Aurora, CO 7/20/2012

By now many of you have heard of the tragedy that has taken place in Aurora, CO.  For those that haven’t, here is what happened:

A GUNMAN has opened fire inside a suburban Denver movie theatre just after midnight, leaving 12 people dead and at least 50 others injured, police say.

Witnesses described a scene of chaos at the midnight debut showing of ”The Dark Knight Rises,” saying the gunman had set off tear gas bombs and opened fire in the packed theater in Aurora, a suburb of Denver.

The shooting suspect has been identified as 24-year-old James Holmes.

Television networks cited the FBI as saying that Holmes did not appear to have any known terrorism connections.

”Witnesses tell us he released some sort of canister,” said Aurora police chief Dan Oates. ”They heard a hissing sound and some gas emerged and the gunman opened fire.”

Ten people were killed at the scene and another four died later at local hospitals, he said. A local children’s hospital reported six victims, the youngest aged six.

Mr Oates added that police had arrested the alleged gunman and that there was ”no evidence” of a second, after earlier reports of two shooters.

President Barack Obama, who was in Florida, expressed shock at the shooting.

”Michelle and I are shocked and saddened by the horrific and tragic shooting in Colorado … my administration will do everything that we can to support the people of Aurora in this extraordinarily difficult time.

”We are committed to bringing whoever was responsible to justice .. As we do when confronted by moments of darkness and challenge, we must now come together as one American family.”

Chris Jones, who was in the theater, said the shooting began about 20 to 30 minutes into the screening.

”People just started dropping. We were on the floor trying not to get shot,” Jones told the local KMGH-TV television station.

”I thought it was just fireworks. There was smoke, then I heard ‘bam, bam, bam.’ The gunman didn’t have to stop to reload. Shots just kept coming, kept coming, kept coming.”

Shots fired in one auditorium went through the wall and hit people in the auditorium next door. Jones said by the time he could get out, police were in the building.

Police chief Oates said the suspect had claimed to have explosives at his residence and that the apartment complex where he lived had been evacuated and was being searched.

The suspect was a white male, aged 24. Police spokesman Frank Fania told CNN he was wearing body armor and armed with a rifle and two handguns, adding that he had set off some kind of smoke device in order to sow panic.

Witnesses described chaos chillingly similar to that depicted in the Batman films – in which maniacal villains terrorise Gotham City – suggesting the movie could have inspired the shooting spree.

They said several audience members had shown up in costumes, which could have allowed the gunman to blend in with the melee and complicated the arrest.

Police did not provide details about the killed and wounded, but the PG-13 film would have attracted scores of teenagers.

One witness cited by the Denver Post said he was watching the film when he heard a series of explosions. Benjamin Fernandez, 30, said people ran from the theater and that there were gunshots as officers shouted ”Get down!”

Another witness described how, during one of the action scenes, there was gunfire and what sounded like firecrackers, but people thought it was coming from the movie.

”So we just kept watching the movie for a little bit,” the witness, identified only as Jack, told ABC television. Then it became clear that there was a real gunman in the theatre.

”Everyone started panicking after that, because people were getting hurt,” he said.

Aurora is barely 32km from the scene of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, in which two students shot dead 13 people and wounded 24 before committing suicide. The attackers had plotted the killings for a year.

An act like this is absolutely appalling.  This individual had somehow in his mind decided that shooting a child point blank in the face was something that needed to be done.

I have no words to describe the emotion I am feeling right now.  As a father that has lost a child I can tell you that this is something that the parents will never recover from.  This is something that the community will never recover from.  All these kids wanted to do is something that I myself do every Thursday, and that’s see the first showing of a movie.

In the next few weeks more information will be made available as to the possible mental state and reasoning that the shooting happened.  As we get deeper and deeper into the investigation more ugliness and speculation will be made.  But at the end of the day the parents will never be provided any answer to make the pain of losing their child go away.

I wish we had something to blame.  Many will blame comics, many will blame the Dark Knight series, many will even blame costumers.  Many will blame midnight movie releases.  Many will try to find a connection between the Columbine shootings and this.  But at the end of the day everyone will be wrong.  The only direction to point the finger is at the individual that did the shooting.  He pulled the trigger, he did the deed, he is the one to blame.  I know it doesn’t make the pain any easier to live with but it is the truth.

To say my condolences go out to the families and community of Aurora, CO is an understatement.  We here at Forbidden Panel will keep you in our thoughts and our prayers and offer you our deepest sympathy and support.