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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN
14 Dead, 50 Hurt in Batman Movie Shooting
Aired July 20, 2012 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: According to law enforcement officials, we know a little bit more about some of the weaponry that the suspect is alleged to have used, at least three guns. They are now describing one as an AK-type rifle, and then two other handguns. Police say that the shooter was heavily armed, that two of those weapons were on his person when he was apprehended, and that the third weapon in fact was found in the theater.
Police officials, federal law enforcement officials, also saying that tear gas was the gas that was deployed. There have been no explosives found at either the theater or the apartment that is being searched. That is an update. We've seen some of the aerial pictures of the apartment search that is happening in north Aurora. We believe it is the apartment complex of the shooter.
And investigators have said that they believe that this is a lone actor. That is what the police chief, Dan Oates, was saying this earlier this morning. That there was no indication that there was anyone else involved in addition to this shooter who they were able to apprehend in the back of the parking lot outside the theater.
Let's get right to Tom Fuentes. He's a former FBI assistant director.
The FBI is now involved in this, partly I'm sure just because of the massive proportions of this tragedy, Tom.
TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Good morning, Soledad. If in fact he acted alone and it's just a single deranged person, you would not have FBI jurisdiction in this. They would merely be providing assistance to the Aurora Police Department who would have primary jurisdiction.
However, one of the key concerns here is whether or not this individual is a member of another larger organization or a small group of people, even one other person such as the incident in Columbine years ago. So they are going to want to verify that he is not part of some terrorist group or didn't receive other sophisticated training in making improvised explosive devices, maybe having booby traps set up in the apartment for when the police come, things like that.
O'BRIEN: We know that the ATF is also assisting in this. And I have to imagine there are tons of questions just about the weaponry. They have described it as an AK-type shotgun, I guess. Rifle is what has been described to us by some law enforcement officials. And then in addition, two other weapons, one recovered in the theater.
Also, I want to ask you about the tear gas. It's now been described as tear gas. Where do you get tear gas from? Is that something that's easily procurable? Is that something that someone could potentially make at home?
FUENTES: I think, yes, if he was making an improvised device and wanted to place, you know, some type of a chemical like tear gas in it, that's certainly possible.
Tear gas is actually a misnomer. It's technically small black powder pellets that become airborne when carried on smoke. When they are shot out of a grenade, let's say, the grenade goes off. There's a small fire that emits smoke, and the pellets travel on the smoke. So it's not a gas. It's small solid particles.
If you got ahold of that, you could take pepper spray canisters apart and get the chemicals and put that into another device, if that's what he did.
O'BRIEN: That's interesting that you're describing it that way, because we had some people earlier, some eyewitnesses described almost like shrapnel.
O'BRIEN: And that sounds like that could be the description. They said explosives and shrapnel, in addition to some kind of tear gas or smoke gas. Could those two things be almost at the beginning at least confused for each other?
FUENTES: I think so. And, again, an improvised explosive device is something that many people know how to make, pipe bombs. And if they want to add other chemicals, whether biological or a chemical agent such as pepper gas, pepper spray, I think most people that have the technology to make a pipe bomb could add that ingredient in there without much trouble.
O'BRIEN: Law enforcement is telling us they have not found explosives in the theater or the apartment that they are searching, even though according to the police chief in his briefing earlier this morning he said that the shooter indicated that potentially there were explosives in his apartment. They also said that he didn't resist when they were able to apprehend him.
What does that tell you?
FUENTES: Well, it sounds certainly like a deranged person. You know, I think he did all of the shooting, created the panic that he wanted to, possibly ran out of ammunition and just gave up when police come -- when police arrived, I mean.
So that -- there are many questions that have to be answered about that. And the question of him talking to the police right now or during the night, it will need to be verified. Everything he says or claims will have to be determined whether it's true or just bragging on his part that he had other explosive material or precursor chemicals which could be extremely flammable and dangerous in an apartment building complex.
O'BRIEN: The eyewitness descriptions have been absolutely horrific. And also when you think about -- they are talking about a dark movie theater, where it's very unclear even what's happening. It must have been very, very terrifying. You almost couldn't pick a place that would be more crowded with people, the midnight showing of a highly anticipated film.
You could not -- you know, and with the lights out, so you'd be able to sort of pop in an exit door and set off a smoke bomb and be able to really create almost the most havoc at that hour in one spot.
FUENTES: That's true. And also while the movie is playing, you know, it has surround sound, so there are speakers throughout the entire theater and the adjacent theater. So the sound of gunfire at a movie theater during a movie that has violence in it, it would be very disoriented to determine whether or not -- I think some of the witnesses claimed they thought it was part of the movie at first when they heard these noises, which later turned out to be actual gunfire.
O'BRIEN: Right. That's what they were saying. At first they thought it was a movie, and as people started standing up and bleeding from their gunshot wounds, some case going through the walls into other theaters, they realized this was real shots and this was something terrible unfolding.
Tom Fuentes is a former FBI assistant director -- thank you for talking with us. We appreciate your insight on where this investigation potentially could go.
Christine, I want to check in with you on the area hospitals. We had said 50 people injured. We know the number of people killed has been downgraded to 12 people killed, which is better news than we've been dealing with earlier today.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So true.
O'BRIEN: How do they expect the 50 who are injured to -- what's the prognosis there?
ROMANS: Some of those are in critical condition and some of those are in surgery as we speak right now. And they are still getting more people coming to the hospitals on their own. One hospital is doing decontamination because of tear gas exposure, and there are a number of minor injuries, tear gas exposure decontamination, also some shrapnel wounds and the like.
We know -- I want to talk to you about this young victim we have been trying to track down. Eyewitnesses telling reporters on the scene moments after the shooting about a young girl, a little girl carried out in the arms of a police officer. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw at least four, maybe five people that were limping, wounded, slightly bloody. The most that I saw was a girl who was pretty much covered in blood, and she didn't have any wounds on her. So, I mean, it kind of -- it made me think the worst.
REPORTER: You have got a lot of horrible images in your mind right now. And I know you said one of the most powerful for you, you saw a little girl.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I don't know whose little girl that was, but my heart goes out to them. I honestly hope that they're OK. And I hope that, you know, the little girl is OK and she recovers and everything.
But a cop came walking through the front door before everyone was cleared up and before everything was completely under control, a cop came walking through the door holding a little girl in his arms, and she wasn't -- she wasn't moving. I had heard another witness who was in my theater, someone else that I was talking to before the movie, we were waiting in line for, she was on the phone and the really messed up part for me was she told whoever she was talking to that she saw bullet holes in the little girl's back.
And, I mean, I honestly can't think of any kind of person who would intentionally hurt a little girl. So, I mean, unfortunately, it makes me think that she just got caught in the cross fire.
REPORTER: And how crowded was the theater? This was an anticipated film.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. We had two lines open. One on one side of the theater, the other on the other side. It's crazy to think I could have been in theater nine, because, you know, as soon as we heard the first shots, my sister immediately grabbed my arm and wanted to leave, as quick as possible.
Yes. It was terrifying.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMANS: We know where that little girl was taken by police. We know that there are six patients at children's hospital, and the youngest is 6 years old. The age range at children's hospital from 6 to 31 years old.
We know that some people were taken to the hospital in the back of police cruisers. We know others were taken in ambulances. And again, as I said, some people are still being admitted to hospitals, a few, for, you know, coming now even now with the slight injuries to be treated.
O'BRIEN: Interesting that we heard some descriptions of people being admitted with shrapnel wounds, and then to hear the FBI assistant director talk about how tear gas, since it's those pellets, that he thought that that could be consistent with some kind of a shrapnel wound -- because that was a description we heard from a number of witnesses who said there was an explosion, in addition to the tear gas, in addition to what they described as a smoke bomb, that in fact there was an explosion that people were being hit by some kind of shrapnel.
ROMANS: And we know that the youngest victim so far, who is now in fair condition, doing fine, is a 3-month-old baby, the youngest. So someone took their very, very little baby to the movie. And you heard some other witnesses talking about they had seen a baby, you know, in the middle of all of this as well. But that baby we're told is doing fine.
But clearly there were a lot of teenagers, a lot of young people. This was a movie that had been sold out for days.
O'BRIEN: It's PG-13.
ROMANS: It's PG-13. Have been sold out for a long time, and it opened at midnight. This was a very highly anticipated film, the impact of this shooter at that moment. You know, Tom Fuentes talking about how premeditated this looks. The location, the timing, all of that time for maximum impact.
O'BRIEN: Yes, definitely.
We earlier spoke to Quentin Caldwell. He was a witness. He was watching "The Dark Knight Rises" but in a different theater, apparently was playing in many of those 16 theaters in this complex. And he described how he first realized that the explosions were not just the movie, which is what he first thought, but actually a shooting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUENTIN CALDWELL, WITNESS (via telephone): I think we are about 15 minutes in. And there was a chase scene where there was gunfire on the screen. And right then, out of nowhere, on the right side of us, we just hear a very distinct pop, pop, pop, pop.
And my wife jumped, and I kind of sat there, and I was like, it's probably just really good special sound effects. And my wife said, no, that's real distinct. And a couple of other people looked puzzled too.
And suddenly behind us we noticed that there was people saying somebody is shooting up the theater, somebody's been shot. And we see a young couple, you know, holding a woman's face, and guiding her down the stairs, and she is bleeding pretty good. I looked to my right, and another gentleman was holding his stomach and running down the stairs just trying to get out of there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: And we are also getting some new information about the weaponry.
CNN's Carol Cratty has learned this. The number of guns has now been upgraded to four guns found, shotgun being the additional gun. We heard again sort of conflicting reports from eyewitnesses which makes sense now that there are four guns. One is an AK-type rifle, an assault weapon, one is the shotgun, and two handguns.
Police were able to recover one gun in the theater, and that is the shooter was heavily armed. And eyewitnesses said that they saw the shooter carrying the rifle, the AK-type weapon, and then also a shotgun as well. So that brings the number to four guns that law enforcement officials are now saying was part of this terrible tragedy.
I want to get to Dan Austin. He's a retired NYPD detective.
Dan, thanks for talking with us. We're getting a lot of information, excluding the name -- the shooter has not been named by authorities yet, but we know that he is 24 years old, according to police, that he was wearing a bulletproof vest, heavily armed. I just described some of that weaponry.
Describe for me what kind of damage that AK-type rifle could do in a crowded type theater.
DAN AUSTIN, RETIRED NYPD DETECTIVE: Yes, good morning, Soledad.
I tell you, many years back, I had a case where an actual homicide in the bodega here in New York where the perpetrator utilized an AK-47 assault. It's very, very powerful. It's a 7.62x39 cartridge that comes out at well over 2,000 feet per second. It will cut through two, three, four people with ease.
I mean, this is -- this is the type of weapon that does some serious collateral damage, as well as a shotgun and any other type of handgun. But this is just a type of a weapon that really is a military weapon. Something that there are a lot of knockoffs, but it is quite an extremely potent weapon.
O'BRIEN: We're not getting any indication at this point of the ammunition. There is no indication that there's been ammunition stash, no indication that they found ammo in the car. There's no indication that they had ammo on him at this point.
But that would be a heavily armed suspect as described by police.
AUSTIN: Yes. Absolutely, Soledad. He's extremely -- he is well-equipped. He's got a bulletproof vest.
You know, I have heard some reports that it's not domestic terrorism. It's not this type of terrorism. In light of everything, it's definitely an act of terrorism. It's home-grown terrorism, because the ramifications down the road because of this are going to be exponential.
O'BRIEN: What do you mean by that?
AUSTIN: And one of them will be unfortunately what everybody thinks might be the final Batman film probably will not do as well as it might have done because of this incident is going to be in the back of everybody's mind. So, you know, financially, you've done some damage. And it's very, very sad.
So obviously whatever the motive that this individual had or has it's going to be very, very interesting to find out, to see what type of relationships, what type of affiliations he might have.
So I think as time goes on, it's difficult to speculate now, but I think as time goes on, you're going to see a lot of different things come out.
O'BRIEN: Yes, there's no question that they are trying to figure out exactly not only the name of this suspect, which has not been released to us by the Aurora police as of yet, but clearly, connections and who he was. We're looking, we believe, at his apartment building. The SWAT teams have been camped out there.
You can see them in the foreground. And then, the apartment building, we're told, by the police chief in Aurora was evacuated several hours ago now. Police say that when the gunman was captured, that he told police that he had explosives in his apartment. Some reports we're getting, though, say that there are no explosives that have been found either in the theater or in this apartment complex that has now been evacuated.
The ATF is saying that there are multiple teams that are assisting in all of this. Let me ask you a question. Why would somebody -- or is it an indication of someone being deranged when they're stopped by police to talk about explosives that they have in the apartment complex, which now looks like they've been searching it or continue to search it, and that are turning up nothing right now?
AUSTIN: Well, again, this is the individual who wants to instill. He wants to instill fear in everybody, whether there are the residents of the building that he lives in, whether it's the first responders such as law enforcement or fire officials. And this is the object of the game. Whether he's a lone wolf, so to speak, this is what he wants to do.
Whether he's telling the truth or lying, you know, he wants to bring everybody and he wants to create such harm and alarm. And he's successfully done that, quite obviously. And he's also done quite a bit of collateral damage as far as the murder of 12 individuals and the wounding of 50 others.
And who knows how many others are going to succumb to their wounds over the next several days? We don't know exactly how many people are extremely critical.
O'BRIEN: Right. You're right. There are 50 people, we were told, that had been transported to area hospitals. And we were just told that many of them were in extremely critical condition. That number, as you pointed, out rightly is 12 people reported dead now, downgraded from what we heard from police earlier, which was 14. You talk about creating harm and alarm and chaos. And really, you couldn't -- if you wanted to do that, you could not pick a place that would be more crowded at midnight than this particular movie, which was widely anticipated in this particular theater, which had 16 different screens.
AUSTIN: Oh, absolutely. I mean, you know, this individual obviously knew what he was doing. This was definitely, if not the biggest film probably in the last couple of years, everybody was expecting it. As a matter of fact, my 17-year-old son attended the showing last night at midnight. So, this was pretty big.
I mean, you know, to pick a venue like this, with 16 movie theaters and hundreds and hundreds of people attending this, he knew exactly what he was doing, and the outcome could have been much, much worse. However, it still can be much worse, because I suspect that the numbers are going to grow as far as those who've succumbed to their wounds over the next several days.
O'BRIEN: Some of the descriptions have been terrible. I want to ask you to stand by for a second while I read to everyone what we know from Mike Brooks now. He's been talking to our sister network, HLN. And he says that a federal law enforcement source involved in the investigation says that officers have found, quote, "items of interest in the suspect's apartment."
When you hear that, what does that say to you, Dan? What's an item of interest?
AUSTIN: Yes. There's a lot of things, Soledad. One of them, you know, if somebody I think said that there was some type of explosion in the theater itself. I mean, he could have different types of materials that could show how to make improvised explosive devices. He could be reading things on the internet that are related to anarchist groups or other types of terrorists or anti-American or anti-American people type readings.
So, I mean, and that's interesting in and of itself. I mean, it's very easy to get a hold of, whether you go on the internet or go to the library. Making improvised explosive devices are very simple to make. They're not the most difficult thing in the world to make.
And there's tons of information readily available anywhere you want to find it, the internet being probably first and foremost. So, I would definitely say that that would be very significant.
O'BRIEN: While we are talking, we're looking at pictures of the fire ladder extended, and it looks like they're trying to get into his apartment or continue to get into his apartment through a window, because several law enforcement officials it looks like are trying to get close to that window and maybe get into his apartment that way.
One of the things we know is that the Red Cross is on the scene at Gateway High School. And early on, we were told that witnesses who had not been injured, who were not being transported to hospitals, would be brought to the high school which is not very far from the theater, and that way they could stage there and start really processing some of their information.
Describe for me what that's like when you have a chaotic scene, and now, you've got a bunch of witnesses coming in, and they all need to be questioned and debriefed for their information.
AUSTIN: Yes. It's a very, very critical and important part of the investigative process. And especially when you have hundreds of people involved. You want to have them somewhere where you can access them one at a time or have groups of investigators, you know, go in there and take one at a time and get everybody's statement and put it all together.
The end piece could take several days just to do the initial part of it. And then, several weeks, if not months, to put it all together and see really how the puzzle fits together, because the information that these people are going to give you, and it's critical that you get it right now within the next several hours.
So, it's a blessing that the FBI is coming in there, where I think they said well over 100 agents, because the information that you can get within the first several hours of an incident like this is critical because as time goes on, people start to forget. People start to not remember. People don't want to remember.
They don't want to be involved. So, it's critical that these people that you brief them, you question them, and that all the parts start to fit nice and neatly together in a package for prosecutorial purposes down the road, you know, it's very important.
O'BRIEN: All right. Dan, thanks. We want to revise some numbers that we've been giving. While you look at these live pictures, this is the apartment complex in North Aurora. It is believed to be, in fact, where this crane ladder is exactly placed would be the window of the alleged shooter in this incident because SWAT teams, we're told, are at the scene there.
You're looking at live pictures while they are clearly trying to either get into his window or figure out how to get into the window there. The revised figures are now 12 dead in the shooting spree. Thirty-eight others are reported hurt. And as Dan was just telling us, some of those injuries we know from eyewitness reports and from the law enforcement reports are extremely grave, are extremely serious, and that could revise that number once again.
But in the scene that you're looking at right here in North Aurora, we've been told by reporters there that the street obviously has been blocked off. Folks who were in the apartment were evacuated according to the police chief, who briefed the press earlier today. SWAT teams, we were told, are making their way either around or through the apartment complex.
Mostly, though, it was described as people who are watching, ambulances and fire trucks kept at a little bit of a distance, except for obviously this one with a ladder so they able to get in through that window or at least examine something. They don't physically be actually going through the window. And everyone else kept at a distance. According to reporters there, it has not been confirmed that this is the shooter's apartment complex, but between this location and also the white car that we have seen, the vehicle that we believe also to belong to the shooter, it makes perfect sense, because this is exactly what law enforcement officials have been talking about all morning.
Now, focusing the investigation on this particular building, and obviously, continuing to look at the car. We're told that there is something of interest, items of interest to authorities. They have not elaborated on what those items of interest would be.
We've got to take a short break. We're going to come back in just a moment and continue to cover this breaking news out of Aurora, Colorado. We've got 12 people dead, 38 others wounded. Some of them very, very seriously in a midnight shooting that happened during the screening of a popular movie, the new Batman movie. We're back in just a moment.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. We are obviously covering this shooting that's happened at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, as folks were watching the midnight screenings of "The Dark Knight Rises." A gunman opened fire. You're looking at live pictures now.
This is believed to be the gunman's apartment where some moment ago, we saw law enforcement officials who were inside that ladder, that crane, knock out the curtains and maybe a window, clearly trying to gain access through the window of the alleged shooter's apartment building. They've been saying that they have found items of interest in this apartment, but it is unclear exactly what those items of interest are.
One thing we do know, 12 people are dead. Thirty-eight are hurt. Some of them, extremely, extremely grave condition. And so, there are some expectations that those numbers could change. We are also told that 10 of those people killed were killed inside the movie theater, and that their bodies remain inside that theater right now.
We are expecting to get a briefing overall of what's happening in the area hospitals where there are many people being treated. We're going to bring that to you live when it happens. First, though, we want to get to Rebecca Bradshaw. She was evacuated from right across the street where you're seeing this scene, the alleged shooter's apartment complex.
She was evacuated from right across the street from there. It happened just about two hours ago, and she's with us now. Rebecca, thanks for talking with me. Give me a sense -- I'm looking at this crane attached to a fire truck, and obviously, law enforcement is trying to gain access through the window of the apartment building. What happened? You were woken up, and they said what? VOICE OF REBECCA BRADSHAW, COLORADO: Well, actually, it started going on around 1:00 a.m. this morning. I heard a lot of commotion outside. So, me and my sister, we went outside to see what was going on. And next thing you know, we seen all kinds of police running up with their vests on. And they have guns like drawn and running towards the apartment building.
And at first, I thought it was the apartment I was in. And I said, should we be concerned? And they're like no, no, it's fine. Just go back inside. Then I've seen a SWAT pull up, the bomb squad, and there were K-9s. And I was like, what's wrong? Should I be worried? And they were like, no, go inside, go inside. and we seen them surround the building.
They started breaking windows. They entered the apartment building, and they like -- we were still asking questions. And they're like no, just go inside. IT'S going to be OK. And then, about like an hour later, we heard like booming sounds. And so, I was like, should we leave? And they would not let us leave the premises of our apartments.
They wouldn't even let us come out our front doors. And, we were watching the news and we've seen what was going on at Century 16. And I was like so hurt about the families and what they were going through, and I didn't think in my head that (INAUDIBLE) were involved with each other.
But come to find out, the police, like, they -- we evacuated us about two hours later. And they told us that the person that did the shootings is possibly related to this. And then, there was like bomb materials or either a bomb in his apartment. So, they evacuated the whole surrounding areas, all the houses and apartments. And now, we are just here waiting to see what's happening.
O'BRIEN: OK. Let me stop you for a second. You said you heard booming sounds. What do you mean by that? What did it sound like?
BRADSHAW: Well, it was like a loud like -- it sounded somewhat like an explosion kind of.
O'BRIEN: And that was coming from where?
BRADSHAW: It was coming from the building that the SWAT has surrounded.
O'BRIEN: So, it's coming from this building that we're looking at right now. There was some kind of what you would describe as an explosion in or around that building?
O'BRIEN: OK. And then, when the police finally evacuated you, you said that what they said to you was that maybe there was a bomb inside. Can you give me just if you can remember a very specifically what exactly did they tell you? BRADSHAW: Well, they told us that it was a police officer, two of them, they came pounding on our door. I opened it, and they were like you need to evacuate. And I was like why do we need to evacuate? And they were like because the apartment across the street is -- we evacuated them, and we believe that there is some kind of bomb making materials located inside of that apartment. So, we need to evacuate the whole area.
O'BRIEN: So, they were very clear with you. Describe for me -- I'm looking at a very tight shot of this apartment complex. It looks sort of medium size. Can you describe for me what the neighborhood is like,and what this apartment complex, the one that's now surrounded by SWAT is like?
BRADSHAW: Well, usually it's pretty like calm area. It's like -- there's a school on the same block as the apartment that you're looking at. It's a really calm and collected area. But lately, there's been a lot of police activity. And I don't know maybe it's because a lot of things have been happening in Auroras, like shootings and stuff. But there's a lot of police activity lately. And I just thought it was another one of them days, one of the nights where police were here again. But it's usually before this, before the summer started, it was like a cool area, like you weren't afraid to be outside.
O'BRIEN: Is it an area frequented by young people? How would you describe the neighborhood to somebody?
BRADSHAW: It's a majority of families because it's right near a school. There's a school right in the area. So it's mainly just families, working families. And a lot of young children live around here.
O'BRIEN: So where has everybody been moved to? Where are you right now? Because obviously you've got to move a distance back from that building, which is right near your building, and of course all the people in that building. And we're looking at live pictures of what we believe is the suspect's apartment building, now the fire department using a crane, trying to gain access through the window. Where does everybody -- where has everybody been put?
BRADSHAW: Well, they have evacuated like two -- like two blocks, the whole perimeter. And they just have us like -- we're probably about like five blocks away from the scene. And they really didn't tell us too much. They just told us that we would be taken to a gym if we needed somewhere to go. But besides that, they just told us like go down on the corner.
O'BRIEN: Rebecca Bradshaw updating us on what's happening in her neighborhood. This is north Aurora. She describes it as a family neighborhood full of families. It's now the focus of a SWAT team. And you can see the fire truck. They are trying to gain access to that apartment building through the window. They have been doing this now for the last hour plus. Rebecca says that she heard a booming sound that she would describe as some kind of explosion from this apartment building. She said the police showed up with their guns drawn, sent everybody back inside to her complex, which is across the street, she says SWAT team, bomb squad, K-9 unit as well. And she said eventually in the last couple of hours they were evacuated, being told by the police doing the evacuation that we believe that there is bomb making material inside that particular apartment building. This is consistent with what the police chief told us early this morning in the very early hours after this terrible shooting at this movie theater that in fact they were searching the apartment of the shooter, the suspect, 24-years-old and heavily armed with four weapons now. Earlier we thought it was three, but it's now been updated and upgraded to four, including an AK type weapon.
Earlier in an interview, the police chief described the shooter as wearing some kind of a costume. Of course, this particular movie would be the kind of movie where people according to witnesses were showing up in costumes, some dressed as the good guy, Batman, some dressed as the villain in the film, so that wouldn't be particularly unusual. It's the first time we've heard the description of the shooter wearing a costume. Other eyewitnesses have described the shooter as wearing a bulletproof vest, as having a gas mask and goggles, being heavily armed. But we have not heard before that he had some kind of a costume. We're going to try to get more information on that.
I want to get to William Washington. He was in the theater, excuse me, next to where the shooting occurred. One of the bullets went into the theater where he was. Describe for me what you saw.
WILLIAM WASHINGTON, WITNESS: So basically, you know, there was a scene, and part of it makes me feel like it was almost meditated this way, but maybe it was just dumb luck. But there was a scene where Anne Hathaway is basically in a shootout with the police. So there's all of these gunshots going through the theater. And at one point, you know, one of the shots happened to be really, really loud, and so much so that I kind of couldn't hear for a second. I heard a loud ringing.
And joking with my brother, I said, you know, these sound effects have gotten pretty good. And then you can start to hear them again, and you hear people screaming in the theater. And then all of a sudden -- we were on the left side of the theater. If you turn to the right, you just see this smoke coming into the theater. And then next thing I know, I see a lady get up, and she is clutching her face heading toward an exit. And then somebody else gets up. And there's just all this kind of panic.
And then there's a lot of people still sitting around wondering what's going on, is this a part of the movie. Somebody saying oh, somebody lit off a firecracker. There were so many people running around. And then once you start to see there are people hurt, then, you know, it kind of starts to register there's definitely something wrong here. And so we all kind of started making our way toward the exit, and in runs a guy saying who yells, don't go to the lobby, he's got a gun.
And then there's panic, and everybody just starts to get up and motion toward the exit and the alarm is on. And they kind of motioned us toward a balcony where we were all for about two or three minutes. And people were just bloody. I saw somebody with a bloody leg. I saw somebody with a bloody face. And it was just kind of surreal to see it. It's just weird talking about it. But there were just so many people around who were just, you know, just distraught.
And so we are all kind of watching over the balcony. And then some runs the police with shotguns. And they are headed in the direction of the theater. And then two other policemen show up. And they start motioning us toward the door. And the balcony has two flights of stairs that kind of head toward the front entrance of the theater. And so they started motioning us to come down the stairs and start rushing us outside.
O'BRIEN: So you're saying the timing was so close to the actual action of the film.
O'BRIEN: Because it's an action film.
WASHINGTON: There were guns going off in the film at that moment in time, so to hear an actual gunshot go off, the only thing that registered is that it was much louder.
O'BRIEN: We're looking at live pictures. I want to tell our audience of the apartment complex believed to be the one that houses the shooter in this. We've seen the fire department working at this window. And we're not quite sure what they're doing, if they are trying to gain access through the window or just continuing to work from the window inside the apartment. We also know that there have been items of interest that have been removed from the apartment, but, again, unclear what those items of interest are. William, let me ask you a question. We have been getting conflicting reports about the gunman. And you were in theater eight, right, not in theater nine where the gunman was.
WASHINGTON: Correct, in theater eight.
O'BRIEN: We're trying to figure out if he entered from the back of the theater, you know, the back of the building, meaning where the actual screen would be, did he come in through the emergency exit, or if he came from a different way?
WASHINGTON: It's tough to say because we were in another theater. But I do know that the shots that came through were definitely at the front of the theater, where the smoke was happening. So we could definitely see that it was closer to where the screen was.
O'BRIEN: So that might support some of the reports we're getting that indicated he came through an exit door and then started opening fire right from that front -- right by the screen, and in the pitch dark people didn't really understand what was happening. Thanks for talking with us. We appreciate your update very much. I hope you're hanging in there and doing OK. That must have been absolutely terrifying. William, thanks. Mark Stewart is a reporter from KMGH and he is joining us now with an update. Mark, thanks for talking with us. Tell us what part of the story you're covering and what you're seeing.
MARK STEWART, KMGH NEWS REPORTER: Well, Soledad, you're just showing the apartment complex in suburban Denver that was being searched. There's also an extensive search still taking place here on the crime scene in this movie theater parking lot. As you can see behind me, all of the cars are still here. And what detectives are doing now, and it's not just detectives from Denver but from really across the whole state. We have also learned that the FBI is here. They are going through this entire parking lot, looking at each of the cars. Perhaps there is something there, something left behind, that can explain what happened.
We have been talking to the local police here all morning long. One thing they have wanted to stress to us is that things have been changing. And at this point they are telling us that at least 12 people are dead, two of the people passed away in the hospital, the other 10 passed away here at the movie theater, and at least 50 people injured. A lot of people here have been concerned because, as you mentioned, this is a batman movie. There were a lot of children here, and there's been a lot of concern about the well-being of the children.
And at last check, I believe, at least six children were taken to the specialized children's hospital here in the Denver metro area. Basically, all of the hospitals here in Denver are treating patients, at least 50.
The next benchmark, the next time deadline we're looking for, is 11:00 mountain time. That's when the police chief will give us another update. Perhaps he can give us a better idea about this 24- year-old man. At this point, from all of our conversations with police, it appears that he was operating on his own, not part of any kind of organization as many people have just casually said in chatter. So hopefully in the next few hours we'll be able to get a better idea as to who he is, if he's had any run-ins with police here, and if he's even been spotted in this movie theater, this area, this vicinity, before.
O'BRIEN: OK, so we're expecting that press conference in about 4 1/2 hours. It's 6:39 where you are, mark. And I want to ask you a question about this, you know, as you mentioned and as we've been showing all morning, this apartment complex. We can see the fire truck and the extended ladder as they are doing some kind of work or trying to get some kind of access into the apartment through the window. What's the distance between where the theater is and this location? I'm told it's north Aurora.
STEWART: Correct. It's only a few miles actually south of where I am. Not more than a 10-minute drive. But there is a lot of concern about the security at the apartment complex because police are telling us this man threw in what they are describing as a bomb into this complex. And it was something that was able to send shrapnel flying. It released some kind of gas. So that's why there is so much concern. I think they want to know if any of the equipment, for lack of a better word, to make it perhaps has some role at that apartment complex. And from what I am understanding from my colleagues at the scene is that that whole complex has been evacuated.
O'BRIEN: So you're hearing that it was some kind of a bomb with shrapnel. We have heard eyewitnesses talk about shrapnel, but the only confirmation we have gotten has been about tear gas. And we know that people at the hospitals are being decontaminated from that tear gas. We haven't had consistent confirmation of any kind of explosive device that had shrapnel, although we are getting eyewitness reports about it.
STEWART: Right. Police are using the term "bomb," explosive device. These are police terms. And witnesses are telling us that they were struck by debris and they felt strongly enough that it was coming from whatever this explosive device may be. But indeed, Soledad, they did say there is some kind of gas. Many people have been describing to us and to you as some kind of tear gas. That's correct.
O'BRIEN: So, Mark, let me ask you a question. We're told that this apartment complex is located at 17th and Paris streets, north Aurora. This is apparently where the suspect lived. This is what's being searched right now from both the outside and I believe there on the inside as well from some of the information we're getting. One of the eyewitnesses who lives very close to this apartment complex who was evacuated said that she was told by police that they believe that maybe there was bomb making, and she also reported some kind of explosion. She said it sounded like a boom, you know, to her ears. It sounded like an explosion.
First, tell me what this neighborhood is like. She said it was full of families. And then also tell me if you're getting reports of any kind of explosion around this particular apartment complex, as our eyewitness described.
STEWART: Well, let me answer the second question first, because within the last, oh, two minutes or so, we did hear a lot of police sirens and fire engines. I can't say for sure that was connected. But at this point I have received no reports at least from our newsroom in Denver of any kind of explosion at that complex. I know that there are news choppers flying overhead so we can keep you updated on that.
But this complex and this whole movie theater is basically a typical American suburb that you would see in any major city. Obviously, there's a large shopping center here. The area where the apartment complex is located is filled with apartment complexes. Many families do live there. It's typical suburbia where this took place.
O'BRIEN: One other thing I'm interested in hearing you confirm, which the police chief said in another interview this morning, but I haven't heard it from the numerous eyewitnesses that we've been talking to. He described what the shooter was wearing as a costume. And of course as you know this is the kind of move they people going would potentially wear costumes to at a midnight screening. Have you heard that description? And if so, what kind of costume?
STEWART: Well, the one thing which we have heard is that he wasn't wearing traditional street clothes. One witness had suggested that he was wearing a bulletproof vest and that he had some kind of clothing over that. I've not heard the term "costume." But I think he was dressed in a way that stood out from the rest.
The other thing you have to remember is that this is a "Star Wars" movie. It's a movie premiere, the U.S. North American debut here last night, overnight. And so many people would dress up in costume. It would not be unusual.
So I'm not sure if he was dressed in a costume in the sense that he stuck out or if he simply blended in with the crowd.
O'BRIEN: I see what you're saying, yes.
STEWART: But we did hear from people -- we did hear from people that they did think he was wearing some kind of bulletproof vest and that he was on some well thought-out mission, for lack of better words.
O'BRIEN: And I think you mean Batman, not "Star Wars," but -- but I think you're right.
STEWART: Thank you, thank you.
O'BRIEN: A lot of the descriptions that we're getting are that sense with the goggles and a gas mask and wearing sort of Camo.
O'BRIEN: And heavily armed and with a bulletproof vest. What's being described as costume could be what other people describe as almost militaristic sort of sounding to me at least description.
Mark Stewart with that for us, thanks for that update. Mark, we appreciate your reporting for us this morning.
John Berman is following what some of the statements that have been released. I know that Secretary Napolitano has just released a statement and John has got that for us -- John.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: That's right Soledad. Obviously, there is a Washington response to this right now. The FBI headed to the scene.
And this statement from the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. She says "I am deeply saddened by the terrible shooting in Aurora, Colorado. Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies continue to respond to this horrific event. And I have directed the Department of Homeland Security to provide any support necessary in the ongoing investigation. We are committed", she says, "to bringing those responsible to justice. Our hearts and prayers go out to anyone impacted by this tragedy, especially the family and friends of those killed or injured." I have been in contact with both presidential campaigns today. The campaign for Mitt Romney says that Governor Romney will go on with a planned of event in New Hampshire today at a small business, but he will use the event to talk about this tragedy in Colorado.
The Obama campaign tells me they will alert us when there are changes to the President's plans. He has two campaign events in Florida. It would be surprising to have him not change at least the tone and tenor of these events.
And Soledad, I don't know if you've been talking about this. But I was curious, in by car, Aurora, Colorado, just 17 miles from Littleton, Colorado, which was the site of those terrible shootings in Columbine that so many people remember so well. Just 17 miles, too much -- too much tragedy for a -- for a really nice area.
O'BRIEN: So many of the law enforcement officials we've been talking to this morning, John, have mentioned that proximity and talking about how that really changed how they responded to emergencies like this. Many of the eyewitnesses said that the police response has been excellent, very calm, very coordinated.
And law enforcement officials said that not only was a big change post-Littleton, Colorado, the Columbine shooting, not only a big change for areas nearby, Littleton and as you mentioned this is 19, 20 miles away, but across the nation. Law enforcement officials really rethought how they would deal with this kind of an emergency, where there is a gunman on the scene, and they need to figure out in a lot of chaos how they're going to respond to that.
I want to show some pictures that were really among the very first that we got early this morning from a cell phone. So obviously, it's dark, but you can see this gentleman here in the striped shirt bleeding from the arm. Some of the chaos that took place inside, this is inside the movie theater complex. Remember, it's a complex with 16 different theaters. Many of them showing a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises".
Some of the folks you can hear them shrieking in the background, and others are -- are just standing around dazed, unsure of what to do. You can see police moving in and out as well.
We're told that the suspect was caught in the outside of the theater, in the back parking lot. That is what police have told us. We know that the number of dead now is 12. That's been changed by the police department. And 38 others wounded. Expect those numbers could change, though, because some of those -- those wounds are very, very grave.
We've got to take a short break. We'll be back on the other side with more information from Aurora, Colorado. We are covering this devastating shooting at a movie theater.
O'BRIEN: Welcome back everybody. We continue to cover this story unfolding in Aurora, Colorado. There has been a shooting; 12 people are now reported dead -- that number could go higher; 38 others are reported wounded, in some cases very gravely, very critically injured.
We've been showing you pictures of what is believed to be the suspect's apartment. And what you see -- let's -- let's take some live pictures of that. Because we've seen the ladder truck all morning, as the law enforcement have been trying to gain access or -- or work around the window of the apartment complex. It's that apartment complex right there that you're looking at.
And one of the things that we want to figure out is what exactly they are doing there. They -- the law enforcement talked about items of interest inside the apartment. And the suspect according to police also mentioned that -- that the apartment might be booby trapped or that there were explosives inside.
I want to get to Tom Fuentes, he's a former FBI assistant director. Tom, I'm looking at these pictures, this is the apartment complex, law enforcement using that ladder truck to try to work at the window.
First I thought they were trying to gain access that way. It sounds as if they've gotten access because they've talked about items of interest. But at the same time, they are moving very carefully. Can you tell me what might be going on here?
TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Hi, Soledad. Well, a good possibility is that they are trying to have some type of video device inserted through the window. Normally, SWAT teams arrive. They have a great deal of technical equipment with them, which includes basically fiber-optic lenses that can be inserted through tiny holes to look around the inside of that building. Devices such that a proctologist (ph) might use to be blunt.
So that may be what they are trying to do, is insert video devices safely through a hole in the window or under doors to see what's inside, make sure there is no one else inside and see if they can see any obvious signs of a booby trap or some other explosive device or precursor chemicals on the site.
O'BRIEN: The suspect told police that he potentially had explosives in his apartment, which was what brought them to that address. And we know that the SWAT team has set up some kind of perimeter.
So those would be members of the SWAT team who are trying to gain entrance using the police -- sorry the fire department ladder to get entrance.
You know, I talked to a woman an eyewitness who lives across the street, and one of the things that she described was some kind of a boom which to her sounded like an explosion. Probably could have been that or maybe something else. She described the evacuation process. They were told to stay, stay, stay, and then suddenly told to quickly evacuate. That would be an indication, she said, they were told that -- that they were looking for bomb making material. By the time they were evacuating people sort of nearby, would that be an indication to you that that in fact bomb making material has been found? And also, Tom, I've got to mention we are now seeing a much closer picture and we really can see it's FBI agents in fact who are trying to get through that window in some capacity. And I really don't want to necessarily -- oh, this is tape -- not necessarily trying to bring themselves through the window but using long prodding devices, I think, to confirm what you've been saying. Trying to figure out how to rip out that window and then maybe gain entrance with the -- the gear first and not put anybody at risk.
FUENTES: Right. And there's a couple of issues with this. There may have been somebody else in that apartment that he shot and killed before he left to go to the movie theater or killed by some other means. So you have that possibility that they want to make sure that there's no one inside there.
But you also have the possibility if he bragged about having explosives that he may have rigged that apartment to -- to have an explosion when the police or FBI tried to enter it.
So right now, you have an abundance of caution on the part of the FBI trying to keep their people safe but yet do the job they have to do at that scene.
O'BRIEN: What she described, an eyewitness named Rebecca, as a boom, could that have been a door being kicked in? We haven't had any confirmation of an explosion at this point yet. And you certainly don't see firefighters or you know gaining entry to the building to put out any kind of aftermath of an explosion.
FUENTES: Yes. It seems unlikely that the authorities would use an explosive device that soon in this scenario because it could trigger other chemicals to explode if they did that. So we may have had a case where they just banged in a door using breaching equipment or something that made that kind of a noise in the apartment.
But the fact that we haven't seen smoke coming out of the building or other apartment dwellers reporting hearing explosions makes me wonder if maybe it was a non-explosive event in that building.
O'BRIEN: All right. Tom Fuentes joining us this morning. Thanks Tom for all your insight. We certainly appreciate it.
FUENTES: You're welcome.
O'BRIEN: I want to mention that President Obama is now saying he's going to address the shooting at his first event of the day, which is at 11:00 a.m. that's Eastern Time. It's happening in Fort Myers, Florida. Obviously, we're going to bring those remarks to you when the President starts speaking. Christine has an update on what's happening at the various area hospitals which have been taking in patients all morning.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Right.
And we know they've been in surgery. There are some patients who are still in critical condition here. We know that it's a wide range of victims and patients both who have survived this attack and those who perished in it. Three months -- 3 months old is the youngest. That child, we're told, at University Hospital is doing ok. A three- month-old baby, the youngest, the youngest to -- to go to the hospital because of this. A 45 years old patient is the oldest patient. That 3-month-old baby at University Hospital is fine.
Swedish Hospital, they have had three admissions. Two are in surgery. Another admission expected any moment here right now. Two of those people at Swedish Hospital in critical condition.
At Children's Hospital, there are six patients aged 6 to 31. And I'm telling you, a small child being carried out, not moving, in the arms of a police officer. Several witnesses reported seeing that coming out of Theater Number 9. Just heartbreaking. We don't know what happened to that little child who came out lifeless, basically, in a police officer's arms. But we are following that very closely.
O'BRIEN: So there are many things obviously that we are getting from law enforcement today. We have seen the live pictures as they try to get access in some way into that apartment. Whether it's to feel their way in as Tom was mentioning, that maybe it's a way to insert cameras and try to see what exactly is inside the suspect's apartment building.
Also trying to update accurately the number of those who are dead and injured. Those who are injured stood at 38. But of course some of them gravely, so we expect those numbers could definitely change. There are reports in fact that the 10 people who were killed inside the theater, that they have not removed those bodies yet. That they remain in the theater.
ROMANS: This will rank as one of the worst mass shootings in American history. Virginia Tech, 32 were killed. Columbine, I think 13 were killed. This is timed, obviously timed for a very busy, packed movie theater. Midnight showing of one of the most highly anticipated movies in a very, very long time.
When you talk about the demeanor and the dress of the suspected shooter, just a devastating, devastating few hours it's been.
O'BRIEN: We're getting word from Warner Brothers, and we should mention of course those are corporate cousins here of Time Warner, which owns CNN. And they are saying that they have cancelled the Paris premiere of "The Dark Knight Rises". And I believe, it wouldn't surprise me, if some other premieres across the nation and across the globe were cancelled as well as they try to deal with the aftermath.
The investigation obviously really begins right now. We have pictures of the suspect's white car. That car has been -- and it continues to be examined by law enforcement as they try to figure out how he transported the materials into -- that's the car right there, that white vehicle -- into the theater.
We know that now four guns were removed. One an AK type weapon, an assault weapon that as law enforcement officials told us this morning could do tremendous damage to two, three, four people, cut down at one time.
And then of course the investigation continues at the suspect's apartment complex. They have evacuated neighbors around that complex, and inside we see a ladder. And as they try to figure out exactly how to carefully enter that complex with a SWAT team and the FBI poking at the window and working at the window trying to see if as some pointed out maybe it's booby trapped, what is inside. The suspect apparently telling police that he had other explosives.
CNN obviously continues coverage of this breaking news event. We continue with "CNN NEWSROOM", Fredricka Whitfield picks up our coverage right now.