Gunman announced himself as the Joker, says eyewitness


REACTION:THE GUNMAN who killed 12 people in the Denver cinema showing the new Batman film had painted his hair red and announced himself as the Joker, said Ray Kelly, the New York police commissioner.

James Holmes (24) entered the cinema from a side door, dressed in black and wearing a flak jacket and mask, eyewitnesses reported. He had a semi-automatic rifle, a shotgun and two handguns.

Holmes carried out his deadly mission calmly, shooting without pause other than to reload. People in the cinema at first assumed him to be part of a stunt laid on by the multiplex to mark the world premiere of the final instalment of the Dark Knight trilogy, which had been running for 10 minutes when the shooting started.

Chandler Brannon (25), who had been watching the movie with his girlfriend, said that he saw a smoke bomb go off and heard what sounded like fireworks.

He then realised that the noises he was hearing were gunshots.

“I told my girlfriend to just play dead,” he said, adding that he never got a full view of the gunman. “All I could see was a silhouette.”

Salina Jordan told the Denver Post it sounded like firecrackers until someone ran out screaming: “They’re shooting out here!”

“There were bullet [casings] just falling on my head. They were burning my forehead,” Jennifer Seeger said. “Every few seconds it was just: Boom, boom, boom. He would reload and shoot . . . anyone who would try to leave would just get killed.”

For Denver, the shooting will have terrible echoes of the massacre at Columbine high school, just 15 miles away from Aurora. On April 20th, 1999, two students, Eric Harris (18) and Dylan Klebold (17), opened fire in the school, killing 12 classmates and a teacher before killing themselves.

President Barack Obama was informed of the shooting in the early hours of the morning. In a statement from Palm Beach in Florida, where he cut short his campaign schedule, he said he was “shocked and saddened by the horrific and tragic shooting in Colorado”.

“As we do when confronted by moments of darkness and challenge, we must now come together as one American family,” he said.

The Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, expressed his sadness over the “senseless violence”. “We are praying for the families and loved ones of the victims during this time of deep shock.”

Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, who has argued for restrictions on gun ownership, said: “Soothing words are nice, but maybe it’s time that the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they are going to do about it.” – (Guardian service)