Dark Night: Mass Shooting at Batman Movie Premiere Kills 12, Injures 59

By Susan Jones | July 20, 2012 | 6:21 AM EDT

(President Obama was told about the mass shooting in Colorado at 5:26 a.m. EDT by John Brennan, his homeland security adviser, a White House spokesman said. Obama issued a statement saying he and Michelle are "shocked and saddened." The president awakened in West Palm Beach, Fla., and he has campaign stops Friday in Fort Myers and Winter Park.)

(CNSNews.com) - Armed with a rifle, at least one handgun, and what's thought to be a tear-gas canister, a "young adult male" said to be wearing a gas mask opened fire at the midnight premiere of the new Batman movie early Friday morning in Aurora, Colorado, a Denver suburb, police said.

At an afternoon news conference, police said 71 people were shot - 12 people were dead and 59 injured.

Witnesses said one of the dead is a "baby" shot at point-blank range. Another victim is said to be 9, but those reports are unconfirmed. The movie is rated PG-13 -- for "intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality, and language."

Frank Fania, an Aurora police spokesman, told CNN it's "safe to say" that at least 20 shots were fired by a man who "appeared at the front of the screen" after the movie, "The Dark Knight Rises," had started. Press reports say he may have entered the theater through an emergency exit door.

Police were already at the theater for crowd control, and more officers arrived within minutes of the first calls, which came in at 12:39 a.m. Denver time, Fania said. He also said police cruisers were used to take some of the injured to area hospitals.

The gunman, name not yet know, was captured in a parking lot behind the theater near his car, Fania said. Police say they have no evidence that a second person was involved in the mass shooting, as the first reports indicated.

Fania told CNN he believes the suspect is in his 20s, but he didn't know the man's race or ethnicity. Later reports said he's a 24-year-old white man. And by 8 a.m. EDT, the FBI named the suspect as 24-year-old James Holmes.

Police evacuated the suspect's apartment complex before searching his unit for explosives and other evidence.

Police have put out a call for witnesses who fled the theater in panic. Many of those who were in theater number 9 at the Aurora Town Center are being questioned at a nearby high school.

Police said they plan to update the media at an 11 a.m. news conference, which would be 1 p.m. Washington time.

The Denver area is all too familiar with mass violence. On April 20, 1999, 12 students and one teacher were shot and killed at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Another 21 students were injured when two students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, walked through the school, firing at random. The two committed suicide in the school.

The premiere of Warner Bros. "The Dark Knight Rises" is described as "the epic conclusion" to filmmaker Christopher Nolan's shades-of-evil trilogy.

According to a synopsis posted on the movie's webpage:

It has been eight years since Batman vanished into the night, turning, in that instant, from hero to fugitive. Assuming the blame for the death of D.A. Harvey Dent, the Dark Knight sacrificed everything for what he and Commissioner Gordon both hoped was the greater good. For a time the lie worked, as criminal activity in Gotham City was crushed under the weight of the anti-crime Dent Act.

But everything will change with the arrival of a cunning cat burglar with a mysterious agenda. Far more dangerous, however, is the emergence of Bane, a masked terrorist whose ruthless plans for Gotham drive Bruce out of his self-imposed exile. But even if he dons the cape and cowl again, Batman may be no match for Bane.