The latest mass shooting in the US must provoke a debate that encompasses the socio-economic health of the nation.
US police say the booby-trapped apartment of a man suspected of killing 12 people in a shooting rampage at a Batman movie screening in the US state of Colorado has now been cleared of explosives.
Saturday’s progress was reported as the names of those who died early on Friday were released – including a six-year-old girl whose mother was also injured and two US servicemen.
A police official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said power had also been restored to the building.
The studio behind The Dark Knight Rises said it was withholding box office data out of respect for the victims.
The attack in Aurora, Colorado, has revived the debate over gun control in the US, and drew condemnation by President Barack Obama and his Republican White House rival Mitt Romney.
Obama will travel to Colorado on Sunday to visit families of the victims, the White House said on Saturday.
‘Designed to kill’
Bomb experts finally inched their way into the home of James Holmes, the 24-year-old who allegedly opened fire on a packed midnight screening of the third and final Dark Knight movie, also injuring 58 others.
A small boom from a “controlled detonation” could be heard by reporters outside the apartment block and pieces of debris were blown out of one of the windows through which police had been assessing the booby-trap set-up inside.
“Police reached one of those explosive devices, but they did not feel comfortable disabling [it] so they had a controlled explosion, which was heard around the area,” said Al Jazeera’s John Hendren, reporting from Colorado.
“It sounds like [the suspect] had a web of tripwires and explosives that made things very difficult and dangerous for police when they went in inside.”
Aurora police chief Dan Oates said: “Make no mistake, this apartment was designed to kill whoever entered it. And who was most likely to enter that location after he planned and executed this horrific crime? It was going to be a police officer.”
|Holmes is currently being held in solitary confinement for his own protection, according to authorities [Reuters]|
The 12 fatalities from the midnight theatre rampage included six-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan, according to the Arapahoe County Coroner’s Office, which said they all died of gunshot wounds.
The child’s mother Ashley Moser, 25, was shot in the neck and abdomen and is in critical condition at Aurora Medical Center, drifting in and out of consciousness, and is unaware that her daughter is dead, the Denver Post said.
Many of those wounded in the mass shooting will suffer long-term consequences, a doctor said on Saturday.
It “pretty much runs the gamut of multiple gunshots,” said Bob Snyder of the Medical Center of Aurora, where four patients remain in intensive care, two in critical condition.
Late on Friday, the town near Denver gathered for two vigils as it emerged that Holmes bought more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition on the internet, and four guns, in the two months before the rampage.
The shooter, dressed in black and wearing body armour and a gas mask, burst into the movie theatre barely 20 minutes into the screening early on Friday, throwing two tear-gas type devices before opening fire with several weapons.
Police arrested Holmes by his car at the rear of the theatre. He offered no resistance.
Holmes is currently being held in solitary confinement for his own protection from other inmates, according to officials.
New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said on Friday that the gunman “clearly looks like a deranged individual”.
“He has his hair painted red. He said he was the Joker, obviously the enemy of Batman,” Kelly told reporters.
Evidence of ‘calculation’
Aurora police chief Oates did not comment, but said on Saturday that Holmes had received a large number of packages over the past four months and “this begins to explain how he got all the magazines and the ammunition” used in the attack.
“We also think it begins to explain some of the materials that he had in his apartment,” he said. “What we’re seeing here is evidence of, I think, some calculation and deliberation,” he said.
James Holmes, 24, was a PhD student of neuroscience at the University of Colorado
He lived in an apartment in the north of Aurora, only eight kilometres from the cinema
He has no previous criminal record and is in police custody
With Holmes in solitary confinement, Oates declined to speculate on any motive for Holmes, who is to make his first court appearance on Monday. “We’re not going to talk about motive,” he said.
Oates said that out of “an abundance of caution,” bomb-sniffing dogs had made a sweep of buildings at the University of Colorado medical school, which Holmes attended until last month, but did not find anything unusual.
Holmes had no criminal record aside from a citation for speeding in October 2011, according to police.
Cinemas in New York tightened security at Batman showings, and the AMC theatre chain announced a ban on face masks and fake weapons, while a French premiere was cancelled on Friday.
Meanwhile, little has surfaced from the suspect’s past to suggest he was capable of such violence.
Raised in a middle-class San Diego neighbourhood, he earned a degree in neuroscience from the University of California at Riverside before seeking his graduate degree from the University of Colorado.
Holmes was described by acquaintances as bright but was in the process of dropping out of his graduate programme at the time of the shooting, according to the university.
Aurora is 32km from the scene of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, in which two students shot dead 13 people before committing suicide.