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Colo. suspect's family: 'Hearts goout to' victims

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AURORA, Colo. (AP) ? A
neuroscience graduate student in a
gas mask barged into a crowded
Denver-area theater during a
midnight showing of the Batman
movie on Friday, hurled a gas canister and then opened fire, killing 12
people and injuring at least 50 others
in one of the deadliest mass
shootings in recent U.S. history. When the smoke began to spread,
some moviegoers thought it was a
stunt that was part of the "The Dark
Knight Rises," one of the most highly
anticipated films of the summer. They
saw a silhouette of a person in the haze near the screen, first pointing a
gun at the crowd and then shooting. "There were bullet (casings) just
falling on my head. They were
burning my forehead," Jennifer
Seeger said, adding that the gunman,
dressed like a SWAT team member,
fired steadily except when he stopped to reload. "Every few seconds it was just: Boom,
boom, boom," she said. "He would
reload and shoot and anyone who
would try to leave would just get
killed." The suspect was taken into custody
and identified by federal law
enforcement officials as 24-year-old
James Holmes. The officials spoke on
condition of anonymity to discuss an
ongoing investigation. Authorities did not release a motive. The FBI said
there was no indication of ties to any
terrorist groups. Holmes had an assault rifle, a shotgun
and two pistols, a federal law
enforcement official said, speaking on
the condition of anonymity to discuss
the ongoing investigation. FBI agents and police used a hook
and ladder fire truck to reach Holmes'
apartment in Aurora, police Chief Dan
Oates said. They put a camera at the
end of a 12-foot pole inside the
apartment, and discovered that the unit was booby trapped. Authorities
evacuated five buildings as they tried
to determine how to disarm
flammable and explosive material. Victims were being treated for
chemical exposure apparently related
to canisters thrown by the gunman.
Some of those injured are children,
including a 4-month-old baby who
was released from the hospital. Aurora police spokesman Frank Fania
on ABC's "Good Morning America"
said he didn't know yet if all the
injuries were gunshot wounds. He
said some might have been caused by
other things such as shrapnel. Police released a written statement
from Holmes' family: "Our hearts go
out to those who were involved in
this tragedy and to the families and
friends of those involved." The movie opened across the world
Friday with midnight showings in the
U.S. The shooting prompted officials
to cancel the Paris premiere, with
workers pulling down the red carpet
display at a theater on the famed Champs-Elysees Avenue. President Barack Obama said he was
saddened by the "horrific and tragic
shooting," pledging that his
administration was "committed to
bringing whoever was responsible to
justice, ensuring the safety of our people, and caring for those who
have been wounded." It was the worst mass shooting in the
U.S. since the Nov. 5, 2009 attack at
Fort Hood, Texas, when an Army
psychiatrist killed 13 soldiers and
civilians and more than two dozen
others wounded. In Colorado, it was the deadliest since
the Columbine High School massacre
on April 20, 1999, when two students
opened fire at the school in the
Denver suburb of Littleton, killing 12
classmates and a teacher and wounding 26 others before killing
themselves. The mall in Aurora, the state's third-
largest city, has been the scene of
violence before. In July 2001, two men were shot and
wounded inside the mall following an
argument. In June 2005, a woman
was killed and her boyfriend and a
bystander were wounded following
an argument inside the mall. Two men were arrested in that case, at least one
of whom was sentenced to life in
prison. Friday's attack began shortly after
midnight at the multiplex theater. The film has several scenes of public
mayhem ? a hallmark of superhero
movies. In one scene, the main villain
Bane leads an attack on the stock
exchange and, in another, leads a
shooting and bombing rampage on a packed football stadium. It was the final installment of the
"Dark Knight" trilogy directed by
Christopher Nolan, starring Christian
Bale as Batman. The series has a
darker tone than previous Batman
incarnations. It is the follow-up to "The Dark Knight," which won Heath
Ledger a posthumous Oscar for his
searing portrayal of The Joker. The gunman released a gas that
smelled like pepper spray from a
green canister with a tag on it, Seeger
said. "I thought it was showmanship. I
didn't think it was real," she said. Seeger said she was in the second
row, about four feet from the
gunman, when he pointed a gun at
her face. At first, "I was just a deer in
headlights. I didn't know what to do,"
she said. Then she ducked to the ground as the gunman shot people
seated behind her. She said she began crawling toward
an exit when she saw a girl about 14
years old "lying lifeless on the stairs."
She saw a man with a bullet wound in
his back and tried to check his pulse,
but "I had to go. I was going to get shot." Witness Shayla Roeder said she saw a
young teenage girl on the ground
bleeding outside the theater. "She just
had this horrible look in her eyes ....
We made eye contact and I could tell
she was not all right," Roeder said. Police, ambulances and emergency
crews swarmed on the scene after
frantic calls started flooding the 911
switchboard, officials said. Officers
came running in and telling people to
leave the theater, Salina Jordan told the Denver Post. She said some police
were carrying and dragging bodies. Hayden Miller told KUSA-TV that he
heard several shots. "Like little
explosions going on and shortly after
that we heard people screaming," he
told the station. Hayden said at first he
thought it was part of a louder movie next door. But then he saw "people
hunched over leaving theater." Officers later found the gunman near
a car behind the theater. Oates said
there was no evidence of any other
attackers. Holmes was studying neuroscience in
a Ph.D. program at the University of
Colorado-Denver graduate school,
university spokeswoman Jacque
Montgomery said. University officials
earlier said he was a student at the university's medical school. Holmes enrolled in the program in
June 2011 and was in the process of
withdrawing at the time of the
shootings, Montgomery said. At least 24 people were being treated
at Denver area hospitals. "Warner Bros. and the filmmakers are
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 said. ___ Associated Press writers Kristen
Wyatt, Steven K. Paulson, P. Solomon
Banda, Ivan Moreno and Mead Gruver
in Aurora, Dan Elliott and Colleen
Slevin in Denver and Alicia A. Caldwell
and Eileen Sullivan in Washington contributed to this report.