President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney suspended their political campaigns in the aftermath of a mass shooting in Colorado that both men called an act of evil.
“We may never understand what leads anybody to terrorize their fellow human beings like this,” Obama said in Fort Myers, Florida. “Such violence, such evil is senseless. It’s beyond reason.”
Romney, in Bow, New Hampshire, called the shooting a “hateful act” and said, “Our hearts break for the victims and their families.”
At least 12 people were killed and as many as 50 were injured when a gunman opened fire during a midnight showing of the new Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises,” at a theater near Denver, federal and local authorities said. A suspect, John Holmes, 24, is in custody.
Obama was informed of the shooting at 5:26 a.m. by his homeland security adviser, John Brennan, and later had a briefing from FBI Director Robert Mueller, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters traveling with the president in Florida.
Promise of Support
Obama spoke with the police chief and the mayor of Aurora, where the shooting occurred, and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. The president told the Aurora Police Chief Daniel Oates that “he should expect the full support of the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies,” according to an administration statement.
There is no indication the shooting was linked to a terrorist group, Carney said. Obama was updated on the investigation this afternoon at the White House.
Obama ordered U.S. flags flown at half-staff at federal facilities, public buildings, military bases and U.S. offices overseas until sunset on July 25.
Romney and Obama described their reactions in terms of family.
“My daughters go to the movies,” the president said. “What if Malia and Sasha had been at the theater?”
He said he and first lady Michelle Obama will “hug our girls a little tighter tonight.”
Romney said the tragedy touched him “as a father and grandfather, a husband, an American.”
Both men paid tribute to the victims and called for reflection on the important things in life.
“If there’s anything to take away from this tragedy, it’s a reminder that life is very fragile,” Obama said. “Our time here is limited and it is precious.”
Romney said he and his wife, Ann, joined the Obamas in offering “our deepest condolences for those whose lives were shattered in a few moments of evil in Colorado.”
He said this is a “moment to grieve” and to “remember how much we love one another, and how much we love and how much we care for our great country.”
The president was in Florida as part of a two-day campaign swing. He canceled later scheduled events and returned to Washington, campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters. The campaign is asking television stations in Colorado to suspend its advertising, she said.
Romney was set to campaign in New Hampshire and also canceled events. His campaign organization said it is pulling advertising in Colorado.
Obama is scheduled to deliver a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention July 23 in Reno, Nevada, and make campaign appearances over the following two days. The administration hasn’t revealed whether he plans to go to Aurora.
“There are going to be other days for politics,” Obama said today. “This, I think, is a day for prayer and reflection.”