Update below: During a just-completed news conference about last night's shooting at the Aurora Town Center Century 16 during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises, Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates was asked by numerous national reporters to confirm reports that accused gunman James Holmes had identified himself as the Joker and dyed his hair to resemble the villainous character. Oates did not answer the question.
ABC News is reporting that when Holmes was taken into custody by police shortly after the rampage, he said he was the Joker. The information is credited to New York Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly, who is also said to have told reporters that Holmes had colored his hair to resemble the character, most recently played in The Dark Knight by the late Heath Ledger.
Heath Ledger as the Joker in "The Dark Knight."
In the film, the Joker terrorizes Gotham City with a series of attacks, including one on a hospital.
When several national reporters asked about the Joker connection, Oates confirmed that he had spoken to the NYPD, but otherwise declined to comment. Another reporter then asked if Holmes had dressed as Batman, the central figure of The Dark Knight Rises. Oates replied that the shooter was dressed as he had described a few minutes earlier -- in black paramilitary garb that "a ballistic helmet, a tactical ballistic vest, ballistic leggings, a throat protector and a groin protector and a gas mask and black tactical gloves."
John Hickenlooper speaking at the Aurora theater shooting news conference.
Photo by Melanie Asmar
Update, 2:05 p.m. July 20: More information from the press conference. Governor John Hickenlooper spoke, saying, "This is the act of, apparently, a very deranged mind." He called the suspect an "aberration of nature." He also noted that President Barack Obama had phoned him and Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan that morning.
"We can't let it keep us from our lives," Hickenlooper said about the incident. "We will come back stronger than ever."
When Hogan took his turn before the assembled media, he said, "It is an absolute horror for all of those people who were in those theaters."
He added, "We've taken a blow today, but we will get back on our feet and we will move ahead." Still, he conceded, "You can't have that many people die and that many more injured in an absolutely senseless situation and not see it as anything but tough."
Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates subsequently offered some basic information about the suspect, identified as James Eagen Holmes. Date of birth: December 13, 1987. Address: 1690 Paris Street, Apartment 10, in Aurora. His only previous contact with law enforcement was a speeding ticket last year.
A total of 71 people were shot in the attack; twelve died and 58 were injured. Victims were sent to six separate hospitals. Most of the injuries took place at theater nine in the Century 16 complex, but some of the shots penetrated adjoining theater eight, with at least one person having been injured there.
The weapons associated with the attack were an AR-15 assault rifle, a Remington 870 twelve-gauge shotgun and two 40 caliber Glock handguns. One was left in the theater, the remaining three were in the suspect's car, a white Hyundai.
When asked how many rounds had been fired, Oates replied, "We have no capability of calculating that number." He estimated "many, many rounds."
A helicopter flies over the press conference.
Photo by Melanie Asmar
Of the twelve people killed in the attack, ten died in the theater, while two others died at hospitals. "We are making our best efforts to identify and remove those ten," Oates said of those victims who remained in the theater. He didn't speculate about how long the Century 16 would be closed. (The Aurora Town Center mall was also closed today.)
In addition, Holmes set off two devices "to distract the crowd," he continued. "They ignited in some form and released some kind of irritant or smoke.
"We are not looking for any other suspects," he stressed. "We are confident that he acted alone. However, we will do a thorough investigation to be absolutely sure that is the case."
Regarding Holmes's apartment, Oates said, "We responded up there fairly quickly after we identified him and our investigation determined that his apartment is booby-trapped with various incendiary and chemical devices and apparent trip wires. We have an active and difficult scene there. It may be resolved in hours or days. We don't know how we're going to handle that."
Thus far, nearly 200 witnesses have been interviewed, Oates said.
Next up was Jim Yacone, FBI special agent in charge of Colorado. "We are working on interviews," he said. "We're also collecting evidence and we are trying to run leads that span beyond Colorado at this point.
"I want to emphasize, at this point, we do not see a nexus of terrorism," he went on, "but we are continuing to look and we are being as cautious as possible with the investigation as we move forward."
In response to questions, Oates told reporters, "We are not speculating on motive." He also confirmed that "we often have off duty police officers working at his theater. They were not working there that night, but as I said, the response was very rapid." The original 911 call (followed by hundreds more) came in at 12:39 a.m., and Aurora police, whose headquarters is very nearby, were on the scene within one minute -- and are said to have taken Holmes into custody less than a minute later, after finding him near his car, outside the theater.
At that point, the questions about Batman and the Joker arose. A national reporter referenced reports "that the suspect said he was the Joker and had red hair. Can you comment?"
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"No, I can't," Oates answered. "I received a phone call from the NYPD; I used to work for that agency. And I discussed the matter with them, but beyond that...."
The rest of his response was drowned out by other questions. Oates then returned to discussing Holmes's apartment. "We are not sure what we're dealing with in the house," he said. "There appear to be some incendiary devices, there's some chemical elements and there are also some incendiary elements. They're linked together with all kinds of wires.... It's something I've never seen before. We've got a lot of smart bomb techs up there trying to figure out what we're going to do."
More from our News archive: "Photos of James Holmes, medical school dropout and alleged Aurora theater shooter."