Obama grieves with victims of Colorado attack

US president tells survivors and families of victims killed in Friday’s shooting the whole country stands with them.

Barack Obama, the US president, has told families of the victims of the Aurora cinema shooting massacre that the whole country is thinking of them.

Obama arrived at Buckley Air Force Base on Air Force One around 3:30pm (21:30 GMT) on Sunday. He first visited the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora to console survivors and families of victims.

The president said he shared hugs and tears and vowed that “out of darkness a brighter day is going to come”.

Obama’s visit comes as investigators are deepening a probe into James Holmes, the man accused of planning and carrying out the attack, which killed 12 and injured 58.

Colorado police piece together what led to shooting

He is alleged to have opened fire during a packed Batman premiere of The Dark Knight Rises shortly after midnight on Friday, dressed in black and wearing body armour and a gas mask.

Holmes, currently being held in solitary confinement for his own safety, is reported not to be co-operating with authorities.

Dan Oates, Aurora police chief, said Holmes had “lawyered up” and is not talking.

Thousands have gathered for a vigil, organised by civic, community and religious leaders, in front of Aurora City Hall on Sunday.

“We can now start the natural process of grieving and healing,” Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan said at a memorial late on Saturday for one young shooting victim: “We’re still reeling”.

On Saturday, local and federal authorities disarmed explosives in Holmes’ booby-trapped apartment.

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.”

‘Calculation and deliberation’

Holmes, 24, a graduate school dropout, was arrested immediately after the fatal spree in a car park near the scene of the shooting. He offered no resistance when he was arrested. 

Oates said the shooting followed months of “calculation and deliberation”, as Holmes received a “high volume” of deliveries of weaponry to both his work and home.

James Holmes is currently being held in solitary confinement for his own protection, according to authorities [Reuters]

“Make no mistake, this [Holmes’] 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,” Oates said on Sunday night.

Residents of several nearby buildings were allowed to return
home on Saturday, while the red-brick apartment block remained under evacuation as local and federal authorities completed the painstaking process of disarming the explosives and sifting through evidence.

Sources familiar with the probe said that some 30 shells filled with gunpowder were found in the apartment, together with containers filled with “incendiary liquids” intended to fuel a fire from the initial explosions, as well as bullets meant to ricochet around the apartment.

On Saturday afternoon, the local coroner’s office released the names of the 12 people killed, including those of a six-year-old girl, a young man celebrating his 27th birthday and an aspiring sportscaster who had barely escaped a shooting in a Toronto mall earlier this summer.

The incident stunned the nation and evoked memories of the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, 27km from Aurora, where two students opened fire and killed 12 students and a teacher.

The attack also revived the debate over gun control in the US, and drew condemnation by Obama and his Republican White House rival Mitt Romney.

‘Deranged individual’

The shooter, dressed in black and wearing body armour and a gas mask, had burst into the cinema barely 20 minutes into the screening of The Dark Knight Rises on Friday, throwing two tear-gas type devices before opening fire with several weapons.

Suspect profile


undefined James Holmes, 24, was a PhD student of neuroscience at the University of Colorado

undefined He lived in an apartment in the north of Aurora, only eight kilometres from the cinema

undefined He has no previous criminal record and is in police custody

Raymond Kelly, New York City police commissioner, 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.

Holmes is currently being held in solitary confinement for his own protection from other inmates, according to officials.

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.

He 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.

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.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies