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.