The Aurora Theatre Shooting

The events of the horrific Aurora Theatre Shooting unfolded on July 20, 2012. The shooting transpired during the midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises and ended with unthinkable losses. 

James Holmes, the sole perpetrator, initially entered the theatre and bought a ticket to the film, sitting in the front row. Approximately twenty minutes into the movie, Holmes exited the theatre through an emergency exit door. He propped this door open with a plastic tablecloth holder and proceeded to go outside to his car. Inside of his vehicle were protective tactical clothing items and multiple firearms. Holmes changed into the protective clothing, which included a gas mask, a ballistic helmet, a bullet-resistant throat protector, a load-bearing vest (which was not additionally bulletproof), bullet-risistant leggings, a groin protector, and finally a pair of tactical gloves. While at his car Holmes also retrieved the guns that he would use in the attack; a 12-gauge Remington 870 Express Tactical shotgun, a Smith and Wesson M&P15 semi-automatic rifle with a 100-round drum magazine, and a Glock 22 .40 caliber handgun. 

Holmes then reentered the theatre through the same door he had propped open and entered the auditorium, wearing headphones and playing “techno music” as to not hear the audience’s reactions. He first threw two canisters that discharged a gas or smoke. This smoke caused eye irritation and obscured vision, as well as itchiness to the skin and throat. After this Holmes fired his 12-gauge Remington shotgun at the ceiling, then at the audience. He additionally fired his semi-automatic rifle, but it soon malfunctioned. Holmes lastly fired using his Glock 22 handgun. 

Holmes began shooting at the back of the auditorium, then towards people in the aisles. Three people in a neighboring room were hit by a bullet when it passed through the wall, and that area was subsequently evacuated. This room was also screening The Dark Knight Rises. Meanwhile, back in the auditorium where the shooting was taking place, the fire alarm began to sound. The scene was in complete chaos, and some were hesitant to flee due to shouts of an additional shooter in the theatre’s lobby. The first calls to 911 were made at 12:39am, with police arriving in 90 seconds. Some individuals reported the shooting on Twitter rather than calling the police, but officers were already present at the theatre when these tweets were sent. 

A total of 76 shots were fired by Holmes in the theatre; six of these were from the shotgun, 65 from the semi-automatic rifle, and five from the Glock 22 .40 caliber handgun. When Sergeant Stephen Redfearn, one of the first police officers on the scene, arrived, he decided not to wait for ambulances. Sergeant Redfearn instead sent a number of the victims to the hospital in squad cars. At approximately 12:45am, Holmes was apprehended behind the theatre by Officer Jason Oviatt. He stated that Holmes was calm and “disconnected” during his arrest. 

12 people were killed in the Aurora shooting and 70 non-fatal injuries were reported. 10 victims died at the scene and two more died at local hospitals. Four of the victims, Jonathan Blunk, Matt MqQuinn, Alexander Teeves, and John Larimer, were killed while protecting their girlfriends. Two of the victims were active-duty service members. For a full list of the fallen victims, click here

Two federal officials had stated that Holmes had dyed his hair red and called himself “The Joker”, but authorities later declined to confirm that statement. However, three days later at his first court appearance, Holmes had reddish-orange hair. Authorities found a first aid kit, as well as spike strips, in his car. Holmes later claimed that he planned to use the spike strips if police chased him or shot at him. Police interviewed a grand total of 200 witnesses during the investigation. Holmes was first incarcerated at the Arapahoe County Detention Center under suicide watch. 

The Aurora Shooting had claimed the largest number of victims of any mass shooting in the history of the United States, but was later unfortunately surpassed by the Orlando Pulse Nightclub Shooting in 2016, which had a combined total of 102 casualties. The Aurora Shooting was the deadliest mass shooting in the state of Colorado since the Columbine High School Massacre in 1999, which claimed 13 victims, not including the two perpetrators who committed suicide after their attack. 

Nobody noticed the mental illness at this early age. Why? Because he was getting straight A’s. And he was causing no problems. And he was a good kid.
—  Dan King, public defender, about James Holmes

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They had gone to see a caped, violent vigilante defeat bad guys, but what they got was a bizarre version of the reality. I felt like it was the most wicked and yet most American piece of performance art possible.
Prayers for Aurora, Colorado

12 killed, 38 injured in a theatre shooting on 7/20/12 at the premiere of The Dark Knight Rises. the youngest injured being only 3 months of age. this happened only 13 miles away from Columbine high school. 

it absolutely sickens me that we live in a world where people like this actually exist.

Crime scene photo of evidence outside the Aurora movie theatre where mass murderer James Holmes killed 12 people. The gas mask pictured caused a lot of controversy due to the fact that Holmes himself was found wearing a gas mask (he set of gas and smoke canisters before he started shooting in the packed theatre), the presence off another gas mask was thought to be a clue that Holmes was not operating alone and that he had an accomplice. During the trial of James Holmes it was revealed that police officers had dropped their own gas masks in the rush to enter the theatre. 


The Aurora Theatre Shooting

On July 20th, 2012, during a midnight screening of ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ at a Century 16 movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado, a gunman set off tear gas grenades and shot into the audience with multiple firearms killing 12 people and injuring 70.

The perpetrator bought a ticket, entered the theater, and sat in the front row. About 20 minutes into the film, he left the building through an emergency exit door, propped it open, and returned with weapons and other gear before storming the audience and opening fire.

He was dressed in black and wore a gas mask, a load-bearing vest, a ballistic helmet, bullet-resistant leggings, a bullet-resistant throat protector, a groin protector, and tactical gloves. He was also listening to techno music through a set of headphones.

James Eagan Holmes, born December 13th, 1987 and 24 at the time, was arrested in the theatre parking lot.

He had booby-trapped his apartment with explosives before the shooting, which were defused one day later by a bomb squad.

For a period of time this was the highest casualty single mass shooter event in American history, up until the 2016 assault on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

Prior to the killings, Holmes had been receiving treatment for mental health problems; he entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. His trial began on April 27th, 2015. The trial lasted 11 weeks after which he was found guilty. On August 24th, Holmes was sentenced to 12 consecutive life sentences plus 3,318 years without parole.

John Russell Houser, aged 59, has been identified as the perpetrator of a shooting at The Grand Theatre in Lafayette, Louisiana on the night of July 23, 2015. He used a .40-caliber handgun, firing 13 rounds, which resulted in the deaths of two females. One was pronounced dead on scene, while the other died upon arrival at the hospital. Of the nine people who were injured, two have left the hospital and one remains in critical condition. Authorities discovered wigs and glasses in his motel room, which he had been staying at for several weeks, as well as a swapped out license plate on his car, and they attribute this to an initial plan for him to flee the scene. However, due to the fast police response, police say Houser’s attempt to leave was halted, and he committed suicide inside the theatre.