Updated at 8:06 a.m. ET: Fourteen people were killed and at least 50 others wounded early Friday when a gunman opened fire at a midnight screening of the summer blockbuster “The Dark Knight Rises” near Denver, authorities and witnesses said.
Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates told reporters that 10 people died at the scene and four others died after being taken to local hospitals. A three-month-old and a six-year-old girl were among those treated, according to reports.
Police said the gunman had appeared at the front of the theater during the movie and released a canister which let out a hissing sound, which is believed to be tear gas. Witnesses told reporters that gunfire erupted during a shootout scene in the film.
“It was mass chaos,” witness Jennifer Seeger told TODAY. “He was five feet away from me.”
The gunman shot the ceiling and then “he threw in the gas can, and then I knew it was real,” Seeger added.
“Everyone’s going for the door and then everyone starts saying, ‘no, he’s going to shoot people going for the door, and he did,” she recalled. “They’re trying to escape, and he shot those people as well.”
He was named as 24-year-old James Holmes, two federal officials from different agencies told NBC News.
The incident occurred in the Century 16 Movie Theaters at the Aurora Town Center, police told NBC News. Aurora is a suburb less than 10 miles east of downtown Denver.
NBC station KUSA-Denver cited a witness as seeing a black-clad 6-foot-tall man wearing a riot helmet, goggles and bullet-proof vest.
However, many people attended the film dressed in Batman-related costumes.
Witnesses said the gunman entered the theater through an emergency exit door.
The suspect was found in possession of a gas mask, Oates said. Ammunition was found in the suspect’s car, police said.
Three firearms Citing officials, NBC News’ Pete Williams reported that the shooter had three weapons — an assault-type rifle and two handguns. Holmes’ car has Tennessee plates but authorities believe he was living locally.
Holmes’s apartment building in north Aurora was evacuated after he made a statement to police about possible explosives at his home, Oates said.
An FBI official told NBC News that the agency was working with local authorities on the investigation, but that there was no early indication of a link to terrorism. Holmes was not on any federal law-enforcement watch lists, Williams reported.
President Barack Obama had been notified by counterterrorism chief John Brennan and was aware of the incident, KUSA said.
In a statement, Obama said: “We are committed to bringing whoever was responsible to justice, ensuring the safety of our people, and caring for those who have been wounded. As we do when confronted by moments of darkness and challenge, we must now come together as one American family”.
‘Get us some damn gas masks’ Police raiding the theater in the hunt for the suspect had to ask for gas masks.
“Get us some damn gas masks for theater 9, we can’t get in it,” one officer radioed back to emergency dispatch during the operation, according to an excerpt aired on KUSA.
Brenda Stuart, of 850 KOA radio, told Sky News that bullets had passed from one theater into an adjoining one.
’50-60 gunshots’ One young man told KUSA that he was in front of the theater with friends when the shooting broke out.
“Next thing you know you hear ‘boom’ like tear gas, a bomb. … Then you hear gunshots go off, like a fully automatic weapon. [There were] like 50-60 gunshots,” he told KUSA.
“I was just worried about getting out of there,” he told KUSA.
The man, who did not give his name, said he heard gunfire continue for at least 20 minutes.
“People were coming out of there screaming, some of the people were coming out of there bleeding. … People were coming out with their shirts covered in blood,” he said.
As he left the theater, eyewitness Hayden Miller told KUSA said people ran up to him and said “there was a gunman setting off bombs and shooting people. … He wasn’t giving anyone a chance to get out … It’s insane that this can happen in a movie theater where people had gone to have fun.”
Another eyewitness, Alex Milano, told KUSA that he “saw at least four, maybe five people limping, slightly wounded. … I saw one girl covered in blood.
“I don’t know whose little girl that was, but my heart goes out to them. … A cop came walking through the front door … holding a little girl in his arms and she wasn’t moving, she wasn’t moving,” the young man, whose voiced cracked as he spoke, told KUSA.
Milano, who was in theater 8, told KUSA he spoke to a young woman who had been in theater 9 with the shooter.
The woman and her boyfriend crawled and then ran for an exit. “When she turned around, all she saw was the guy slowly making his way up the stairs, just firing. … Just picking random people,” the witness told KUSA.
‘I thought it was pretty much the end of the world’ Salina Jordan, 19, told the Denver Post she saw one girl struck in the cheek and others in the stomach, including a girl who looked to be around 9 years old.
Jordan told the newspaper she saw police carrying bodies out of the theater as well as officers opening fire.
Roland Jones, 28, said he first thought the smoke and sounds of gunshots were all part of the film’s special effects.
“I thought it was pretty much the end of the world,” Roberts told the Denver Post.
Tammi Stevens, who son was inside the cinema when the shooting started, told the Post he saw a man walk into the theater wearing body armor.
“You let your kids go to a late night movie … you never think something like this would happen,” Stevens told the newspaper.
Cathy Canzanora, a 911 dispatcher, told NBC News that emergency dispatchers were deluged with calls from “everybody who had cellphones in the theater” at 12:39 a.m. Friday local time (2:39 a.m. ET).
Police cars transport the wounded The injured were being transported to several local hospitals, police told NBC.
KOA’s Stuart said that police officers were taking victims to hospitals in their cars and not waiting for ambulances.
Natalie Goldstein, of Children’s Hospital Colorado, said the facility was treating six patients from the shooting, ranging in age from 6 to 31.
Justin Bentzinger, a house supervisor at the Swedish Medical Center, told NBC News they were treating three patients. Two were in critical condition, the third was in fair condition.
Kalena Wilkinson, a public information officer for Denver Health, said six patients were taken to that hospital, with one in critical condition and the other five in “fair” conditions.
Tracy Weise, of the public relations department at Aurora Medical Center, told NBC News they were treating 12 patients with a range of injuries from minor to critical.
Jacque Montgomery, a spokesperson for University of Colorado Hospital, told NBC News that they were treating 20 patients from the shooting.
At least three people had been treated for chemical exposure, KUSA reported.
Hundreds of witnesses who have not been injured have been taken to Gateway High School for a debriefing, local media reported.
It was the worst mass shooting in Colorado since the Columbine High School massacre on April 20, 1999. Students Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, opened fire at the school in the Denver suburb of Littleton, about 15 miles west of Aurora, killing 12 classmates and a teacher and wounding 26 others before killing themselves in the school’s library.
“The Dark Knight Rises,” starring Christian Bale and Anne Hathaway, is the latest in the popular Batman action movie franchise. Friday was its international premiere.
NBC News’ David Wyllie, Daniel Strieff, Ian Johnston, F. Brinley Bruton, Pete Williams, NBC station KUSA and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Oates said there was no evidence of additional suspects.
A suspect was apprehended in the shopping center’s parking lot, Oates said.