Robot Clears Bombs From Home of Suspect in Movie Killing

Police use a video camera to look inside an apartment where the suspect in a shooting at a movie theatre lived in Aurora, Colo., on July 20, 2012. PHotographer: Ed Andrieski/AP Photo Close

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Police use a video camera to look inside an apartment where the suspect in a shooting at a movie theatre lived in Aurora, Colo., on July 20, 2012. PHotographer: Ed Andrieski/AP Photo

Police and FBI agents in Aurora, Colorado, used a robot to disarm a tripwire and clear bombs from the apartment of James Holmes, the suspect in a shooting that killed 12, wounded 58 and turned a suburban theater into a death house.

The FBI sent equipment and technicians from Quantico, Virginia, to disarm explosive and incendiary devices without ruining evidence, said James Yacone, special agent in charge, at a news conference today.

The “skillfully driven” robot had to neutralize an oxidizing agent and fuel just inside the door, then an improvised explosive device, additional triggering mechanisms, wires and fuses, he said. Agents were still at work, he said.

“This apartment was designed to kill anyone who entered it,” said Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates. “If you think we’re angry, sure as hell we’re angry.”

About 11:40 a.m. local time, a fire truck raised its bucket to a window of the apartment, which is adjacent to a grammar school. Two helmeted bomb squad members placed a device inside. The bucket retracted, a fire engine blasted its horn three times and the explosion went off, sending debris flying from the window into a parking lot.

Victims Emerge

The shootings about 12:30 a.m. July 20, about a half-hour into a showing of the new Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises” wounded 58 people in the Denver suburb. The rampage was the deadliest shooting in Colorado since the Columbine High School massacre in April 1999 and the worst mass shooting in the U.S. since November 2009, when 13 people were killed at Fort Hood in Texas.

Among the dead were Jessica Ghawi, 24, an aspiring sports journalist; Alex Sullivan, who was celebrating his 27th birthday; Micayla Medek, 23, of Aurora; and Matt McQuinn, of Springfield, Ohio.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant Jesse Childress, also died, said Lieutenant Colonel Jack Miller, a Pentagon spokesman. The Navy said that Petty Officer Third Class John Larimer, 27, a cryptologic technician from Crystal Lake, Illinois, was killed.

Veronica Moser, 6, also died, and her mother was in critical condition, the girl’s great-aunt, Annie Dalton, said in a telephone interview.

‘Extraordinarily Difficult’

President Barack Obama devoted his weekly audio and video address to remembering the victims.

“We will take every step possible to ensure the safety of all our people,” Obama said. “And we will stand by our neighbors in Colorado during this extraordinarily difficult time.”

The shooter opened fire during a lull in the movie after the opening sequence and threw a pair of tear-gas canisters, Brandon Axelrod, who was in the theater, said outside the hospital. Axelrod, 30, said he was treated and released for minor injuries while his friend, Josh Nowlan, 32, remained in the hospital with serious injuries.

Moviegoers who fled were more likely to be hit, he said.

The shooter acted deliberately, Axelrod said.

“He knew how to fire without being scared of the gun, I would say,” he said.

The assailant wore a gas mask, similar to a mask worn by Batman’s archenemy Bane in “The Dark Knight,” witnesses said.

Theater of Destruction

Television commercials show a masked Bane declaring his plan to “liberate” Gotham City and explosions that destroy a football stadium. Bane is also seen confronting Batman on the streets of Gotham.

Authorities seized two .40 caliber pistols, a Glock G22 and a Glock G23, a Smith & Wesson M&P .223 caliber semiautomatic rifle and Remington 870 Express Tactical 12-gauge shotgun, said a federal official unauthorized to speak publicly and who requested anonymity.

Investigators found that Holmes began buying the weapons in May at stores in the Aurora region, the official said. The suspect hadn’t committed offenses that would have raised alarms during background checks, the official said.

Oates said today that Holmes had received a high volume of shipments, including ammunition magazines, at his apartment for months. Frank Fania, a police spokesman, said he purchased around 6000 bullets over past few months.

Holmes is being held at the Arapahoe County jail pending his scheduled arraignment at 8:30 a.m. on July 23, Oates said yesterday.

Quitting School

Holmes was a graduate student in neuroscience at the University of Colorado-Denver who enrolled in June 2011 and was in the process of withdrawing, according to a statement from the school.

New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly told reporters yesterday that that the shooter had dyed or painted his hair red and said something about being the Joker, a Batman villain, said Paul Browne, a spokesman for the department, in a telephone interview. Oates, a former New York Police Department officer, wouldn’t comment when asked about the statement at his press briefing.

Authorities are trying to confirm that a photo of a man with orange hair appearing on AdultFriendFinder.com, a dating and sex-chat website, is Holmes, a law-enforcement official said. Investigators may have to subpoena the website’s records to ensure the photo is of Holmes, the official said.

Lindsay Trivento, a spokeswoman for Boca Raton, Florida- based FriendFinder Networks Inc. (FFN), which owns the website and publishes Penthouse magazine, didn’t immediately respond to a phone call and e-mail seeking comment.

Oates said a vigil would be held tomorrow evening.

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper said at today’s news conference that the state must consider the mass shooting an aberration.

“This is one event that has no relevance to what people should expect today or tomorrow or the next day,” he said

To contact the reporters on this story: Vincent Del Giudice in Denver at vdelgiudice@bloomberg.net; James Nash in Los Angeles at jnash24@bloomberg.net; Jennifer Oldham in Denver at joldham1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at smerelman@bloomberg.net

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