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Seventy-One Shot in Colorado Theater Massacre; Witness to Theater Massacre

Aired July 20, 2012 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: We're following the breaking news this hour, that deadly shooting spree inside a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado, that's right outside of Denver.

Police say a 24-year-old heavily armed PhD student wearing a gas mask and body armor went on a rampage inside a midnight showing of the new Batman film shooting 71 people, killing 12 of them.

He was arrested within minutes leaving behind not only a scene of horror inside the theatre, but also a death trap in his apartment rigged with explosive and chemical devices and trip wires.

We're covering all angles of the breaking news this hour. We'll go live to the scene in Colorado in just a moment.

But first, CNN's Lisa Sylvester has more on how the horror unfolded.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 315 and 314 for a shooting at Century Theaters. 14, 300 East Alameda Avenue. They're saying somebody is shooting in the auditorium.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've got another person outside shot in the leg, a female. I've got people running out of the theater.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I've got seven down in Theater Nine. Seven down.

SYLVESTER: It seemed too unreal for words.


JENNIFER SEEGER, SHOOTING WITNESS: All you hear is just gunfire left and right. Any time somebody tried to just get up and run away, he would just shoot them. He didn't have a specific agenda. He was just shooting people left and right.

TANNER COON, SHOOTING WITNESS: Once I heard the -- the flashes, I heard more of the shots. I realized that this is real. I told my friends, you know, you've got to get down, get on the floor.

So we went in front of our seats and just curled down on the floor and hoped for the best. We heard the -- the gunner stop for a long period of time. I saw some people starting to run and didn't hear anymore shots. So I was like, you know, we need to go, we need to go.

I stood up, kind of noticed somebody on the side who was just sitting there still kind of drooped over. And I was like, OK, he's gone -- I mean he -- he's dead.

CHRIS RAMOS, SHOOTING WITNESS: We heard like fireworks sounds, like bam, bam. And then that's when everything gets crazy. It goes rapid, like bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam. The guy right next to me actually gets -- like he gets shot. And, like, I hear like the noise of it, like a splash noise. And he just jerks. And it just happens fast. And then I just ducked down with my sister.


SYLVESTER: Police say 24-year-old James Holmes went to the rear door of the theater, propped it open and tossed some kind of a smoke canister in the packed screening of the "Dark Knight" movie. He then opened fire, shooting a total 71 people, killing 12 of them.


DAN OATES, POLICE CHIEF, AURORA, COLORADO: Mr. Holmes was apprehended outside his white Hyundai, parked in the back of the theater. And he was apprehended with three weapons in the car. And one was left at the scene inside the theater.

The weapons are as follow -- an AR-15 assault rifle, a Remington .870 shotgun, a 12 gauge shotgun and a .40 caliber Glock handgun.


SYLVESTER: The victims include Jessica Ghawi. She had eerily survived a mass shooting at a mall in Canada last month. Ghawi was at the movies with her friend, Brent Lowak, who was also shot. Lowak's dad says he's expected to live. The harder thing will be recovering from the loss of Jessica.


LARRY LOWAK, FATHER OF SHOOTING VICTIM BRENT LOWAK: God, it's terrible what happened to her. I mean to be just gunned down right there. And there was nothing that anybody could do about it.


SYLVESTER: It's left families heartbroken and a community in sorrow.


GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER (D), COLORADO: Think about it being your child in that movie theater, your cousin's child, your neighbor's child. And that reality makes the pain and the grief too intense for words. But -- but we can't let it keep us from our lives. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SYLVESTER: James Holmes was in the process of withdrawing from the neuroscience Ph.D program at the University of Colorado. His only prior run-in with Aurora police was a speeding ticket.

Lisa Sylvester, CNN.


BLITZER: CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Aurora, Colorado for us right now.

It's clearly a city in shock.

I know about 300,000 people live in that Denver suburb -- Ed, give us a little flavor of the mood.

How awful is it?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, I mean I think people are just simply, you know, flabbergasted. I mean waking up to this news, many people waking up this morning, if they didn't hear about it when it was first breaking last night. I think, you know, people are still kind of staggered by -- by what has transpired here.

Of course, we all know very well what happened in -- in Columbine. And I've heard from -- from several people who, you know, who -- who thought back to -- to that tragic day, as well, when those students were -- were -- were gunned down in -- in their own school.

So I think, you know, the Denver community, the Denver region very sensitive to -- to these -- to these types of stories. And I would imagine that what has happened here today kind of rekindles those horrible memories -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The movie theater, the whole complex obviously closed. They're going through it. The investigation is clearly just beginning right now.

This is a community, though, that has had very little violence over the years. I did some checking -- not many shootings, not many in -- certainly nothing like this, this being the worst shooting incident in U.S. history. Not the deadliest, but, clearly, more people shot -- 71 people shot -- than any other shooting incident in U.S. history.

LAVANDERA: And I think people are even are more stunned by the fact that when, you know, the little that we've learned about the suspect in this case, 24-year-old James Holmes, that what authorities are telling us so far, that the -- the worst violation that he had was a speeding ticket dating back to -- to last year. So, you know, hardly anything that would have raised any red flags, especially when we're learning the details to the lengths to which he appears to have -- have planned out this attack.

It appears to have been in the works for a long time. We've learned from a law enforcement source that the four guns that he brought here to this movie theater were purchased legally within the last six months. He was decked out in -- in assault gear, covered, essentially, from -- protected from head to toe, a great deal of thought. Booby trapping his -- his own apartment complex, which authorities are -- are still dealing with right now, Wolf. So a great deal of thought and planning clearly went -- went into all of this. And no one knew anything about it.

BLITZER: Ed Lavandera on the scene for us.

Ed, thank you.

There were immediate concerns about possible ties to terrorism. But the police say they strongly believe no one was involved in this crime except the suspect, James Holmes.


OATES: We are not looking for any other suspects. We are confident that he acted alone. However, we will do a thorough investigation to be absolutely sure that that is the case. But at this time, we are confident that he acted alone.

I'm not going to get into why he did what he did. We simply are -- that's not something we're prepared to discuss.


BLITZER: Eyewitnesses are recounting a scene of terror and chaos, including tear gas, bullets flying, people literally running for their lives.

Paul Otermat saw it all unfold.

He and his girlfriend were inside that movie theater watching the new Batman film.

Paul, first of all, tell me how you and your girlfriend are doing.

PAUL OTERMAT, THEATER MASSACRE SURVIVOR: We're doing OK. We're still like processing everything. We're not exactly sure what's going on. But it was a horrific experience.

BLITZER: Were either of you hit by gunfire?

OTERMAT: No, we weren't. But the -- the shooter came into the right hand side, where the emergency exit was. And we were on the left hand side in the third row. He threw a tear gas over us. It landed behind us. And -- and then he opened fire with a shotgun.

We fell to the floor and we dragged ourselves out. And I -- I had Pam behind me. She dropped her phone and another vic -- and another victim of this returned it to us later today -- or earlier today. And that was really nice.

But we were scrambling out the door. And -- and he said, the man who retrieved our phone, that -- that after -- he was leaving right after us -- that the people behind him got shot on the way out. So he was shooting at the exits. And he started in the middle of the crowd. And we could tell it was tear gas, because I could feel it in my eyes and my lungs right away. And -- and our lungs burned for a good half an hour afterwards.

BLITZER: So you -- you and your girlfriend, you basically crawled up that aisle to the exit at the -- at the top of the theater, is that what you're saying?

OTERMAT: The -- the exits were on the -- on the bottom. And that's why we were able to get out so qui -- so easily. But everybody -- everybody in the -- the upper decks, they had a long -- they had a hard time getting out of there. And that's probably why so many people got injured.

BLITZER: What went through your mind when you first, you know, saw the -- saw what was going on and you could hear gunfire?

Did you think that was real or part of the film?

What was going through your mind?

OTERMAT: When he first walked through and we noticed that he was covered in full flak gear, basically, a gas mask and all that, I didn't know what to think. I thought it might have been a -- like a theater trick, to tell you the truth. And -- but after he threw the tear gas, we knew right away that something was really awful. And -- and when he opened fire, we just ducked down and we got out of there as quickly as possible. It was a...

BLITZER: Could you see his face?

I know he was wearing a gas mask, but could you see his eyes, for example, or were you too far away or was it too dark?

OTERMAT: Well, he was -- he was a little far away. We could see the -- the goggle gear and I could see the whole mask and everything. But underneath, it was -- it was a very darkroom. I thought he was firing a shotgun, but I wasn't exactly sure. And we didn't get a good look at his face because he had -- he had all that -- he was -- he was decked out.

BLITZER: And I -- I understand it was obviously chaotic, people screaming, people crying. Walk us through a little bit what -- what you were hearing if you were -- if you will, as you tried to escape.

OTERMAT: When we were crawling out of the theater, there was a lot of screaming. As soon as the first shot was fired, everyone was screaming and it -- it was a real panic.

We -- after we exited the -- the theater and we were running through the lobby toward the exit -- toward the -- the main exit, we heard more shots fired and more screaming. And when we got outside, we met somebody who was right there, right in front of where he was, a man named Isaac. And he -- we gave him a ride home to the -- the Buckley Air Force Base. And he didn't know what happened to his friends. And I hope he -- I hope he reconnected with them.

BLITZER: Paul Otermat, thanks so much for sharing some of these obviously painful moments for us.

Appreciate it very much.

OTERMAT: Well, thank you.

Thank you for covering it.

BLITZER: What a story, what a horrendous, horrendous story.

Susan Candiotti is joining us right now.

She's getting some new information on the weapons that were used in this deadly assault -- Susan, what are you learning?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I've learned that, according to a law enforcement source, that authorities have now confirmed that it was the suspect, James Holmes, who purchased the weapons that were allegedly used in this -- in these mass shootings here.

We are told that the guns were purchased in May, June and July of this year at those locations you may already have heard about, some stores in the Denver area, three different stores.

Now, normally, what they do is they check videotape, also, at these stores to make sure that that is the same person. We believe that that has been done. We're still waiting for confirmation on that. That is standard operating procedure in this case.

The other bit of new information, Wolf, has to do with the apartment which you know police have described as having been booby-trapped by the suspect.

I am being told by a law enforcement source that, in fact, when he left his apartment, that Holmes had left loud techno music blaring in his apartment. It was set on a timer. And law enforcement sources believe that the thought behind this was that if someone called to complain on the apartment that, perhaps, either they or police might have entered the apartment, setting off those trip wires and perhaps badly injuring themselves, perhaps even blowing themselves up -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So that music started playing, when did you say?

When was it set to start playing, that techno music blaring?

CANDIOTTI: Well, before he left his apartment, apparently, according to authorities, before he headed over to that movie theater, he set the music on a timer so that it was blaring, just blasting through the apartment and into the apartment building. That, perhaps, might have prompted a few people to complain about it. And if they had taken the trouble to go into the building, either into his apartment, rather, either they or police, they might have set off those trip wires...

BLITZER: Yes. So that...

CANDIOTTI: -- the booby traps.

BLITZER: -- that music was probably blaring at least for an hour before police -- police got over there. The police went there, I take it, Susan, because the suspect in this particular case, as he was arrested trying to get to his car right outside that movie theater, told them that his apartment was booby-trapped with explosive devices, isn't that right?

CANDIOTTI: Well, he had told them, according to what I am told -- was -- was told, is that he said that he had left explosives behind. Whether he also said that he had booby-trapped it or -- or left trip wires behind, that much is not known.

But certainly, when they got over there and started looking into that building, peering into those windows, poking out those windows and eventually climbing in, they could see those trip wires. And, also, I am told, they also discovered all kinds of hazardous materials, including gasoline canisters, that were left inside.

And, in fact, the police chief had something to say about that, if we have that sound ready.

BLITZER: We don't, but we will get it.


BLITZER: We will get it ready.

You've -- you basically identified three of the weapons allegedly used in this incident, three or -- because the police chief had mentioned two pistols, one shotgun, one assault -- assault rifle, if you will.

You're talking about three that were legally purchased in May, June and July, is that right?

CANDIOTTI: Actually, there were four that were legally purchased in May, June and July at three different stores in the Denver location. If I wasn't clear about that earlier, that's certainly what we have learned.

So it was those four weapons at three different stores legally purchased by the suspect in this case.

They're, of course, checking videos at those store locations to see whether his -- his image is also captured making those buys. And so, yes, we're hearing about the AR-15, that semiautomatic that was equipped with a drum magazine, Wolf, that can hold more than 100 rounds.

But that wasn't all. We also know about the 12 gauge shotgun and two .40 caliber Glocks which are equipped with magazines. It's not clear how many rounds they held.

And back in the vehicle, back at the movie theater where he surrendered, where police caught up with him, a source says it was filled with ammunition and with gun magazines, quoting here, "It was everywhere."

And, of course, as you indicated, in the one bedroom apartment, all those booby traps with explosives left behind, hazardous materials and the like. Police are saying that it could take them a very long time to go through all of this so that they can make that apartment safe to move in.

BLITZER: Yes. It's going to take a long time.

Susan Candiotti, thanks for that information.

We're also getting other information about the suspect in this massacre, James Holmes, where he grew up, what he was like.

We're digging deeper.

Our reporters are on the scene.

And his family releasing a statement. We're live outside their home in San Diego, as our breaking news coverage continues.

And a new picture of President Obama in the White House Situation -- in his own limousine, I should say. There he is right there. The president getting briefed on what's going on in Aurora, Colorado.


BLITZER: And a new picture of President Obama in the White House situation -- in his own limousine, I should say. There he is right there. The president getting briefed on what's going on in Aurora, Colorado.


BLITZER: A federal law enforcement source tells CNN the gunman got into the movie theater through a rear door, which he had propped open. Today's horrible events show just how vulnerable public places like movie theaters, restaurants, shopping malls can be. CNN intelligence correspondent, Suzanne Kelly, has this report.


SUZANNE KELLY, CNN INTELLIGENCE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From Los Angeles to New York to Washington, D.C., law enforcement agencies are stepping up security at public places in light of the Colorado shooting.

ASST. CHIEF LAMAR GREENE, METROPOLITAN DC POLICE: The Metropolitan Police Department will be paying close attention to our movie theaters located throughout Washington, D.C.

KELLY: Shopping malls, movie theaters, law enforcement has a name for them, soft targets. PATRICK DEVLIN, MSA SECURITY: Soft target is really anything that's around us particularly in an urban environment like New York, Chicago, L.A. Soft targets -- I took a soft target coming to your offices (ph) today in the subway system.

KELLY: Former NYPD Lt. Com Patrick Devlin worked in the department counterterrorism and threat reduction division, thinking of ways to protect those soft targets.

DEVLIN: A lot of attention was paid to the hospitality sector, hotels and the such in understanding what they had in place to mitigate the threat of an active shooter.

KELLY: CNN obtained a security checklist issued today by the Department of Homeland Security to theater owners. Confirm that all staff members understand signs of surveillance. Confirm the new employees have been properly trained. They've also issued guidance to local law enforcement.

Be aware of summer release dates which bring in large crowds, attend staff meetings for theater personnel. Theater goers have a role to play, too.

DEVLIN: The first thing they can do is be aware of where you are, what your surroundings are. When you go into a room, know the nearest way or the best way to get out of that facility. And if possible, even a secondary backup in case that way is not there.

KELLY: And don't think the shooting in its aftermath isn't on the minds of patrons. Though for these movie goers, it's not going to stop them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't really stop yourself from going into public places because of one person. It's one movie theater, and there's millions of them out there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would certainly hope that we don't have to go through a security screening at a movie theater.


BLITZER: Suzanne Kelly with that report. We're following the breaking news. Much more coming up. Twelve people dead, 59 injured. More on the victims of this horrific massacre in Colorado, including the latest on a baby, only four months old inside that theater when the shooting began. Stay with us. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When he walked in, I heard the door open, and then the lights came behind him. And then, I heard a wooshing sound like a disconnected hose. And so, then, as soon as I heard that, he threw what seemed like a smoke grenade. It landed a couple -- four people away from me. And then, by the time it was done spraying and everything and exploded, it was actually underneath me and my friend.

So, it exploded underneath our seats. And then, we realized it was tear gas just by the way our eyes were stinging, and it was hard to breathe. Me and my friend have asthma, so it was more difficult for us to breathe. So, we couldn't move anywhere if we wanted to. Right after that, we just started hearing gunshot after gunshot.

We were just kept our heads down. We heard everybody just keep your heads down, keep your heads down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How did you get out?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, after all the shooting was done, I looked up for a brief second. I saw he was reloading and walking towards the back of the theater, and it arches up. And just saw he was walking back there. And I grabbed my girlfriend and my friend and was like we got to get going because he's reloading. Now's our chance.

And leaving, I saw a guy just laying on the floor. He's covered in blood. And a lot of people ran to help him when the guy was reloading his weapon. So, we just left. And, a bunch of people left at that time.


BLITZER: Another eyewitness sharing the story of what happened inside that theater. We're also getting new information about the guns used in the Colorado theater massacre. CNN crime and justice correspondent, Joe Johns, is here. He's working this part of the story. You're getting some new information, Joe. What are you learning?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. We have essentially learned that the guns used by James Holmes (ph) were purchased legally in Colorado within the past six months. The four guns were bought at three different stores that were no more than a ten to 20-minute drive from his apartment.

They were big outdoor sports chains that sell a wide variety of guns, Gander Mountain, and Bass Pro Shops. Here are the guns he bought according to federal authorities, a semi-automatic Smith & Wesson AR- 15 rifle, a Remington 12-gauge shotgun, two 40-caliber GLOCK handguns.

Authorities also recovered a so-called drum magazine capable of holding up to 100 rounds for the assault rifle. And as we learned from Aurora's police chief, it's clear that Holmes, in a way, was dressed to kill.


CHIEF DAN OATES, AURORA, COLORADO POLICE: The suspect was dressed all in black. He was wearing a ballistic helmet, a tactical ballistic vest, ballistic leggings, a throat protector, and a groin protector, and a gas mask, and black tactical gloves.

(END VIDEO CLIP) JOHNS: Now, police say the suspect set off canisters of some kind of gas or smoke that's been described as an irritant, then he started shooting. He was armed to the teeth and that there apparently was nothing in James Holmes' past -- talking about his clean criminal record now, that would bar him from legally buying a gun.

The only thing they could find on him was a traffic ticket, apparently. But when they went to his apartment, they found it was booby trapped, music was on a timer possibly intended to lure people inside, authorities said. Here's how the Aurora police chief put it.


OATES: They appeared to be incendiary devices. There are some chemical elements there, and there are also some incendiary elements that are linked together with all kinds of wires. As a layman, it's not something I've never seen before. We have a lot of very smart bomb techs up there trying to figure out what we're going to do.


JOHNS: After a lot of shootings like this, you often get renewed debate over gun control, at least, part of the discussion now could -- could turn to so-called assault weapons and drum magazines, which, Wolf, as you know, has been a big issue from time to time.

BLITZER: A huge issue, but based on everything you're learning, Susan Candiotti, Ed Lavandera, all of our reporters are learning, it was totally legal for this 24-year-old allegedly to go out there and buy all these rather sophisticated weapons.

JOHNS: Absolutely. It appears he had a very clean record. That's what the authorities told us, especially there in Colorado. We tried to find more about whether he was completely clean in California, for example. Also seemed to be a very smart individual, obviously, you know, a Ph.D. candidate who was sort of stepping away from the university.

BLITZER: And you mentioned the Bass Pro Shops where the suspect allegedly bought some of these weapons if not all of them. We have a statement now from bass pro shops. Let me put it up on the screen. "We want to offer our deepest sympathies to the victims and their families. This is an unspeakable tragedy. And we will join with all Americans in offering our prayerful support."

We don't have the graphic, but I'll read it anyhow. "Based on the records we have reviewed, personnel in our Denver store correctly and fully followed all federal requirements with respect to the sale of one shotgun and one handgun to the individual identified in this incident. Background checks as required by federal law were properly conducted, and he was approved."

The Bass Pro Shops statement ends with this, "Again, our hearts go out to the victims and their families. We also offer our support and appreciation to the law enforcement and emergency response professionals and all others who responded to give aid to these innocent victims."

JOHNS: And Wolf, I just wanted to say we've been talking to the state bureau of investigation in Colorado. They have a list of something like nine different criteria by which a person asking for a gun could be banned or not receive that gun. And I've talked it through with them.

It doesn't look like the suspect would have fit any of those. You know, things like being a felon or being judged insane or being an arrestee of some kind. A variety of different criteria. It doesn't appear that he'd fit any of them.

BLITZER: The only thing he had was a speeding ticket.

JOHNS: That's right.

BLITZER: That was the only thing that they can find on him. And he was an honors graduate from the University of California in Riverside. Now, he was a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Colorado in Denver. So, you know, if he walks into Bass Pro Shops or any other gun store in Colorado, he could go buy these kinds of weapons plus the ammunition.

JOHNS: Seemingly a situation very difficult to legislate against, if you will. An individual like this with no record just walking in and buying guns and deciding to do bad things.

BLITZER: Yes. Thanks very much.

We're going to have much more on the victims coming up. We'll take a quick break. More of the breaking news right here in THE SITUATION ROOM right after this.


BLITZER: We got the breaking news, more breaking news coming in. CNN has now learned based on federal law enforcement sources that the man suspected in this Aurora theater mass shooting at the movie theater screening of the new "Batman" film had colored his hair red, told police he was quote, "The Joker," "The Joker", according to this federal law enforcement source with detailed knowledge of the investigation. Once again, at least 12 people were killed in the rampage, 59 people were wounded.

The mug shot of James Holmes has not yet been released. Witnesses to the shooting described him as wearing a gas mask that concealed much of his face and head. But the federal law enforcement sources information about the suspect's appearance fits with the statement from the New York City police commissioner, Ray Kelly, who was briefed by Colorado authorities earlier in the day. Once again, the breaking news the man suspected in the mass shooting had colored his hair red and told police he was "The Joker".

Other breaking news we're following including new details about the suspect in the theater believed -- believed to have killed these 12 people who were simply watching a film wounding 59 others, here's the name of the suspect, James Holmes, a 24-year-old PhD student who attended high school in the San Diego -- San Diego area. His family still lives there. They've released a statement on the shooting. CNN's Casey Wian is outside the family home. Casey, tell our viewers what's going on there.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I got to tell you, what we're learning from people who live near the suspect's parents' home, this is the house behind me, you can see where he lived when he was in high school back in 2004, 2006. This is a suburb of San Diego called Ranchos Penasquitos (ph). It is the type of place where neighbors say people move because the schools here are so good and that information you just gave us about what that suspect told law enforcement there in Colorado certainly doesn't square with what we're learning from neighbors here. We spoke with a next-door neighbor, a man named Tom Mai (ph), who said that in his words James Holmes was a very normal kid and had no rowdy friends.


TOM MAI, NEIGHBOR: A very handsome guy --


MAI: Yes. Clean cut. You know quiet, you know like responsible, helping the family out and study hard.


WIAN: We also spoke with another neighbor who lives very nearby, a woman by the name of Julie Adams (ph). She showed us high school yearbook photos that had the suspect, James Holmes, and her son on the same junior varsity soccer team. She said that her son did not know the suspect very well. Said that really what he could remember that he was a very quiet young man at that time. Now, we do understand that the suspect's mother, Arlene, is still inside the home.

The father was seen earlier today leaving the building with a police escort. Friends and neighbors have been coming by all day long. One woman recently just brought a bunch of food into the house. No one willing to comment on what's going on inside. Of course there have been several members of law enforcement coming and going throughout the day. We also saw two younger men probably mid to early 30's who appeared to be plain clothes detectives of some sort.

They would not speak with us, would not say whether they were from out of town or from the local area. They spent a couple of hours inside the home and then left this area. The family, as you mentioned, did release a statement earlier today saying that their heart goes out to all of those that were affected by this tragedy. And they also said they are cooperating with law enforcement both here in the San Diego area and in Colorado -- Wolf.

BLITZER: An honors graduate, he graduated with highest honors from the University of California in Riverside. The suspect in this case was enrolled in a PhD program in neurosciences at the University of Colorado in Denver. And now CNN has confirmed according to a federal law enforcement source that he had colored his hair red, that he told the police he was quote "The Joker" at the movie screening of the new "Batman" film Friday night allegedly opening up fire killing 12 people, wounding 59 others. Casey thanks very much. I know you're going to get much more on the suspect in this particular case.

We're also learning a lot about the victims inside that Colorado movie theater including a 4-month-old baby. We have new details as our breaking news coverage continues here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: We're getting additional information, brand new information from our Ed Lavandera. He's on the scene. He's at that movie theater complex right now where this mass shooting occurred shortly after midnight today. Ed Lavandera now learning from a law enforcement source working closely with the investigation that the suspect in this case actually purchased a ticket to go into the premier of this "Batman" film. He walked in to the movie theater then allegedly snuck out that exit door, but left that door propped open a little bit.

He went back to his car, which was in the parking lot reportedly geared up as they said, got all the weapons, got all the equipment on him, the gas mask, other stuff. He gathered all those weapons and then he walked back into theater nine at that movie theater through the exit door that he had kept open. That had been one of the big questions that had been unanswered now since we got word early this morning of what happened. How did he manage to get into the theater through an exit door?

Those doors are supposed to be locked, supposed to be unable to enter from the outside. You could leave through the exit door, but you can't get in. Now, according to Ed Lavandera's source working with the investigation, a law enforcement source explaining exactly how the suspect allegedly managed to do this. Pretty sophisticated operation we should say. More of this information coming in. We're going to speak with Ed shortly. But listen to this. This is the mother -- the mother of a 4-month-old injured child who happened to have been in the Colorado theater shooting.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just remember thinking I'm not going to die in here. Me and my kids, we are not going to die in here. I need to get them out. I need to get out. And all I could think was if I stand up he's going to shoot because that's what he was doing. And I was just trying to think how I was going to get my kids out of there.


BLITZER: The child is doing OK we're told. Our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen is joining us now with more on her condition and the condition of other victims. Elizabeth, first of all, what's the latest on this little baby? And I'm particularly concerned about the tear gas. It could be extremely dangerous for little children. ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. It can be much more dangerous for children than for adults. I was actually talking to a doctor who studied a group of children who were exposed to tear gas in Korea years ago and he said their systems are still developing. So it can be much more severe. And also the effects can be more long-lasting. Obviously this baby was discharged, so they felt like this baby was doing OK.

But the doctor I talked to said, you know what, even for a child who's been discharged, you want to follow-up because respiratory damage can be done because their lungs are still developing. And, Wolf, let's talk a bit about what's going on right now. There are still wounded in four area hospitals, 25 people in four area hospitals, nine of them in critical condition -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You know, when you think about that, the parents obviously took that little child to the hospital, the doctors treated the child, the child is now out. But as you say, they have to monitor a 4-month- old child to make sure there's no long-term problems as a result of inhaling that tear gas.

COHEN: That's right. Because you -- those lungs are still developing. That child -- we don't know how close the child was to the canisters that emitted the gas, but I would have to imagine in a confined space that child inhaled some of the gas. And so you want to check and just make sure over time that that child is not -- doesn't have any respiratory problems because, you know, the child breathed in tear gas.

BLITZER: Yes, the mother obviously distraught. Totally understandable. But fortunately I think the child is OK as far as we know. What do we know about the other people? How many other people are still being treated at the various hospitals in the Aurora, Colorado, area?

COHEN: Twenty-five people being treated in four hospitals. Nine of those people are critical.

BLITZER: Nine critical still and when you say critical, is that life- threatening? Will they survive? Do we know how critical they are?

COHEN: You know we don't. They haven't released details, which you know hospitals never do -- you know for the privacy of the patients. But critical means -- as one hospital spokesperson says, critical means we are extremely worried about these patients. I mean, their lives could be on the line.

BLITZER: I know you've been watching all of this. There are also reports a dispatcher, Elizabeth, told responders to just leave the dead inside. So what's the purpose of that?

COHEN: I know, Wolf that sounds so heartless when you hear it. But actually we're told that that is the right protocol to follow. The reason is, is that if someone's dead you can't do anything for them. And there were so many people there that needed help. So that's the rule is that you leave the dead there. You help those who can still be saved. You also, you know, this is a crime scene. So police are going to want to come in and look at those bodies and try to you know paint a picture of what happened there.

BLITZER: Elizabeth Cohen thanks. I know you're going to be staying on top of the victims -- of this part of the story. We'll check back with you soon. Security at one movie theater in New York isn't a new thing at all. Just ahead we're going to tell you why it's been using metal detectors at that movie theater for years.


BLITZER: There's now heightened security at theaters around the country, including in New York. Mary Snow is at one of those theaters. She's got details of what's going on. Metal detectors, I take it, at that particular theater where you are, Mary, have been used for years. What's going on there?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf you know the NYPD is stepping up security at (INAUDIBLE) theaters around the city. And you know it's not uncommon for the department to react this way to a mass shooting somewhere else. But the bigger question being raised is whether this will prompt any longer term security measures at movie theaters.


SNOW (voice-over): Police vehicles are now posted outside New York City theaters showing "The Dark Knight Rises". The NYPD says it is not responding to any specific threat rather hoping to prevent any copycats.

COMMISSIONER RAY KELLY, NEW YORK POLICE: We are just concerned that someone perhaps seeking notoriety will attempt to do something similar. We always hear that when a high-profile event happens. So we're doing this to sort of raise the comfort level of people who are going to the movies.

SNOW: At one multiplex theater outside New York City, security goes far beyond comfort level. It's been using metal detectors for more than two decades.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's more of an inconvenience actually going through the metal detectors. But after what happened yesterday, I do feel more safe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I actually feel safer you know coming to movie theaters knowing that there's a metal detector, you know, feel more safe.

SNOW: The detectors were installed in 1990 after gunfire broke out during an argument on the opening night of "The Godfather III". At the time, one person was killed and three people injured. The Valley Stream Theater (ph), according to a security consultant who worked on the security plan, was one of the first movie theaters in the country to install the detectors. He says certain factors were considered. ALAN SKLAR, CREATIVE SERVICES, INC.: We look at crime statistics in and around the area to see what type of crimes have occurred. Is it a high crime area? Does it justify certain level of technology or, you know, additional measures that might not be needed in another area?

SNOW: In the mass shootings in Aurora, authorities say the gunman entered through a fire exit. Former FBI assistant director and CNN contributor Tom Fuentes.

TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIR.: The case of a metal detector would have done no good because this person, you're not talking about someone who brought weapons in through the front of the theater, through the ticket taker entrance or any of that.

SNOW: Individual movie chains declined to discuss specific security measures but their umbrella group, the National Association of Theater owners said in a statement "members are working closely with local law enforcement agencies and reviewing security procedures."


SNOW: Now the National Association of Theater owners says it doesn't have a number of how many theaters in the U.S. use metal detectors. Wolf, we should tell you AMC (ph) Theaters where we are now came out a short time ago saying that in addition to security measures it's implementing, one thing that it's doing immediately is not allowing moviegoers into its theaters this weekend wearing costumes or masks -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That's probably very, very smart. Thanks very much for that, Mary Snow in New York.

The "Batman" movie was certainly one of the most anticipated films of the year. We're going to get reaction from Hollywood as we continue to follow the breaking news.


BLITZER: Today's shooting massacre in Colorado is sending shockwaves through Hollywood. CNN entertainment correspondent Kareen Wynter is joining us now with that part of the story. Kareen it is a huge shock for everyone.

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely incredible, Wolf. Hollywood is shocked right along with the rest of the country. "The Dark Knight Rises", it was the most anticipated film of the summer. It earned more than $30 million in ticket sales overnight in the U.S. alone. However, the focus of the film industry is no longer on the hype, Wolf, surrounding "The Dark Knight Rises" but on this tragedy that's unfolded in Colorado.

Now we received this statement from Warner Brothers, which is part of CNN's parent company Time Warner in regards to the shooting. "Warner Brothers and the filmmakers are deeply saddened to learn about this shocking incident. We extend our sincere sympathies to the families and loved ones of the victims at this tragic time." Additionally, the studio has canceled a Paris premiere, Wolf, and press interviews that were scheduled for tonight.

A spokesperson for Warner Brothers Studios confirms to CNN that the studio has also pulled a trailer for the upcoming movie "Gangster Squad" that had been running in previews ahead of "The Dark Knight Rises". "Gangster Squad" chronicles a fight between the Los Angeles police and the mafia in the 1940's and 50's and features a really, a chilling group of men attacking a crowded movie theater with machine guns. Again, this trailer has been pulled and we don't know whether it aired specifically at the screening where the shooting took place -- Wolf --

BLITZER: Any reaction yet --

WYNTER: -- quite chilling.

BLITZER: Any reaction yet to our report that the suspect in this particular case dyed his hair red and told police he was, quote, "The Joker"?

WYNTER: Those are reports that we've been hearing, again unconfirmed. But you know a lot of people came in costume to see this movie last night. And in fact, you know some movie theaters are banning this now across the country that they're not banning screenings. That's still going to be happening because there was some reports that -- Warner Brothers confirmed, no, the screenings will take place. People cannot be in costume. In regards to the shooter, it's quite possible. We just don't have that confirmed right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Kareen Wynter reporting for us. Thank you.