Police: Colo. suspect planned attack for months

Sunday, July 22, 2012
Members of law enforcement wearing body armor and helmets use fire department apparatus Saturday to look in the apartment of alleged gunman James Holmes in Aurora , Colo. Authorities reported that 12 died and 58 people were wounded during an assault at a movie theater's midnight premiere of "The Dark Knight Rises." (Alex Brandon ~ Associated Press)

AURORA, Colo. -- The Colorado shooting suspect planned the rampage that killed 12 midnight moviegoers with "calculation and deliberation," police said Saturday, receiving deliveries for months that authorities believe armed him for battle and were used to rig his apartment with dozens of bombs.

Authorities Saturday were still working to clear dangerous explosive materials from inside James Holmes' suburban Denver apartment a day after police said he opened fire and set off gas canisters in a suburban theater minutes into the premiere of the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises." Fifty-eight people were wounded.

His apartment was rigged with jars of liquids, explosives and chemicals that were booby trapped to kill "whoever entered it," Aurora police chief Dan Oates said, noting it would have likely been one of his officers.

Authorities wouldn't discuss a motive for one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent U.S. history, as makeshift memorials for the victims sprang up and relatives began to publicly mourn their loved ones. Holmes had recently withdrawn from a competitive graduate program in neuroscience; neighbors and former classmates in California have said he was a smart loner who said little.

But he had apparently prepared the attack at the Aurora theater well in advance, receiving deliveries by mail for four months to his home and school and buying thousands of rounds of ammunition on the Internet, Oates said.

James Holmes

"He had a high volume of deliveries," Oates said. "We think this explains how he got his hands on the magazine, ammunition," he said, as well as the rigged explosives in his apartment.

"What we're seeing here is evidence of some calculation and deliberation," Oates added.

Federal authorities detonated one small explosive and disarmed others inside Holmes' apartment after sending in a robot to take down a trip wire, FBI Special Agent James Yacone said. Bomb technicians then neutralized what he called a "hyperbolic mixture" and an improvised explosive device containing an unknown substance. There also were containers of accelerants, he said.

"It was an extremely dangerous environment," Yacone said, saying anyone who walked in would have sustained "significant injuries" or been killed.

Holmes, 24, was in solitary confinement for his protection at a county detention facility Saturday, held without bond. He was set for an initial hearing Monday and had been appointed a public defender, authorities said.

Oates said Holmes used a military-style semiautomatic rifle, a shotgun and a pistol to open fire on the unsuspecting theatergoers. He had bought the weapons at local gun stores within the last two months. He recently purchased 6,000 rounds of ammunition over the Internet, the chief said.

Holmes also bought an urban assault vest, two magazine holders and a knife for just more than $300 on July 2 from an online supplier of tactical gear for police and military personnel, according to the company.

Chad Weinman, CEO of TacticalGear.com, said his company processes thousands of orders each day, and there was nothing unusual in the one that Holmes placed. While his company often receives orders from military units and law enforcement organizations, it is not out of the ordinary for individual police officers or soldiers to place orders, he said.

"Everything Mr. Holmes purchased on July 2 is commercially available," Weinman said, adding he was "appalled" that the material was sold to Holmes before the shooting.

'Don't be afraid'

Police said they would begin collecting the personal items left by panicked moviegoers and would move out of the theater by midweek. Shaken law enforcement officials urged residents to not stay home.

"I just don't want the shameless and senseless act of one man to make this difficult for families to move on," Aurora fire chief Mike Garcia said. "Go out. See a movie. Go out into your city. Don't be afraid."

Security was stepped up in places around the U.S. during showings of the new Batman movie. However, Cape Girardeau police elected not to assign officers to Cape West 14 Cine.

Kyle Trombley and Chris Garrett, both of Cape Girardeau, were at Cape West 14 Cine on Friday to see "The Dark Knight Rises."

"Granted, it is something tragic, but you can't let something like that rule your life," Trombley said.

"You can't live in fear or you would just sit in your house," Garrett said. "You can't let one tragic event rule how you live your life every day."

It wasn't known why the suspect chose a movie theater to stage the assault, or whether he intended some twisted, symbolic link to the film's violent scenes.

The Batman movie, the last in the trilogy starring Christian Bale, opened worldwide Friday with midnight showings in the U.S. The plot has the villain Bane facing Bale's Caped Crusader with a nuclear weapon that could destroy all of fictional Gotham.

"The Dark Knight Rises" earned $30.6 million in Friday morning midnight screenings, and, according to industry estimates, roughly $75 million on the day. That put it on track for a weekend total of around $165 million, which would be the second highest opening weekend ever, following "The Avengers."

Warner Bros. has announced it would forgo the usual revenue reports until Monday out of respect for the victims. Sony, Disney and Universal also said they would delay reporting box office receipts until Monday, a day later than the routine Sunday releases for Hollywood.

The shooting was the worst in the U.S. since the Nov. 5, 2009, attack at Fort Hood, Texas. An Army psychiatrist was charged with killing 13 soldiers and civilians and wounding more than two dozen others. It was the deadliest in Colorado since the 1999 attack at Columbine High School, where two students killed 12 classmates and a teacher and wounded 26 others before killing themselves.

Managing editor Matt Sanders and staff writer Ashley Jones contributed to this report.

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