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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN
Shooter Kills 14 and Injures Dozens at Colorado Movie Theater
Aired July 20, 2012 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Welcome, everybody. We start with breaking news with you this morning. Movie theater massacre, there are 14 people now reported killed, 50 others injured, happened at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. That is a suburb of Denver, Colorado.
And it happened during a showing of the new Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises." One gunman now in custody. He's reported to be a 24-year-old. He was wearing a bulletproof vest and apparently using three guns, a handgun, a rifle, and another gun, another weapon that he had stashed somewhere in the theater.
You can see from this video which is captured on the cell phone some of the scenes of panic and chaos and absolute terror.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She said that when she turned around, all she saw was the guy slowly making his way up the stairs and just firing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: at people?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just picking random people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: That's how witnesses described it, picking random people. It happened at the Century 16 Movie Theater in town center at Aurora. That's the mall there. And the way witnesses described it, the gunman came in, somehow kicking through a back door, an emergency exit, showed up at the front of the theater in the beginning moments of the movie. He then had with him guns and also some kind of smoke device that he set off. The smoke filled the theater by some reports, theater number nine, at this movie theater, movie center. And then they had absolute chaos as some of the people realized that they were being choked by the gas and he started opening fire.
According to witnesses, he very calmly walked up the stairs and just seemed to randomly be picking people out of the audience and shooting at them. We have Quentin Caldwell, a witness joining us by phone. Thanks for talking to me. Tell me where you were in the movie theater complex at 16 screens.
QUENTIN CALDWELL, WITNESS (via telephone): We were in theater eight, adjacent to where the incident happened. Me and my wife go to the super hero premieres and decided to go this one night.
O'BRIEN: There were many theaters in which the movie was being shown.
CALDWELL: Yes, there are 16 theaters in this one.
O'BRIEN: So you're watching the movie, how many minutes were you in before you noticed something wrong?
CALDWELL: I think we were about 15 minutes in and there was a chase fire where there was gunfire on screen. And right then out of nowhere on the right side we hear a very distinct pop, pop, pop, pop. And my wife jumped and I kind of sat there, it was probably just really good specific sound effects and my wife said no, that's really distinct. And a couple of people looked puzzled too. And suddenly behind us we noticed there were people saying somebody is shooting up the theater somebody is shot. We see a young couple holding a woman's face and guiding her down the stairs she's bleeding pretty good. I looked to my right and another gentleman is holding his stomach and running down the stairs trying to get out of there.
O'BRIEN: So you're in theater number eight. We're told the shooting was taking place in theater number nine but somehow the bullets were going through the walls into your theater?
CALDWELL: Yes, they did. After that had happened in fact we went to the left side of the theater and somebody said, look, holes and we looked up and you could see the baffling material had been pushed out of the wall. And I walked over and put my finger in it, I was just in awe and kind of shocked still. And right before we tried to exit the theater, all of a sudden somebody said don't go in the lobby, he's in the lobby and somebody else tried to go outside and they shut the doors. I don't know why, but they said he's outside. We don't know if there was more than one. A lot of people were in shock.
O'BRIEN: Could you smell the gas, we're told that in theater number nine he had set off a gas canister. Was it coming into your theater?
CALDWELL: Yes, actually. The holes that were shot through, we noticed there was a little bit of light smoke coming through them and somebody said, look it was hot, like the bullet went through and burnt the material. My wife she had been an EMT before, she's done the training with tear gas and drills for disaster preparedness. That smells really familiar. And then he's like that's tear gas. We thought that the police were using tear gas on somebody, we didn't know what was going on. That's when they told us, try to get out somehow. There was only one exit at the top of the projector screen, I told everybody walk up the stairs and start heading up north.
O'BRIEN: So what was it like inside the theater eight where you were? Were people in chaos? Were they screaming? How many people were injured?
CALDWELL: There were two that I saw injured but it wasn't chaos, it was more so -- everybody thought it was a part of the movie, that it was something that was going on like a promotional stunt or something. At first everybody is dumbfounded. After I got my keys and ran back to my seat to get my keys, there are still people sitting there waiting for the movie and continue. There's something wrong, we need to leave now. We're getting out the exit and there are still groups of people sitting in the theater like nothing is going on.
O'BRIEN: You were finally able to get to the top of the balcony and everybody was filing out fairly calmly?
CALDWELL: Yes, everybody was fairly calm until we got to the top of the balcony. Once we did, there were two armed officers at the bottom of the stairs, we were at the balcony behind the projection booth and they had shotguns, put up your hands we need to make sure you aren't armed. And everybody put their hands up and all of a sudden the officer looked down, is it OK for them to go? Are you going to let them go? A female officer said run and everybody starts running but they have almost like a jovial, this is a joke, this can't really be happened so people are kind of prairie dogging and me and my wife know something is wrong. So we're smacking people on the head, get down and run, listen.
O'BRIEN: It sounds as if at that moment they were still looking for potentially a second gunman?
CALDWELL: Yes, they didn't know what was going on really, because once we got outside it was outside was chaos because there was wounded everywhere. There were officers leading wounds and sitting on the curbs outside. I noticed one girl wear a pink hoodie and her left side was peppered with wounds and limping to whatever vehicles were showing up. This is just happened, maybe about five or six minutes before. So it was fairly chaotic outside.
O'BRIEN: Police were describing putting witnesses and putting victims at their own cars and taking them themselves to the emergency rooms.
CALDWELL: I noticed that at first because like I said, where the mall -- the theater is, it's in a mall parking lot so there's many exits. There are people doing that because there were some -- a lot of flesh wounds but there are some serious ones as well. Like I mentioned earlier, me and my wife EMT trained and I was in the marines myself. I noticed people were in shock and trying to help people get towards the fire truck and EMTs that were there. There was one gentleman who just -- his leg was peppered, just ripped up. His shoe was missing and his wife was shot in her leg. And he took the brunt of it and she got the rest.
O'BRIEN: Did you see any sign of the shooter by the time police said they were not only able to capture him but he went without resistance. Did you see that as it unfolded?
CALDWELL: No, as we were leaving we heard the police saying back and forth across the radios and just general chatter that they had him cornered in theater nine and there might be a second shooter, that they didn't know. That was all I had gotten at that moment. O'BRIEN: Quentin Caldwell, who is a marine, watching the movie next to where the shooting was taking place. Giving us an eyewitness account of what he saw and heard. Thanks for filling us in, we appreciate it.
CALDWELL: Thank you.
O'BRIEN: Christine Romans is following what is happening at area hospitals. We know of the 50 people transported to hospitals, many of them in critical condition is what we were told.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. Of those who are confirmed dead, ten were already dead in the movie theater and four later died at area hospitals. Of the hospitals that are receiving people, Swedish hospital, telling us they went on alert at 1:15 and began calling in extra staff. They had three patients that they received right away, all with gunshot wounds, one was treated and released but two still in surgery as of an hour ago. A university hospital, they had 20 victims, all of them with gunshot wounds, 20 victims with gunshot wounds. Some simple, minor gunshot wounds, other with severe injuries.
They were mostly adults but there were teenagers as well, which brings me to children's hospital, there are six victims taken to children's, ages six to 31. The youngest child at children's hospital was 6. We don't have a lot of information on who the youngest victims are but we have reports from witnesses that there were very small children watching this midnight showing of "The Dark Knight." Some described as a baby but other witnesses say maybe a six-year-old or nine-year-old being carried out of the theater in the arms of a police officer. Another witness saying it looked like the child was lifeless and had been shot. We think that child went to children's, the only confirmation we're getting they have six victims, ages six to 31.
O'BRIEN: Some of the information we're getting from the Red Cross, a lot of people who could be witnesses not injured but were potential witnesses to what happened were taken to gateway hospital close to where the movie theater complex is. The Red Cross is on the scene there. They are feeding folks and say there's roughly 100 people there who are being interviewed by the police.
We want to get Tom Fuentes, former assistant director and CNN contributor as well to talk about what the FBI will be doing in this case. Tom, thanks for being with us, appreciate it. Fill me in quickly after this happened, the FBI was brought in to start helping out. Why the FBI in this case?
TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR (via telephone): Good morning, Soledad. Mainly the first interest is going to be is this a single person by himself or is he a member of some terrorist organization such as neo-Nazi group or some other anti-government group. That's the first thing you try to rule out, if there are any other individuals involved with him or maybe he's a member of a group that somebody else will go out and start the same type of thing somewhere else. That's number one. Secondly, a police department of Aurora or any other police department is going to need all the help they can get in terms of the interviewing of so many witnesses, victims, victim's families and plus the investigation into the individual, does he have a military background? Where else does he live? Interview his neighbors and colleagues and associates. There's a massive amount of investigation that's necessary, and all of the police departments you have several agencies little be called into. In this case the FBI specifically will be looking at the domestic terrorism issue.
O'BRIEN: There had been some reports in fact that the vehicle and we saw pictures of a white car that we believe to have been the car of the shooter because the doors were open and trunk was up. It was being searched, that the vehicle had plates from Tennessee, so crossing state lines clearly would be an issue that would involve the FBI.
FUENTES: Well certainly, they'll be looking into where he lived in Tennessee or who various neighbors or family members may be still in another state such as Tennessee. That's one issue. The issue of bomb squad capability will be another issue to examine that vehicle and that of course conduct the search of the apartment and the apartment is going to require evacuating the area, evacuating other places and going in and doing the search that's required there.
O'BRIEN: Here's what we know about that. We're told by reports not long ago that the streets, we believe to be the street where the shooter lived, again described as a 24-year-old male, was blocked off and they are surrounded by law enforcement in SWAT attire, mostly watching according to one description, ambulances and fire trucks also nearby but everybody was being kept at quite a distance. Unclear exactly in it was connected, this location to the shooter, but police had said earlier they were evacuating the building and the shooter himself mentioned something about explosives in his apartment.
Police say, also mentioned something about weapons in his car. They told us that they evacuated that building and that they were continuing to monitor the situation, although early on they believe that the shooter acted alone. Tom, thanks for being with us.
I want to read to you a statement from President Obama. He has released this statement from the White House saying "Michelle and I are shocked and saddened by the horrific and tragic shooting in Colorado. Federal and local law enforcement are still responding and my administration will do everything that we can to support the people of Aurora in this extraordinarily difficult time. We're committed to bringing whoever was responsible to justice ensuring the safety of our people and caring for those who have been wounded as we do when confronted by moments of darkness and challenge, we must come together as one American family. All of us must have the people of Aurora in our thoughts and prayers as they confront the loss of family, friends, and neighbors, and we must stand together with them in the challenging hours and days to come." That is a statement from president Obama. Talking about what has happened in Aurora, Colorado this morning.
Again, we want to update you, 14 people reported dead in the shooting. The number could go higher though because 50 people have been reported to be transported injured to area hospitals, in some cases very critically injured. All of this happening at the theater which was showing the "The Dark Knight", some people saying they thought it was movie special effects and didn't realize until people started standing up with injuries and bleeding that in fact there had been gunshots and people were being injured.
John Berman is monitoring what's happening on twitter. One of the first reports we got was on twitter, a young woman said that there had been a shooting.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You mentioned the young people who have been flocking to these theaters across the country to see "The Dark Knight Rises", one of the most anticipated films of the summer and never expecting anything like this. I'll read you some tweets from someone named Zach Eastman. "Everyone dressing up as Batman. I'm going dressed as Bruce Wayne, a short, stubby, unsexy Bruce Wayne." This before the shooting happened. Then this next tweet, "Just evacuated our theater in Aurora, there was a shooting in the auditorium. I'm safe." It gives you a sense of the mindset of what people must have been thinking as they went into this theater last night, Soledad. Again, young people, we know victims in their teens and 20s and young kids as young as six.
O'BRIEN: Thanks, John.
We've been listening to witnesses who have been filling us in, some of them inside theater nine where the shooting was taking place and some of them outside the theater in which the gas seemed to be -- tear gas and other gunshots actually coming through the walls and they experienced it as well. We want to play for you a little bit of what some of those witnesses, eyewitnesses and people there were saying this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She said that a man about six feet tall, taller than her, kicked through the door and he was in -- a riot helmet. She said he was -- had a bulletproof vest on. She said that he was completely covered in all black with goggles. And she said that after that point, when she saw he was holding a shotgun, her and her boyfriend dropped to the floor and just kind of started to crawl to see if they could get away. They got up and started to run through the emergency exit. She said that when she turned around, all she saw was the guy slowly making his way up the stairs and just firing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At people?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Picking random people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It appears there was some sort of smoke or gas. We're hearing reports of an explosion, we don't know if that was part of the smoke and gas or separate device. I have heard that he was wearing a vest as well as we did recover at least one rifle, a handgun and I believe there was another gun of some sort inside the theater that was left. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As they were leaving, he witnessed a baby, infant get shot. But they said gas bombs as they were leaving and then just gunshots all over the place. And it started in the theater that I had bought tickets to. It was kind of a mindblower.
While I was here waiting to talk to the doctor, I heard the call come in at the nurse's station. From what I could see, there were people unconscious and people bleeding. I saw one bed go past. The poor guy had blood caked all over his face and he was just not responsive at all, same thing with the lady, they were out of it. They managed to get most everyone stabilized, which is a blessing. It really is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He did not resist. He did not put up a fight. I don't know the exact details if officers surprised him or how it happened. But I know in of the first officers that arrived within -- I don't know if it was seconds, maximum a couple of minutes, found him behind the theater at his car and took him into custody there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: So that is a little description from some of the eyewitnesses of what they saw inside that theater which is really a theater complex, 16 theaters, of many of them showing "The Dark Knight Rising." This is a film that people have been anxiously awaiting. His name has not been released at this point but he's described as 24 years old and wearing bullet proof vest and being heavily armed.
He was taken into custody we're told in the rear parking lot of the theater, although some eyewitnesses thought in fact he was captured in the theater itself. Police took a shotgun and rifle from him and they were able to recover another gun inside the theater. He was according to some witnesses wearing goggles. Police confirmed he had a gas mask as well. They have not confirmed the goggles part.
Police say he did not put up a fight. There was no resistance and additionally he was able to tell them about explosives in his apartment building. Police said that at a press conference. After that they mobilized the units to his apartment building and there is a building that we've been monitoring that appears could be his where it's now been surrounded by law enforcement and ambulances as well. It does not -- no one believes there was a second shooter, although in their early morning press conference police said they would actively monitor that.
And 50 people were transported to area hospitals with injuries, some of those very grave. We want to get to Nicole Williams joining us by phone from Swedish medical center. Nicole, thanks for your time. What's happening at your medical center right now?
NICOLE WILLIAMS, SWEDISH MEDICAL CENTER: Right now we have actually just received word that we are receiving a fourth patient. So currently we have a 19-year-old male who has been listed in fair condition. We have a 20-year-old male who is in critical, a 29-year- old female in critical. And we understand we have a 19-year-old female inbound. We're unclear of her condition at this time.
O'BRIEN: So you have two in critical condition and one 19-year- old who seems that person is in better condition and you're unclear ever the person being transported at this point?
O'BRIEN: What kind of injuries do they have?
WILLIAMS: The three that we received immediately following the incident, all came in with gunshot wounds. We're hearing rumors that the patient that is currently on her way in could have shrapnel wounds, but they have not arrived yet. We have not been able to assess the wounds or condition.
O'BRIEN: Have you seen shrapnel wounds in any of the other patients? We heard an eyewitness talking about sort of a shrapnel bomb, something exploded and that was the only person who mentioned that, and now you're potential shrapnel again. Have you seen any other injuries with any patients with some kind of shrapnel?
WILLIAMS: We have not. Basically I'm sitting in the command center here at the hospital and staying out of the medical responders that are in the emergency department triaging these patients. So we're basing our information on the updates they put up on the screen. So we've had generic and general descriptions, like gunshot wound. The extent of the injuries at is this point are unclear other than the conditions we've currently listed the patients in.
O'BRIEN: How is the scene where you are? Are you finding their family members who have domestic down to check on loved ones? Is it chaotic or calm?
WILLIAMS: We have a handful of family members and friends who were they theater with people that got injured. We have a couple of people here waiting for a friend in surgery and sitting next to that person when everything happened, and they were shot. So right now the people we have here at Swedish Medical Center are relatively calm, just kind of awaiting information.
We do have several people calling from all over the country looking to track down loved ones. So we are collaborate being with all of the other hospitals and they are compiling lists of all of the names of patients who have been admitted and we're working as diligently as possible to protect the privacy and safety of patients who may have been admitted to work with family members calling to try to track down loved ones.
O'BRIEN: Nicole, thanks for that update. We appreciate it. I should mention, Nicole mentioned that a potential shrapnel wound could be en-route to the hospital right now. Earlier an eyewitness talked about not only the smoke grenade but tear gas as I think has been now confirmed and 15 to 20 shots fired, but also something about a scrap metal pepper bomb which would be consistent with what is being described as an injury incoming to the hospital. That's the first time we've heard of that. Christine you've been monitoring the other hospitals.
ROMANS: We know that university hospital has the youngest victims so far, a three-month-old. The youngest victim we can tell so far is just 3 months old, a little baby. The "Denver Post" saying that there are 20 victims over all. We got that from our reporting as well, nine of them in critical condition. That baby, though, is alive and I can tell you that CBS and also one of the local affiliates are reporting that the child is in fair condition. We'll work to confirm that. You can imagine going to a midnight movie with a three-month- old, a sleeping baby, trying to see this film that quite frankly sold out over the past few days. A three-month-old child at that movie was the youngest victim we've noticed so far.
O'BRIEN: My goodness, and some of those descriptions that all of the theaters were packed with moviegoers making this tragedy all the more awful.
Mitt Romney has released a statement. He says this, "Ann and I are deeply saddened by the news of the senseless violence that took the lives of 15 people in Colorado and injured dozens more. We are praying for the families and loved ones of the victims during this time of deep shock and immense grief. We expect the person responsible for this terrible crime will be quickly brought to justice."
He mentions 15 people. The number that we have is 14 people who have been killed, 10 who died inside the theater, four others were reported dead on arrival or at the area hospitals where they had been transported, 50 people reported injured, in some cases gravely, gravely injured described as, quote, "very critically injured," and we're watching to see if that number stays at 14 or it could go higher. It happened of course at the Century 16 theater in Aurora, Colorado, where they were showing "The Dark Knight Rising" which was showing in many theaters in that 16-theater complex.
We want to check in with our Denver affiliate, KCNC. We're going to listen to them and dip into their coverage for a moment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Early this morning, another four people died after the shooting either on the way to or at emergency rooms in the metro area. Here at university hospital, 20 patients were treated nine are still in critical condition. The youngest victim a three- month-old child. Doctors say that that infant is right now doing fine.
We also understand there is another victim, a six-year-old victim, that was taken over to children's hospital which is just the next hospital over. We are still trying to understand more about how badly these victims were injured and as we understand, the next 12 hours will be very important hours for the at least nine victims that we understand are in critical condition here at university hospital. Back to you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For sure, Stan, thank you very much. They already had a full ER going, two ER docs there at the time when this triage started. O'BRIEN: That's our affiliate, KCNC. We've been reporting on and covering their coverage, dipping into their coverage at times.
We'll check in now with Tony Roman, a security and investigations expert. So Tony, what you know and what you've heard about this shooter, he is 24-years-old. According to police reports, he was wearing a bullet proof vest, heavily armed, also according to police, taken into custody somewhere either at the back of the theater or in the back of the theater complex. They removed a shotgun from him, a rifle from him, a third gun was found in the movie theater. Eyewitnesses described him as wearing a gas mask and goggles. As someone who does these kinds of investigations, where do you start?
TONY ROMAN, SECURITY AND INVESTIGATIONS EXPERT: Clearly this was a premeditated attack. And you begin with the background investigation of the individual to see if he became or belongs to a larger group of individuals who are radical groups or an anarchists or any type of group which can propose this kind of attack. The determination should be made very quickly whether or not this was a lone gunman who potentially is mentally disturbed or whether or not he belongs to a larger group.
O'BRIEN: Tony Roman -- keep going, I couldn't hear you at the end.
ROMAN: OK, I'm sorry, we have a bad connection?
O'BRIEN: A little bit. You were describing first thing you would look to see if it was premeditated and also to try understand if there was any kinds of connection to any sort of larger group. One of the things the police said that remind me of other shootings that we've seen that the gunman when they were able to capture him did not put up a fight and seems like he was helpful giving information about his apartment, potential explosives at his apartment, they said he did not resist in any way, shape or form.
ROMAN: Well, this sounds like an individual who perpetrated the attack to garnish attention for himself and would seem to be an early indication that he may be mentally disturbed as opposed to belonging to a larger group that would try to perpetrate this type of attack. Individuals like this are difficult to guard against. Even movie theaters in high crime rate districts with metal detectors and the like would have a great type of difficult trying to prevent the attack because the individual planned and prepared and was well armed and could easily bypass a normal security.
O'BRIEN: OK, I'm going to ask you to stay on phone for us. We want to show you aerial pictures from KMGH of aerial shots of the apartment complex where police are now staging. They tell us this is the apartment complex, could be the apartment complex belonging to the shooter, described the street as being blocked off. People in SWAT attire and mostly watching, by some descriptions but there are ambulances and fire trucks there as well.
The reporters there describe it as being kept quite a distance from the scene. It is unclear of the actual connection of this apartment building to the shooting. It would make sense police say the suspect told them of potential of explosives in his apartment. We know that they evacuated his apartment building and so this is an apartment complex that they are monitoring. These are the aerial shots coming to us from KMGH, our affiliate.
Let's talk about the victims, it was very interesting to see if the cellphone video and I think we can run that again in the cellphone video, you see people dazed as they walk through the lobby area of the 16-theater complex.
ROMANS: We're trying to get a better handle on what type of injuries you're saying. Some hospitals saying all gunshot wounds but a doctor at the university hospital gave an interview and said they are seeing shrapnel wounds as well, gunshot wounds and shrapnel wounds. Some of these people look as though maybe they've been grazed.
We know that other people are still in that theatre when the cell phone video was taking place. There were 10 people who were dead in that theatre, 14 who died later in the hospital.
A 3-month-old child is the youngest we know that was shot. We're told that child is doing fine. We know a 6-year-old is the youngest child right now at Children's Hospital. They have an age range from 6 to 45 years old.
Some 20 patients are over at University Hospital and nine of those are in critical condition. KCNC telling us more about, you know, an E.R. physician who has this 3-month-old child in the hospital saying the child is doing OK.
Again, gunshot wounds to shrapnel. So we'll be interested to find out what law enforcement, Soledad say about what other kinds of weapons this suspect was using. We know there were three firearms, two on him, one stashed in the movie theatre.
But what are these shrapnel wounds. We know that at one hospital as well they are decontaminating everyone who was coming in and people were walking in, not just transported by the police and firefighters.
But walking in and going through decontamination because of what was clearly some sort of either a smoke bomb or some other sort of bomb or device that was put off at the very beginning of this whole ordeal.
O'BRIEN: It's roughly five hours now since this shooting happened in Aurora, Colorado and we can tell you that 14 people reported dead. That number could go higher though because 50 other people, that's 50 reported injured, in some cases very critically injured.
It happened at the Century 16 Movie Theatre in the Aurora Town Center Mall in Aurora, Colorado. Folks there were watching "The Dark Knight Rises", the midnight screening. That was showing.
You can see a picture of that movie complex that was being shown on numerous screens inside that complex. Witnesses describe people who were coming there were dressed as Batman or dressed as the villain, part of this midnight movie screening.
Here's what we know about the gunman at this hour, 24 years old, bullet proof vest is what he was wearing, also heavily armed and he was taken into custody either at the rear of the parking lot of the theatre or in the back of the theatre itself.
There's a little conflict on that. Some described his capture in the theatre. Police say that they took from him a shotgun and a rifle and they were able to find another gun on the scene in the theatre and witnesses said he was wearing a gas mask and he was wearing goggles.
Christine, that would obviously fit with some of the description of this tear gas or whatever the gas was that he released. Witnesses described him as kicking in an exit door, coming right to the front of the theatre in this one particular theatre, theatre number 9 in the 16-theater complex.
Then releasing that gas, tear gas, or whatever it was, and then walking up the stairs very calmly by some descriptions and just opening fire randomly, shooting people. We've got more description from some witnesses who were on the scene. I want to play that for you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From the front right corner of the theatre. We got down on the ground. It was dark still. The lights never came on or knowing like that. Once everything -- the shooting cleared, we just ran, ran up to the top of the theatre and ran out. Once we got outside, you could see, just chaos.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we got out of the building, it was just chaos. You saw injured people. There was this one guy who was on all fours crawling. There was this girl spitting up blood.
There were bullet holes in some people's back, some people's arms. There was one guy who was stripped down to just his boxers and looked like he had been shot in the back or something. It was crazy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You said a couple of your friends were shot, but they are OK?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, a couple of my friends, one of my friends got skimmed on the neck, it's a little deep but he's OK. He was at the hospital. Another one of my friends got skimmed on the leg, but she's OK also.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of your friends you have not been able to reach?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, my friend A.J., yes, he's a really good friend of mine, his girl -- he was seeing the movie with his girlfriend, La Samoa, and from what I heard, it seemed like he passed out or something and we haven't been able to get contact with him. Nobody knows where he is. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody kicked in the emergency exit, and started throwing gas grenades and starting shooting people at random.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Movie theatre number 9.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Number 9, which is the one I was in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what did you do?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At first it took me a second to realize what was actually going on. As people were running away, I hit the ground so I wouldn't be hit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody throw gas grenades?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard the sound of metal canisters clinking around and then I saw plumes of smoke.
O'BRIEN: That's the description of some of the chaos as people left the movie theatre. What you're seeing right now is an apartment complex. This is coming to us from our affiliate in Aurora. This is aerial pictures of the complex.
You can see law enforcement is surrounding the building. Apparently, according to police, that some of the words from the shooter, indicated to them that he might have explosives in his apartment and they mobilized the area.
Others have described ambulances being on the scene and that people dressed in SWAT gears, SWAT team apparently on the scene as well there. This apartment complex, the shooter said to have lived in North Aurora.
Although some interesting questions about his vehicle, which by some reports had Tennessee plates. So this is obviously what they are monitoring today. The building was being evacuated according to the police chief a couple of hours ago at the press briefing. He said they evacuated that complex.
But they are clearly still monitoring it and we're looking at those pictures coming to us live. Interesting details coming from some of those eyewitnesses as well about this smoke bomb or tear gas, whatever it was because others had described a scrap metal pepper bomb.
And now we're hearing from some of the hospitals about injuries that would be consistent with that shrapnel injuries in addition to gunshots that we know many of the people suffering with. You can see this gentleman here who's walking through this cell phone video that's been released showing the inside of the lobby in some cases just chaotic and others just standing around as witnesses described.
It was unclear if what was happening was part of the movie or the explosions or noise, the gunshots or -- and it took them a while to figure out in fact it was a terrible tragedy unfolding.
ROMANS: Even in theatre number 8 where the gunman was not in theatre number 8, there were people wounded in theatre number 8. Bullets went right through the sound baffling between the two movie theatres.
We know that they are decontaminating some people who are coming into the hospitals because of their exposure to tear gas. You know, there are shrapnel wounds. We know there are gunshot wounds.
Gunshot wounds ranging from just grazes to serious gunshot wounds to obviously fatalities because of gunshot wounds, 14 fatalities over all.
O'BRIEN: And 50 people injured some of them very critically so there are some expectations that the number could rise.
ROMANS: Some in surgery right now.
O'BRIEN: Yes, devastating injuries. We want to get to Gil Alba. He is a former NYPD detective joining us by phone. Gil, thanks for talking with us. We certainly appreciate it.
Let's talk about the investigation at this stage. Early on we knew that the police there were looking for potentially a second suspect. It seemed pretty early on that they were able to determine that there was no second suspect.
That in fact the shooter who has not been named was acting alone. Where would your investigation go from here?
GIL ALBA, FORMER NYPD DETECTIVE (via telephone): Well, the fact that they caught him and you know, I think that once they caught him he started talking and that's where they got all of the information about a bomb in his house and everything else.
I think the fact he gave up, he may have exhausted all of his bullets and everything else and had nothing left. That's one of the issues, once you get somebody like that, they do talk and tell you everything.
That's one possibility that could happen with the shooter. Again, I mean, this happened in a dark theatre, you know, everybody is disoriented when something like that a bomb goes off and then gas bombs and then shootings. You know, this guy really planned this really well. That's why police get all this training, but they are real not prepared for something like this.
So they have to come and get help, FBI gets involved, you don't know if it is some kind of organization. So everybody comes and I'm glad they found the guy right away. They think it's only one shooter at the time. So that's pretty good.
They put them in the cars and took them to the hospital. You see it's chaotic even from the police department, but still they have to be organized at this point. O'BRIEN: Some witnesses described this smoke bomb or tear gas bomb that was set off first before the shooter apparently started opening fire kind of at random in theatre number 9.
How easy would it be for someone to get access to tear gas or to a smoke bomb or is that something they have to make from scratch at home?
ALBA: This guy obviously had this planned. I mean, this was all premeditated. So he -- and you can get all of this stuff. You know, probably on the internet or something like that.
He already knew he was going to do it. So this was well planned out. And even though the reaction and started to shoot -- you know -- all over the place, it's not like a direct shot.
So he actually knew that he wanted to take as many people out as possible.
O'BRIEN: You mentioned the police training and many of the eyewitnesses described the degree to which the police were very organized and that there was not tremendous chaos that they were able to come in and kind of take control right away.
I wonder how much of that would be because of what was learned in Columbine, which was a devastating shooting that happened not very far, probably 19 miles or so, away from Aurora, Colorado.
ALBA: No, that had a lot to -- across the country, all of the schools and everybody is prepared. You're right, this is -- this is a learning process. That's why the police have to gather everybody, gather all of the witnesses and one thing that's important, how many people were in there and who was in there and make sure they find out that everybody was in there.
And again, you have to study this and find out how to prevent something like this or deter it or something to this effect. And that's why this will be another case studied and that's why all of the information, all of cell phone videos, all of the eyewitnesses, all extremely important to get the information.
And really they want to get the information to find out, is this only the only gunman? Could this happen again in another theatre? Could this happen again in another ballpark or at this time? Is anybody else involved in this? So this is what they are looking for.
O'BRIEN: Gil Alba was with the NYPD, thanks for talking with us. Appreciate it. I want to get to eyewitness Derek Pove. He was actually in that specific theatre, theatre number 9 when the shooting happened. Derek, thanks for talking with us. Why don't you start by describing what you saw?
DEREK POVE, EYEWITNESS (via telephone): Well, at first like 10 minutes into the movie, I saw an object thrown and at first I thought it was a bat because it was dark and then I heard a loud pop. Then I saw thought it was firecrackers and then I seen smoke coming out.
O'BRIEN: Where was it thrown from, Derek? The reports I heard from some eyewitnesses was that the shooter came in from an emergency exit, kind of kicked the door in and then did that. Is that consistent with what you saw?
POVE: Yes, ma'am, he came in through the right exit.
O'BRIEN: OK, then you heard a pop and thought it was a firecracker at first and spoke started to come out so then you realized it was not a firecracker?
POVE: Yes, ma'am. Right after that, he started unloading gunfire.
O'BRIEN: Describe for me what he looked like and how his demeanor was. While you're talking, Derek, we're looking at live pictures I want to mention for everybody who is watching, live pictures of the theatre now that the sun has risen. We get a better sense of the scene there.
POVE: Yes, ma'am, he didn't -- I didn't see him because it was pitch dark, but I did see because as he was walking up to the steps where I was at, he had a gas mask and dressed in like camo black.
O'BRIEN: Was he frantic or calm or seem to be particularly picking individuals out?
POVE: He looked calm. He looked calm and just trying to take anybody that he seen.
O'BRIEN: Was the movie still running then or was it pitch black?
POVE: It was still running, the movie was still running as he was shooting.
O'BRIEN: What was the scene like inside the theatre, theatre 9 where you were?
POVE: It was frantic, everybody trying to fend for themselves run for the exit of the people was getting pushed and stepped on and everybody was going after one door.
O'BRIEN: Where were you and how close did you get to the shooter?
POVE: I was on the top right in the two-seater section. As I seen he was walking up to the steps, he was walking up the steps, like 15, maybe 20 feet away from me.
O'BRIEN: People have described him as carrying a shotgun, which would not necessarily have a lot of shots unless he's stopping and reloading. Did you see him do that or was it not a shotgun that he was carrying?
POVE: Actually, had like two guns, a shotgun and like a rifle.
O'BRIEN: He had a shotgun and a rifle. Was he wearing anything on his back?
POVE: No, I didn't see none of that.
O'BRIEN: He wasn't? All right, Derek Pove, how are you doing? How are you feeling?
POVE: I feel good, a little shaked up, but I'm feeling thank God I got out alive, me and my girlfriend.
O'BRIEN: We're glad to see that. Thanks for talking with us this morning. Appreciate it.
This is live pictures, aerial shots of what we believe is shooter's car. We know that this is the back entrance of the theatre and by numerous witness reports.
The way that the shooter came into the movie theatre was through the exit and was able to kick in one of the doors by one person's description so that he was right at the front of the theatre while the movie was going.
We believe that this is his vehicle because police had described a searching the gunman's vehicle, some description said in fact that this is where they were able to capture him.
It looks as if he did not resist and he was able to give information about his apartment where he lived as well and we know that -- we believe -- what we believe is his apartment is where a police SWAT team is set up and ambulances and fire trucks as well.
They've evacuated a building in North Aurora, Colorado and they are monitoring that, it was described to us as the law enforcement teams there just waiting and watching. We're going to continue to monitor the story.
We'll take a short break and we'll have more of an update in this tragedy in Aurora, Colorado with right now 14 people reported dead and 50 others wounded. Some of them, very, very, seriously as we continue to cover this story. We're back in a moment.
O'BRIEN: Welcome back to CNN. You're watching breaking news about a terrible shooting that happened late night in Aurora, Colorado. Fourteen people now are reported dead. The number could go higher because there are some 50 others who are reported injured.
And some of them very critically injured. They've been transported to area hospitals in and around Aurora. Here's what we know. It happened at the Century 16 Movie Theatre in the Aurora Town Center Mall.
Witnesses said that a gunman seemed to kick in the back of a theatre door while the movie "The Dark Knight Rises" was underway, a few minutes under way. It was a midnight screening. People didn't realize in fact that it wasn't part of the movie when they started hearing the noise and the gunshots.
They said the gunman first set of a canister of some kind of gas, possibly tear gas and that sent people into panic and then he started shooting. He had a shotgun. He had a rifle according to some witnesses.
And just started walked up the stairs of the theatre opening fire, it seems to many people just randomly, absolutely kicking of chaos inside that particular theatre, theatre number nine and other theatres because some of those bullets were going through the walls into other theatres.
And the tear gas or whatever gas it was, was seeping through the walls of the other theatres sending people from those theatres out into the lobby. Sounds like absolute chaos ensued then.
Police were on the scene, 250 police officers at one point reported to be helping and imagine how bad it must be when the officers are just throwing victims into their cars and hauling people themselves to the local hospitals.
The hospitals are reporting numerous folks being treated there. Many in critical condition described with severe gunshot wounds but shrapnel wounds are being reported as well.
One eyewitness talked about an explosion from what he believed was a scrap metal pepper bomb, and of course, as we mentioned, the tear gas. The police chief gave a press conference earlier this morning. His name is Dan Oates. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN OATES, AURORA POLICE CHIEF: The gunman appeared at the front of one of the theatres in the Century 16 Theatre behind me here. Witnesses tell us that he released some sort of canister. They heard a hissing sound and gas so concerned about explosives in the parking lot.
Hence the parking lot is completely sealed off. We have all the area bomb squad teams. We've had wonderful support from our law enforcement friends. And we are just as a precaution checking all the cars in the parking lot for explosives. That will go on for quite some time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: That was Police Chief Dan Oates, the Aurora police chief updating people on what happened there. We have Christine monitoring what's happening in area hospitals.
ROMANS: And we know that the youngest victim so far of the theatre shooting, a patient who is doing fine, we're told, an E.R. doctor telling KCNC that the youngest patient is 3 months old, doing fine thankfully.
But a 3-month-old is the youngest patient. We know that so far the oldest patient is a 45-year-old. A 6-year-old is at children's hospital where they have six patients anywhere from 6 to 31.
The medical center of Aurora has I think -- sorry, Denver Medical has five in fair condition, 11 in critical condition there. That's the issue here with this. Some people have tear gas, decontamination they are going through.
Some people have shrapnel injuries. Some people have grazing and they are OK. They are in fair condition, but they have gunshot related wounds. There are others though who are in surgery at this hour in critical condition.
And it's a pretty still very dangerous moment for some of those people who were taken out of that theatre. One thing that's interesting as well about the moments after the shooting, again, a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight," some were taken to area hospitals in ambulances.
And some came in on foot later as they realized that they had minor injuries, Soledad, and some came in the back of police cars. A police arriving on the scene, one case, a police officer witnesses tell us walking out of the theatre with the still not moving body of a small child, a little girl.
A 6-year-old or a 9-year-old, depending on which eyewitness you're talking to, we still don't know the status of that child, but a child that was taken out of the theatre unconscious.
O'BRIEN: A police spokesman said that they arrested the suspect in the rear parking lot theatre. He is reported to be 24 years old, a man who lives in North Aurora. We have seen aerial pictures of what is believed to be his residence, which is now surrounded by police and firefighters and ambulances as well.
We've also seen pictures of what is believed to be the suspect's car. A white vehicle that we saw some of law enforcement searching a little bit earlier this morning. We're told that that gunman was heavily armed, wearing a gas mask and goggles as well.
And heavily -- with the shotgun rifle according to eyewitness descriptions and also police said they found a third weapon, a gun, in the theatre.
We want to get to John Berman, he's got an update on what was happening on Twitter, as people really were among the first to report what was going on in the movie theatre.
JOHN BERMAN, ANCHOR, CNN'S "EARLY START": Soledad, this is a national tragedy. As you would expect, our nation's leaders are now weighing in.
We have a statement I want to read you from President Obama, who says, Michelle and I are shocked and saddened by the horrific and tragic shooting in Colorado. Federal and local law enforcement are still responding and my administration will do everything that we can to support the people of Aurora in this extraordinarily difficult time.
We are committed to bringing whoever was responsible to justice, and ensuring the safety of our people and caring for those who have been wounded. This is President Obama.
As we do when confronted by moments of darkness and challenge, we must now come together as one American family. All of us must have the people of Aurora in our thoughts and prayers as they confront the loss of family, friends, and neighbors.
And we must stand together with them in the challenging hours and days to come. The president was informed of the shooting by his Homeland Security adviser, John Brennan around 5:30 a.m. this morning.
FBI now racing to the scene to help out. Of course, Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, presumptive nominee also putting out a statement this morning. Mitt Romney says, Ann and I are deeply saddened by the news of the senseless violence that took the lives of 15 people in Colorado and injured dozens more.
He says 15. At this point, CNN reporting 14 people killed. Mitt Romney continues, we are praying for the families and loved ones of the victims during this time of immense shock and deep grief. We expect that the person responsible for this terrible crime will be quickly brought to justice.
That from Governor Mitt Romney who was scheduled to campaign in New Hampshire today. The president scheduled to campaign in Florida today. You can expect I imagine that their comments will be tempered somewhat today -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Yes, one would have to imagine. All right, John, thank you for that.
The eyewitness description has been absolutely horrific as they describe the gunman entering the movie theatre and then eventually just opening fire seemingly randomly at the people who in some cases still thought the movie was going on.
Some thought some of the noise they were hearing was from the movie. I want to play for you some of the eyewitness reports that we've been gathering.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She said that a man about six feet tall, taller than her, kicked through the door and he was in like she said a riot helmet. She said he had a bulletproof vest on. You know, she said that he was completely covered in all black with goggles.
And she said that after that point, when she saw that he was holding a shotgun, her and her boyfriend dropped to the floor and just kind of started to crawl to see if they could get away.
They got up and they started to run through the emergency exit. She said that when she turned around, all she saw was the guy slowly making his way up the stairs and just firing. Just picking random people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It appears that there was some sort of smoke or gas. We were hearing reports of an explosion. We don't know if that was part of the smoke and gas, or a separate device.
I have heard that he was wearing a vest. As well as we did recover at least one rifle, a handgun, and I believe there was another gun of some sort inside the theatre that was left.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As they were leaving, he witnessed a baby, an infant, get shot. But, yes, they said gas bombs as they were leaving, and then just gunshots all over the place.
And it started in the theatre that I had bought tickets to. So it was kind of a mind blower. While I was here waiting to talk to the doctor, I heard the call come in at the nurse's station.
From what I can see, there are people unconscious. People bleeding. I saw one bed go past. Poor guy had blood caked all over his face. He just was not responsive at all. Same thing with a lady. Just all out of it.
By the time I left, I overheard the nurses saying they managed to get most everyone stabilized, which is a blessing. It really is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He did not resist. He did not put up a fight. I don't know the exact details, if the officers surprised him or how it actually happened.
But I know some of the first officers that, you know, arrived within, I don't know if it was seconds, maximum a couple of minutes, found him behind the theatre at his car and took him into custody there.
O'BRIEN: That some of what the eyewitnesses on the scene have been saying this morning in the wake of this terrible tragedy. Fourteen people is the number given to us by police of those who have died, 10 in the theatre, another four being declared dead as they arrived at area hospitals.
We've got to take a short break. We're going to be back in just a moment with an update on this breaking news story.