Batman appeared on the screen for the first time 30 minutes into the film. Many witnesses thought the incident was part of The Dark Knight Rises special effects before realizing that the man dressed in body armor was really shooting people.
“Somebody kicked in the emergency exit and started throwing gas grenades and started shooting people at random,” said one person who claimed to be in the theater. “At first, it took me a second to realize what was actually going on. And as people were running away I hit the ground so I wouldn’t be hit.
“I heard the sound of metal canisters clinking around and then I saw plumes of smoke.”
“I didn’t realize something was wrong right away. I thought it was a firecracker or a firework or something. I thought someone was like ‘it’s the Batman premiere, I’m going to bring some firecrackers in, throw it, get people riled up.”
Authorities have reportedly apprehended the suspected gunman in the parking lot of the theater. Police spokesman Frank Fania told reporters the suspect was taken into custody without incident. He was later identified to be 24-year-old James Holmes of North Aurora, CO. A CNN report stated that he had a rifle, shotgun and two handguns in his possession at the time of his arrest. Holmes’ Aurora apartment building was evacuated after he hinted he had explosives at his home.
According to a report by The Hollywood Reporter Warner Bros. reacted to The Dark Knight Rises shooting spree in a statement saying: “Warner Bros. is deeply saddened to learn about this shocking incident. We extend our sincere sympathies to the families and loved ones of the victims at this tragic time.”
The studio has also cancelled a red carpet showing in Paris, as well as interviews scheduled with director Christopher Nolan, Batman star Christian Bale and other cast members.
Aurora is not far from the scene of another mass shooting in Columbine, Colorado. In 1999 two students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, opened fire at Columbine High School killing 12 students and a teacher and injuring 21 others.