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Police In Aurora Hold Suspect, Interview Witnesses


Eight hours ago, a gunman burst into a packed movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, tossed in a can of tear gas, and then opened fire. Those in the audience had lined up hours in advance to get seats for the world premier of the Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises." Many were dressed festively, in costume, but the movie and the evening ended in horror.

Ben Markus, a reporter at Colorado Public Radio, has been following this story all night. He joins us now - as he has throughout the morning - from Aurora, which is a suburb of Denver. Thank you very much.

BEN MARKUS, BYLINE: Good morning again, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Morning again. Look, we know now that 12 people are dead, and more than three dozen wounded. Tell us a little bit about who was in the theater, I mean, what happened to them and where they are now.

MARKUS: Sure. So you can imagine that, you know, this big action sequence is going on. A gunman is shooting. It was so chaotic that, you know, people got separated. Families - some people went to one place. Some people went to another. There were two evacuation centers, high schools. And also, obviously, people that were injured or shot were taken to the hospital. I spoke with a doctor there who was treating victims.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: And we had 22 patients that came in over the course of just a couple of hours.

MARKUS: Have you ever seen that many patients come in at one time?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: No, fortunately. You know, and I think it was just a - it was a chaotic scene. We had people coming in by police car, by ambulance, by private car.

MARKUS: And the doctor told me, Renee, that the youngest victim was three months old - luckily, only slightly injured and was able to go home with parents. Three months old - that seems so young - and the oldest victim 45 years old.

MONTAGNE: And police have captured a suspect - right after the attack, really. We are told he's 24-year-old James Holmes, a suspect only at this moment and time. But what do you know about him?

MARKUS: Not much. There is some talk about him being a student in the area, a quiet guy. People have been looking around, trying to find friends or family of his in the area with no luck. The scene around his apartment where I'm at right now is completely taped off. It's crawling with fire trucks, bomb disposal units.

Fire trucks have their hoses out and trained on the third level of this apartment, and it's not clear where they're at in this, but it could take hours, if not longer, for people to get back into their apartment here.

MONTAGNE: Well, just briefly, let's turn to the community of Aurora and the victims and the witnesses. What's happening with them right now?

MARKUS: So most of, you know, when I was at the high school where a lot of the witnesses were taken, many of them were carted off by their parents. You can imagine, a lot of them were young, going to see, you know, a big-time comic book action film. Yeah. So they've kind of moved on and starting to get on with their day.

But, you know, around the medical center here, at this guy's apartment - the suspect's apartment is two blocks away from the medical center where some patients are still undergoing treatment and surgery to deal with the gunshot wounds. So this area - from the movie theater, which is about a mile away, the high school is a mile away, and this medical center complex is right in the middle of where his apartment is - is all just kind of chaotic still.

MONTAGNE: Ben, thanks very much.

MARKUS: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: Ben Markus, from Colorado Public Radio. And the horrific shooting in Aurora was at an opening night screening, as we've said, of "The Dark Knight Rises." The studio behind the film released a statement this morning. Warner Brothers says: Warner Brothers and the filmmakers extend our sympathies to the families and loved ones of the victims at this tragic time. And this is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Renee Montagne
Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.
Ben Marcus

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