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Movie Massacre in Aurora, Colorado

Aired July 20, 2012 - 19:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When he came in, I just thought he was some kind of you know prop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First we thought he was part of the movie.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He let off a canister of gas and it exploded.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And he shot up in the air and everybody started to panic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a gunman and he's shooting everyone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He came down with his gun in my face.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have to get out of here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seventy-one people were shot. Twelve are deceased.


JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I'm John Avlon. Erin's on assignment in Africa tonight. We're going to take you out to the scene with Don Lemon in a second but first let's get you up to speed. Breaking news in Aurora, Colorado, in that movie theater shooting massacre that went down less than 24 hours ago, the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. It has shaken that community of 335,000 people and it has stunned the country and the world watches.

At this very moment, as they have been all day, officers with the bomb squad wearing tactical gear are surrounding what they're calling the booby-trapped apartment of the accused gunman trying not to blow up themselves and an entire neighborhood. And right now we're learning a lot more about the young man who police say not only rigged that apartment with explosives but in cold blood murdered 12 people and injured 59 more. They were mothers, fathers, children, U.S. troops and students enjoying the midnight showing of the latest "Batman" movie "The Dark Knight Rises." When this man, James Eagan Holmes, dressed in riot gear, according to police, burst into the packed theater through an emergency door. He set off two canisters, possibly filled with tear gas, and opened fire. Holmes was a PhD candidate in the neuroscience program at the University of Colorado. But according to the university, the 24-year-old was in the process of withdrawing. Prior to today, Holmes' only brush with the law was a speeding ticket from last year.

He's expected to appear in court for the first time on Monday. Now to how events unfolded inside the theater, the chaos erupting about 30 minutes into the movie, the first calls to 911, at 12:39 a.m. local time according to "The Denver Post".


DISPATC: (INAUDIBLE) shooting at Century Theaters, (INAUDIBLE) 300 East Alameda Avenue (ph). They're saying somebody is shooting in the auditorium.

DISPATC: (INAUDIBLE) there is at least one person that's been shot but they're saying there are hundreds of people just running around.


AVLON: Within a minute, a minute and a half, police were on the scene.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Out of one of the theaters, we were seeing SWAT vehicles rolling up here --

VOICE: Fifteen, I've got seven down in theater nine, seven down!

DISPATC: Copy, we'll notify fire seven down in theater nine.

VOICE: Get me some officers in nine so we can get the, the movable victims out.


AVLON: According to scanner traffic, Holmes was spotted around 12:45 a.m. He was arrested shortly there after in the parking lot behind the theater still wearing a bulletproof vest, helmet and gas mask. Four weapons were recovered at the scene. They were all purchased legally over the last six months. They include AR-15 assault rifle, which was left behind in the theater. Investigators found a drum magazine capable of carrying 100 rounds, which suggest that the suspect was aiming for a high body count. They also found a .40 caliber Glock handgun. It had a clip though the size of the magazine is unknown and a Remington 870 shotgun that can hold up to seven rounds.

Now, let's send it out to Don Lemon in Aurora, Colorado. Don, what can you tell us about the suspect? What was he wearing? What did he look like?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I'm going to talk to Ed Lavandera about that in just a bit but I want to set the scene for you. Just over my shoulder here, there is the Century 16 Cinema where "The Dark Knight Rises" was playing last night when all of a sudden that gunman burst in. And this is, as you said, the largest shooting, mass shooting, in U.S. history and that gunman, we're learning more information about him and exactly how it went down.

And as you asked, John, Ed Lavandera is here to tell us more about the suspect. What are you hearing about these guns, about his past, about him being a student in neurosciences?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well it's interesting what we've been able to figure out about where the guns were purchased. We were told by a law enforcement source a few hours ago that the guns were purchased legally here in the Denver area. Two of them were bought at a Bass Pro shop. And (INAUDIBLE) a couple different towns, one here in Aurora, Mountain Gander store, they were bought legally all within the last six months, all the paperwork squared away. That was one of the first initial things that law enforcement investigators tried to figure out, you know figure out where these guns came from. Were they legally purchased --

LEMON: It's amazing the type of fire power. There was a shotgun. There was an assault rifle. There were two handguns. Were they Glocks --

LAVANDERA: -- caliber, there was the rifle and there was also the AR-15 assault rife and a shotgun, excuse me. And there was also this law enforcement source tells us what is called a drum magazine. For those who don't know, it's a magazine that is capable of carrying up to 100 rounds of ammunition, so clearly (INAUDIBLE) a great deal of firepower prepared to fire (INAUDIBLE).

LEMON: Let's go to the events now as it happened. How did he get in? Did he sneak in through a back door? Did he buy a ticket? Do they know (INAUDIBLE)?

LAVANDERA: Well we -- a law enforcement source told us a little while ago as well that what they think happened here is that 24-year- old James Holmes bought a ticket like everybody else. There were four movie theaters in the theater building that were screening the movie last night. He bought a ticket, walked into theater number nine just like anybody else and at some point, he gets up and exits, sneaks out that exit door, which was just to the right of the movie screen --

LEMON: Wearing full gear?

LAVANDERA: No, no, no --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was dressed normally --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was dressed normally -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

LAVANDERA: Like anybody else --


LAVANDERA: Nothing suspicious from what we can tell. His car is parked behind the building. Pretty close to this corner over here. His white Hyundai is parked behind the building and he comes out, and we're told by this law enforcement source that's where he gears up and he has all that ballistic -- from head to toe, he's covered in that ballistic gear and wearing the gas mask. So he grabs -- he grabs three of the guns that he has, as well as those two canisters.

He comes in and this is the point in the movie just before 12:40 last night. He walks in, throws in these two canisters. They land in various parts of the theater. The gas goes up and that's when people describe feeling that irritation in their throat and in their eyes.

LEMON: Right, right.

LAVANDERA: So it was either some sort of tear gas or something and then seconds after that, it was like an explosion. Some people described they thought it was part of the theatrics of the movie. It was opening night of this movie and then clearly after that, they knew this wasn't right. That's when the gunfire erupted --

LEMON: I can't imagine being in a movie theater. People usually obviously go to the theater to enjoy it and you're relaxed, you don't expect something like this. And then with a movie this big, you would -- one would think -- I certainly would, that it was part of the production. Like, oh, wow, look at this. So these people were not only caught off guard because (INAUDIBLE) but doubly so because they may have played along for a short time thinking this was all part of it.

LAVANDERA: Well you go to the movie theater just to check out. I mean like you walk in there, you're prepared to watch two -- however long the movie is, two, 2.5 hours of entertainment to watch this movie. The last thing you're thinking about --

LEMON: Last thing.

LAVANDERA: -- is something like this happening. So it's going to take your mind seconds if not 10, 20 seconds to process what in the world is going on.

LEMON: Yes. We're going to get to other players in this particular story. If you guys can tell us who we're going to next, I would appreciate it. And Ed and I will continue to talk about this. Ed, as we stand here, we're right in front of the theater and you can see in the back, everything is sort of roped off here, roped off with police tape. And this entire mall here -- it's a huge complex, if people can see it. There's no business here. Nothing is going on, the entire area, the entire community, in shock. As people were walking around today -- LAVANDERA: Yes, the mall has been shut down today. All of these cars are left over from last night. They haven't been able to leave, so you look at the parking lot and you can imagine what it's like inside. (INAUDIBLE) it's like a snapshot frozen at about 12:45 last night. And these are cars of people who had come to see the premiere of the movie last night. So they have -- they've had to search through all these cars, looking for any potential evidence. (INAUDIBLE).

LEMON: Had to tell you the -- as we continue to talk about this, and again this is breaking news and we're getting new details. My producers are on the scene here, standing here and in the (INAUDIBLE) working on new details here, so Ed and I are just going to continue to talk. I was at the hospital today.

A young lady walked out in tears and she just looked at me, stood there, I said can I help her. What's going on? She said, my sister who is 23 years old, was in the theater. I've been calling her phone. I can't -- no one is answering. I spoke with her friend. Her friend said she was in the theater. She was shot. She fell to the floor. She was coughing and they pulled her out. And then she said she hasn't seen her sister since. She has been waiting for hours for her sister and going around from hospital to hospital, calling police agencies, and still no sight of her 23-year-old sister.

LAVANDERA: (INAUDIBLE) that crime scene right there, as we were told about four hours ago from the police chief here, the bodies are still in the theater. They were still trying to identify --

LEMON: Ten of them.


LEMON: Two of them died at the hospital. Ten people died inside the theater.

LAVANDERA: So if that has changed here in the last couple of hours, we haven't seen. We've been keeping a close eye on what's been going on over there. We haven't seen any sense of the bodies being pulled out. They're still going through that scene, so there are a lot families still waiting to hear that news.

LEMON: So we are here at the scene where it happened. But we're going to get more on this. Take you sort of inside the mind and definitely inside of the apartment of this alleged killer here. Ed Lavandera, thank you very much. Stand by.

We're going inside the apartment and show you what police are doing there. Police described this apartment as booby-trapped with explosives. The bomb squad has been going in that apartment or trying to get into that apartment all day, but doing it very gingerly so that they don't blow themselves up and they don't blow up an entire neighborhood. We'll talk more about the victims and the alleged shooter in this incident, live from Aurora, Colorado, back in a moment.


LEMON: I'm Don Lemon, back now live in Aurora, Colorado, at the scene of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. We're learning more about the suspect in this shooting, 24-year-old James Eagan Holmes, a student at the University of Colorado. Our Drew Griffin is here, our investigative reporter, digging more information. (INAUDIBLE) little bit earlier with Ed Lavandera we were getting all this information in and Drew's the reason we were doing that. What are you learning about the background of the suspect?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Don a little bit more about the extensive planning that may have gone into this attack by this suspect. CNN has obtained a receipt of tactical gear that James Holmes bought online back on July 2nd, the tactical gear which matches the description of some of the witnesses who described what he was wearing, an urban assault vest, triple pistol magazine, an M-16 magazine pouch and a knife, a large knife. All of them colored in black. And we do have that receipt and we're trying to get that accessible, but it was shipped to his home that the police are now at right now. It shows that he's been planning this --

LEMON: Full protective gear. As we heard the witnesses say, they couldn't even make out what he looked like. All they could see was just how, you know how tall he was and what his stature. They didn't know what race he was, nothing --


LEMON: -- because he was fully covered and he's also covering, he covered key parts of his body, groin area and also his neck area as well.

GRIFFIN: Right. Now there's no gas mask on this, no headgear on this itemized list, it was for $306.79. But the fact that it was all ordered and colored in black seems to indicate that he was putting together some kind of outfit that would match other things that he might have on his body.

LEMON: And Drew you're working on more information on the receipt and I'm sure if we have that receipt that you have obtained that receipt and --


GRIFFIN: The receipt and obtained the itemized pictures and we'll have that through the night, but we just wanted to deliver that information as we get it --

LEMON: Drew Griffin, stand by. Drew with more on the suspect's background. I want to go now to New York and to our Miguel Marquez and learn more about this suspect as well. Miguel, this investigation is not just here in Colorado, it's really stretching across the country. This suspect, who according to law enforcement, said he was "The Joker" and even colored his hair red. What are you learning?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, agents for the FBI, the ATF and law enforcement across the country want to know exactly who this guy is. He was from San Diego, California. He went to a decent high school there. By all accounts, he was sort of a person who didn't raise much suspicion among anyone. Agents in San Francisco -- in San Diego, there are several of them, numerous agents, looking into his background, interviewing family, interviewing friends, going through any computers that he may have accessed. He also went to school in Riverside, California and law enforcement there are doing the same.

Talking to the school officials and any friends that he may have there. One interesting note, a pawnshop in San Diego, in the last few months, a pawn broker said that they had a conversation with Mr. Holmes and that he was asking about guns. He was asking about guns that he might use to protect him in his home and they recommended several of the guns that he used that night. He did not purchase them there, he said.

It would be illegal to purchase guns in Colorado -- in California if you're a Colorado resident, but it's not very clear when exactly he went to California. It sounds like it was very, very recent, fairly recently that he did go to California. They recommended both the Glock and the shotgun to him. Both weapons that were on him in that theater, so it is clear that this guy was thinking about this for quite some time.

One other interesting note is that when his mother was woken up this morning by another news agency and asked about him and whether or not he was her son, she responded, yes, you have the right person. You have the right guy. It's clear that this family probably knew something was amiss with James Holmes -- Don.

LEMON: Hey, Miguel, one quick question for you here, what is the significance of this, because police earlier said they don't believe there was any other actor in this, that he acted alone. What is the significance? Just to try to figure out the background and exactly what his motive might have been to do this?

MARQUEZ: Well certainly his motive, but what they want to know more than anything is did they miss something? Was there some sign out there that had they or some other individual acted on it, could all of this have been prevented, so they want to know everything about this guy. They want to know where he was, what he did, who he talked to, and what he was thinking, all the way along to see if he ever left any crumb, any, anything that might lead investigators to think we could have stopped it here. Individuals, citizens, could have stopped it here. Very, very important background to know -- Don.

LEMON: Miguel Marquez, keep digging. Thank you, good information. I'm going to go now to CNN's Jim Spellman who has even more. A 24-year-old student of neurosciences at the University of Colorado. He had withdrawn --


JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He was in the process of withdrawing just over the last month or so and his building access had been taken away. We're told that he was withdrawing voluntarily but we don't yet know why. He stood out also in his neighborhood, this grad student. Obviously, got to be a bright guy to be studying neuroscience, but in his neighborhood, it was kind of a working class neighborhood, sometimes with some trouble, sometimes even with some drug activity.

I spoke with a man named Jackie Mitchell (ph) who had beers with him just Tuesday night. He said not only did he not seem violent at all, but he definitely stuck out in the neighborhood. Take a listen.


SPELLMAN: Did he ever strike you as someone who might be violent?

JACK MITCHELL, ACQUAINTANCE OF JAMES HOLMES: No, no, no, not, I couldn't tell he was violent, no, you would never guess (INAUDIBLE) face but you would never guess he was (INAUDIBLE), nerdish. You know, you know kind of bookish, book smart type guy, you know. Backpack, the sunglasses, you know, the James (ph) loafers. You know, he wasn't like he was going (INAUDIBLE) kill anybody.


SPELLMAN: Don, we know that he studied substance abuse, schizophrenia, and issues like that in his classes. We have no idea yet whether any of this is really relevant to what was going on with him but we know that that's the kind of stuff he was studying.

LEMON: And no idea why he would withdraw and nothing?

SPELLMAN: No idea yet. We've spoken to the university and we've spoken to people that were also in that program, but we just have no indication of that at this point.

LEMON: And you mentioned the neighborhood where you spoke to the gentleman, the working class neighborhood where this guy, where James Holmes lived. It's just across the street from the hospital complex where most of these victims were taken to. I mean it's just a very small area where all of this happened. What else are they digging into? Are they trying to figure out -- are they looking at student records? Are they releasing anything --

SPELLMAN: They're not releasing anything but they're definitely going to go through all of that stuff and find out if anywhere in his studies something maybe came up that's going to give them the clues to what happened. You're right about this neighborhood. This whole complex right here the movie theater and the shopping center, students have told us that this is where they frequented. This is an area where they would come, so it's entirely possible that he came here to this movie theater himself. Even people in that neighborhood were excited to come see this "Batman" movie. Some of them were even going to come that very night including the man I spoke to that had beers with him Tuesday.

LEMON: Jim Spellman, thank you very much. Stand by. We'll get back to Jim as he gets more information. In the meantime, we talked about that neighborhood where James Eagan Holmes lived and that the SWAT team has been there, trying to get in all day, gingerly doing that, looking in -- you can see them up on the fire truck ladders. They don't want to blow themselves up. They don't want to blow the entire neighborhood up, because this suspect says he had booby-trapped the entire apartment. At that complex now, CNN's Kyung Lah, she is there getting new information. What are you learning Kyung?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're hearing the very same thing and suspicions from the people who live here at this apartment complex. Now the apartment is right over my right shoulder. And we spoke to a woman who lives right underneath. She lives right below the suspect's apartment and she said she normally never heard any sounds. But then suddenly at midnight, some very loud techno music suddenly came on. Here's what she told us.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It suddenly came on, yes, like somebody started up a party, which was so unusual because we didn't hear people up there.

LAH: He wasn't -- he couldn't have been there, do you think it was set on a timer?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do believe it was set on a timer especially considering the events that I now know transpired in that amount of time.


LAH: So why the timer? The timer, because the neighbors and law enforcement officials, talking to CNN, believe that it was set so that the first responders would come in, trip the wire and then whatever is inside that apartment complex would then perhaps injure the first responders, so that's why we're seeing so much care, so much caution as they move closer inside that apartment.

But we also spoke to other people in the neighborhood. And we're getting a sense of the reach here, not just to this community, this apartment complex where people have been evacuated. We spoke to a man who not only has evacuated but his own son was inside the movie theater when the shooting began and he became quite emotional as he was speaking with us. Here's what he told us.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think -- I don't know. I'm still in shock, you know.

LAH: Lay it out for me. How did it impact your life in two different ways?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I almost lost my son today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course we're upset especially John because he could have lost Luke. You know because Luke was at the movie theater and then all of a sudden we find out this guy lives next door to us in the next building.


LAH: And Luke is that man's son. That's why they're becoming so emotional. This is still, Don, a very active scene even though we're not seeing a lot of officers going in and out of there because it is still a very dangerous scene -- Don.

LEMON: Kyung, if you can describe to our viewers this area that you're in because I was actually surprised. I was driving around the hospital complex, University of Colorado Hospital complex looking to park to try to go talk to people and then all of a sudden I came upon the apartment complex which is just on the other side of the street, very close proximity that this young man lived to this hospital.

LAH: Very close proximity and this is a bit of a walking community from what the residents tell us. A lot of students who live in this apartment building, you know, there are some complaints from some of the residents that this is perhaps a noisy apartment complex, that they've had some minor crime issues, but generally a walking community, a lot of students who are here. People even saw this young man going in and out of his apartment and just describe him as any other student on first blush. So it really has caught a lot of people -- and really alarmed a lot of people here.

LEMON: Absolutely and as well it would anyone. Thank you very much, Kyung Lah and folks there today were -- most of them were outside looking at police, those who hadn't been evacuated and of course that entire area -- a couple of blocks in that area cordoned off. They had to evacuate people and again the bomb squad going through the suspect's apartment at least trying to get inside the suspect's apartment without blowing themselves up and blowing up an entire neighborhood.

On the other side of the break, back to the scene of the crime here at this movie theater. We're going to talk to people who were inside and who survived this nightmare.


LEMON: I'm Don Lemon. Back now live at the scene of that horrific shooting last night that happened inside the theater over my shoulder. We're going to get back to all the breaking coverage on this, but first let's check in with CNN's John Avlon. He's back in New York with some of the other stories that we're following for you -- hey John.

AVLON: Hey, Don. We start the second half of our show with stories we care about, where we focus on our own reporting from the front lines. It was a rough day for the stock market. The three major indexes all lost about a percent, the Dow losing 121 points.

Stocks had been up for the last three prior sessions, one reason according to Robert Padlock (ph) of (INAUDIBLE) Partners was the lack of news out of Europe. Well today that changed. Euro zone finance ministers agreed to lend up to $123 billion to Spain in order to help that country bail out its banks.

Local police say they're now treating the case of two missing Iowa girls as an abduction. An FBI team have been searching the lake where the girls' bikes had been found, but a Blackhawk County (ph) chief deputy told reporters investigators are confident that the girls are not in the lake and that they do not believe the girls are lost because if they were they would have been found by now. The two girls, cousins Lyric Cook and Elizabeth Collins, have now been missing for a week.

The U.N. Security Council has renewed its Syrian Observer Mission for an additional 30 days. If the violence, however, does not recede enough for observers (ph) to do their jobs the mission will be withdrawn. The 300-person group monitors special envoy Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan and was supposed to monitor a cease-fire that never happened.

This is what U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice had to say about U.S. involvement in Syria.


SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Given what transpired in the vote yesterday, the U.S. approach will increasingly be to focus our efforts not so much in this council, which has hit a substantive dead end, but also to strengthen and intensify our work with other countries.


AVLON: An opposition group says 215 people were killed in Syrian violence today.

Former President George W. Bush is going to skip the Republican National Convention. In a statement to CNN, his spokesman says, quote, "He supports Governor Romney and wants him to succeed. President Bush is confident that Mitt Romney will be a great president, but he's still enjoying his time off the political stage and respectfully declined the invitation to go to Tampa."

Earlier this week, Bush's father, former President George H.W. Bush, announced he wouldn't be attending the convention either due to health reasons.

That has been 351 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

Well, new data showing 29 states added jobs in June. Unemployment rates however rose in 27 states. Part of the reason we might have seen the increase in unemployment is more people who are out of work started looking for jobs, which increases the size of the labor pool.

Now, let's send it back to Don Lemon in Colorado with more of our breaking news coverage -- Don.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: All right. John, thank you very much. We appreciate that.

We're here at the scene where this horrific shooting happened, just less than 24 hours ago. Of course, we've been reporting all day here on CNN, rolling breaking coverage. A 24-year-old student at the University of Colorado went on a rampage here, allegedly, that's according to police. Witnesses say he came into the theater wearing full riot or combat gear. They couldn't make out who he was, threw two canisters in and then just started shooting up the place.

And, of course, we know now that 12 people are dead. Sadly, 10 of those people, still inside the movie theater. Two of them died at the hospital.

I've been at the hospital today, as well as the suspect's apartment and we have been trying to get more information on exactly what may have motivated the suspect to go on this shooting rampage.

Let's get more now from CNN's Miguel Marquez. He is standing by live in New York.

You're getting more information, Miguel. What are you finding out?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we do know that investigators are fanning out across California. He lived in San Diego. He was also in Riverside, California. He went to U.C., Riverside, where he got a bachelor's of science and neuroscience, there.

Investigators want to speak to everybody who knew this guy -- whether his family, friends, close family and distant family. One of his -- one of his family members has already gone to Colorado, and we are finding out more as well about some of those incendiary and improvised explosive devices that this individual was using.


MARQUEZ (voice-over): The attack started around 12:30 a.m. Within minutes, 911 operators flooded with calls.

AURORA, CO FIRE DEPT DISPATCH: We just are having units get into the scene now. There may still be somebody actively shooting.

MARQUEZ: Authorities say within two minutes, first responders were on the scene but quickly realize it wasn't just guns they had to worry about.

AURORA, CO FIRE DEPT DISPATCH: PD is stating they that have gas being sprayed inside the theater. Do you guys have gas masks?

MARQUEZ: Police say the suspected shooter, 24-year-old James Holmes, set off two devices, canisters, that didn't explode but smoked, causing victims to choke. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was pre-planned, it was well-planned, and very well-executed.

MARQUEZ: Holmes so meticulously planned his attack, he booby trapped his apartment with incendiary devices and trip wires.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was going to cover his tracks this way with the booby trap.

MARQUEZ: Officials say improvised explosive devices are becoming all too common.

From the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, to the bombings in London and Madrid. Improvised explosive devices are a threat at home. Many of them can be made with recipes from the Internet and chemicals and materials found in any hardware store.


MARQUEZ: The FBI has been teaching courses --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What color's the smoke? Look at the brightness of the flames.

MARQUEZ: -- on bomb making and the way bombs work.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've seen a rise of improvised explosives. People go with what they can get.

MARQUEZ: Bomb 101 is for government employees, first responders at all levels.

Kathleen Jaules (ph) is an FBI bomb technician in Los Angeles. She says with lone wolves rarely will it be law enforcement that catches them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's going to be the retail clerks and the companies that manufacture these. The lab supply companies.

MARQUEZ: Law enforcement educating themselves, trying to keep up -- a race of the growing threat of homemade bombs.


LEMON: Miguel, interesting story there.

Of course, we never want this to happen, but when these incidents do happen, there's concern about copycats. Tell us about what investigators and what authorities believe about that. How concerned are they?

MARQUEZ: Well, they're certainly going to be concerned about copycats. But at the moment, they're mostly concerned with trying to figure out exactly how this guy -- what he's done, essentially, what is in that apartment, what sort of bombs has he set in there. Are they simply incendiary? Is there something they're missing, or are they explosives?

It's very, very interesting that the authorities did not rush into that apartment. They were very, very cautious, using optical cables to look in there at first. They'll probably send in some robots or some sort of robotic instruments at some point, trying to defuse or figure out exactly what this guy has said in there. Another indication of just how far he has gone in order to plan this attack.

And, I mean -- the other thing about his apartment is why would he set the bombs in the apartment? Was he trying to cover his tracks as the former NYPD bomb technician says? Or was he trying to injure police officers and other first responders as they came in? And did he say anything to them about a surprise they were going to get at his apartment?

Or is this guy just staying quiet and, you know, he has -- he's going to pay the ultimate price. It wouldn't matter if others got injured as they try to enter his apartment -- Don.

LEMON: It's definitely something when you hear about the booby trapped apartment, it's like something you see in the movies or on a crime drama in television every night, one of those "CSI" crime dramas.

Thank you, Miguel Marquez. Stand by. We'll get back to you if you get more information.

Let's go back inside the shooting now because witnesses of today's shooting rampage at the Colorado movie theater, they described the scene as a complete terror scene and one of chaos. The panicked moviegoers, of course, scrambled to escape as this gunman James Holmes randomly shot at the crowd as he walked up the theater steps.

Trey Martin (ph) joins me and also Dejaunte Harris (ph). They were inside the theater when the shooting happened.

So, Trey, how close were you to the door when this gunman came in?

TREY MARTIN, WITNESS: We were about 15, maybe 16 rows up from the front of the screen, where the man walked in. He came in from right-hand side. We were on the left.

When he first opened the door, no one knew how to react. It was very strange, out of the ordinary. He opened it and just like took a big stare into the audience, just looked at everybody.

LEMON: Really? Dejaunte, you said you thought it was part of the production, right?

DEJAUNTE HARRIS, WITNESS: Because it looked like he kind of dressed like Bane, a character in the movie, so I thought it was an act, part of the show. So I didn't really pay attention to it until after I heard the first bang of the tear gas.

LEMON: Yes, so when you heard the first bang, is that when you realized this is something else?

HARRIS: It's not a game.

LEMON: Did people immediately start to duck or did most in the theater think it was part of the production, part of just the festivities here?

MARTIN: Well, after the first tear bomb went off, actually, went off right in front of us. It hit a poor lady that was sitting right in front of us. It sat there for a few seconds before it exploded. Once it exploded, the shards, like, cut everybody.

When people start getting cut by the pieces of the canister, that's when people knew how serious it was going to be. That's when people started to duck.

LEMON: And then people started to fall because the gunfire started to hit them?

HARRIS: Like, trampled. A lady had her arms crossed in one of the stair rows --

LEMON: Go ahead.

HARRIS: A lady was laid out, one of the stairs with her arms crossed, eyes closed, motionless. So -- I had to step over her. I didn't know what was wrong with her.

LEMON: Yes. All right, thank you, guys, thank you very much. Thank you very much Dejaunte and also Trey, we really appreciate it. We're glad you guys are safe. We're sad about the others.

Did you know any of the other folks who died?

MARTIN: We went to school with a few of them, our prayers out to them. We have to stay strong, come together as a community to get through this. It's a horrible horrific act. But we can't let one man with a messed up mind ruin the lives of so many innocent, like, wonderful people.

LEMON: Thank you very much. Of course, our sentiments and our thoughts. The world's thoughts are with you guys and with the families of the victims here.

We're going to be back in just a moment. We'll explore more of the story. Drew Griffin, our investigative reporter, standing by. Miguel Marquez standing by in New York as well. Kyung Lah is at the apartment complex where this alleged shooter lived and also Jim Spellman following up on his school activities at the University of Colorado.

Back in a moment, live from Aurora, Colorado.


LEMON: Back, now, live, in Aurora, Colorado. So buying this equipment this alleged gunman used, as easy as going online to buy a shirt or anything. Some of them he bought online. Some of them he bought at sporting good store like he would buy a bait and tackle.

Our Drew Griffin, our investigative reporter, is here now.

So, Drew, the things he used to cover himself. He bought it online and you have dug up a receipt.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: We were able to contact the company where he bought it, it's a tactical gear company in Missouri, and they actually heard about this shooting, wondered if any of this gear could have been brought from them. They went to their records and they found a shipment to this very person, James Holmes. We have the receipt I think we can show you. It was purchased, Don, on July 2nd, $306.79.

Some of the items: urban assault vest, triple pistol magazine, M- 16 magazine pouch and something called a "Be Wharned" knife. If we have the photos of that, you'd be able to see they're all colored in black, which fits the description of the -- that was given by the witnesses.

LEMON: You say a photo of the gun?

GRIFFIN: Not the gun. This is the vest.

LEMON: The vest.

GRIFFIN: This would be a pistol magazine and a belt that you would put extra magazines in, and then an actual knife, it's like a sheath, hunting knife, with a big black handle.

LEMON: July 2nd he did this. So in the investigation, investigators will say he was planning this. He bought this on this date. This was premeditated.

GRIFFIN: It's thought out. This is not unheard of, Don. In Virginia Tech massacre, which we both covered. At the Gabrielle Giffords shooting down in Tucson, Arizona, we see the same type of suspect. Plotting, planning, buying, purchasing, getting ready, and then executing.

LEMON: And we're going to talk a little bit more about the politics of this. I'm going to go to John Avlon in a bit.

But you have been covering this and you know when something like this happens, you know gun rights advocates and people who are against it, all them are going to be -- it's going to be political and they're going to talk about -- we're going to go over tooth and nail what should -- should you be able to buy guns in a sporting goods store? What should the process be? How long before you actually get it?

GRIFFIN: You know, I don't think I'm fit to answer that question. I will tell you -- LEMON: Well, that's the debate.

GRIFFIN: -- those questions, when they came up before, the root cause of a lot of this stuff has been mental illness and a failure to recognize it. We're seeing young men secretly going insane? And, you know, maybe there's warning signs that in hindsight you could have seen. We're not seeing any of that in this case yet it but it was mental illness.

And then you would say easily accessible, legally purchased guns. This guy passed the checks.

LEMON: All right. Our Drew Griffin getting more information by the minute here. Thank you very much. Drew, stand by.

You know, the mayor of the biggest city in the country demands more from the presidential candidates on gun control. We've been talking about the politics. Listen.


MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK: Soothing words are nice, but maybe it's time that the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they're going to do about it, because this is obviously a problem across the country.


LEMON: Well, the nation's largest lobby to prevent gun violence, the Brady campaign, echoed that sentiment. Here's what they said, quote, "This tragedy is another grim reminder that guns are the enablers of mass killers and that our nation pays an unacceptable price for our failure to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. We don't want sympathy, we want action."

CNN contributor John Avlon back now in New York.

So, John, are the candidates stances on guns, what are they? Tell us about them. And how are they reacting, if at all, today?

AVLON: Sure. Well, President Obama, for example, supports strengthening some gun laws, except his campaign, his administration, offers no specifics.

Romney doesn't support adding or strengthening gun laws at all. When he was governor, he actually signed an assault weapons ban. But when you run for president of the Republican Party, you make your pilgrimage down to the NRA, the National Rifle Association.

So the reality is, despite a lot of anxiety about gun laws, activists on both sides very engaged, no new proposals to deal with gun violence or attempts to strengthen gun laws from either candidate.

LEMON: The president came out today first, John, and spoke and then Mitt Romney and both campaigns took down their ads in Colorado today and both candidates changed plans for today. Both addressed the shootings instead of campaigning.

OK. So here's what they said. Listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are going to be other days for politics. This I think is a day for prayer and reflection.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a time for each of us to look into our hearts and remember how much we love one another. And how much we love and how much we care for our great country.


LEMON: So, John, I had -- I was listening and listening. I'm sure many people around the country were listening as well. No mention of gun regulations.

Did that surprise you?

AVLON: No, because frankly, talking about gun laws right now, Don, has become politically incorrect. This is a conversation we are not having in this country. Despite the fact some 10,000 people are killed with guns each year in the United States too often with these kinds of mass shootings. Even conversations about how we can respect the Second Amendment but take reasonable steps to extend background checks, to take a look at extended magazines that allow numerous rounds to be put in place that can kill large numbers of people in short periods of time. That conversation is not happening in politics because it's considered politically dangerous.

It does us a disservice.

LEMON: Right.

AVLON: We have one hand tied behind our back to deal with what's objectively a problem, mass gun violence.

LEMON: And, of course, we know the gun lobby in Washington very influential, very influential, John.

AVLON: It certainly is. The spending I think actually is clarifying for some people. People might not appreciate the National Rifle Association spends around 10 times the amount that a gun -- a gun group like the Brady advocacy does. So you've got a 10 to 1 split there.

So, it's very much an imbalance. And that of course affects what politics do. That affects what they're willing to say.

The last president to really take on the NRA was Bill Clinton back in 1994, as you'll remember, who passed successfully that assault weapons ban which subsequently lapsed.

So, we haven't seen actions since then and it's in part due to this disparity about money and influence in Washington.

LEMON: John Avlon in New York -- John, thank you very much. Appreciate that.

You know, this movie, "The Dark Knight Rises," this Batman movie, one of the most anticipated movies. It was to make millions and millions of dollars for the production company. It probably still will but there have been some changes to the showings. Some have been canceled. And among other things, no more costumes at those screenings.

We're back in a moment with more on that.


LEMON: You know, the tragedy in Colorado here has caused Warner Brothers to change some of its plans for promoting "The Dark Knight Rises." The film's Paris premiere was canceled as were interviews with the actors and the filmmakers. Warner Brothers has also pulled the trailer for "Gangsters Squad" from theaters. The clip features a scene in which gunmen enter a movie theater and they just start shooting.

It's not just Warner Brothers though. AMC theaters will be banning people wearing costumes from entering. The company says it's doing it so that other guests in the theater are not made to feel, quote, "uncomfortable".

And despite all of this, though, "The Dark Knight Rises", the screenings will not be canceled due to the shooting. There's a good reason for that. It is profitable.

The number tonight: $30,600,000. That is the estimated amount "The Dark Knight Rises" made on midnight screenings, the second highest late night opening of all time, second highest of all time. The record holder is, of course, "Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2," which is $53.5 million.

I want to tell you before I leave you tonight that on Monday, Erin Burnett will be back here and she'll be joining us from the war- torn country -- from war-torn Mali. Amnesty International says the country is experiencing the worst human rights situation in 50 years.

But before I go, I want to show you something that's happening here. It is eerily quiet here. And as you can see over my shoulder, the firemen are up and they are looking over this theater which has been, of course, closed and police tape now surrounds it -- a theater where so many people, 12 people, lost their lives. As we've been reporting all day here on CNN, it is the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

As we leave you tonight, I want you to think about your loved ones. Hug them close. Tell them you love them.

We're going to continue with our coverage here on CNN with Anderson Cooper and "A.C. 360." It's up next.