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Colorado Shooting Columbine Crosses Steve Hogan, right, mayor of Aurora, Colo., where the movie theater attack took place, pauses to pray as Greg Zanis places a cross for the shooting victims. Mr. Zanis also placed crosses in 1999 for Columbine attack victims.
Steve Hogan, right, mayor of Aurora, Colo., where the movie theater attack took place, pauses to pray as Greg Zanis places a cross for the shooting victims. Mr. Zanis also placed crosses in 1999 for Columbine attack victims.
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Published: Monday, 7/23/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

President tries to provide comfort to survivors and victims’ families

BLADE NEWS SERVICES

AURORA, Colo. — Despair all around him, President Obama on Sunday offered hugs, tears, and the nation's sympathy to survivors of the Colorado shooting rampage and to families whose loved ones were shot dead.

He found hope in the heartbreak, insisting a brighter day will come.

In dramatic detail, the President offered a glimpse inside the horror that took place in the Denver-area movie theater early Friday, relaying a story he said spoke to the courage of young Americans.

With two fingers pressed to his own neck, Mr. Obama recalled how one woman saved the life of a friend who had been shot by keeping pressure on a vessel that had "started spurting blood" and later helping carry her to safety.

Behind closed doors, Mr. Obama visited one by one with hurting families at a hospital and patients recovering in intensive care.

President Obama, right, says his conversations with victims’ families were marked by tears and memories. President Obama, right, says his conversations with victims’ families were marked by tears and memories.
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He emerged before the TV cameras and kept his focus on the lives and dreams of the fallen and the survivors, not the shooting suspect or his "evil act."

"I come to them not so much as President as I do as a father and as a husband," Mr. Obama said after his visits. "The reason stories like this have such an impact on us is because we could all understand what it would be like to have somebody we love taken from us in this fashion."

Mr. Obama said his conversations with family members were filled with memories of brothers, sons, and daughters who left their mark on others.

He said there were laughs as well as tears.

"My main task was to serve as a representative of the entire country and let them know that we are thinking about them at this moment and will continue to think about them each and every day," Mr. Obama said.

"The awareness that not only all of America but much of the world is thinking about them might serve as some comfort."

Thousands of residents gathered for an evening memorial service to wrap up a prayerful day of official and unofficial mourning in this shattered community.

It now appears that the casualties could have been even more horrific.

The gunman's semiautomatic rifle jammed and prevented him from emptying a 100-round magazine of ammunition, according to a law enforcement source.

Serenity Brydon, 7, from Aurora, looks at a memorial near the the Century 16 movie theater Sunday in Aurora, Colo. Twelve people were killed and dozens were injured in a shooting attack early Friday at the packed theater during a showing of the Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises." Serenity Brydon, 7, from Aurora, looks at a memorial near the the Century 16 movie theater Sunday in Aurora, Colo. Twelve people were killed and dozens were injured in a shooting attack early Friday at the packed theater during a showing of the Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises."
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There also emerged a new twist in the narrative that indicates that the alleged shooter, identified by authorities as James Holmes, 24, did not immediately surrender to police and could have come close to eluding capture by slipping away in the guise of a SWAT team officer.

Mr. Holmes is scheduled to appear in court for the first time today.

The suspect is not cooperating with officials as he was being held in solitary confinement, Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said.

"He lawyered up. He's not talking to us," the chief said.

It could be months before they learn the motive behind the shootings that left 12 dead and 59 injured.

A law enforcement source, who is close to the investigation but not authorized to speak publicly, said something went awry in the killer's planned assault.

Police said the alleged gunman had three weapons: a Remington shotgun, a Smith & Wesson M&P assault rifle, and a Glock .40-caliber handgun.

The semiautomatic rifle, which is akin to an AR-15 and is a civilian version of the military's M-16, can fire 50 to 60 rounds per minute and is designed to hold large ammunition magazines.

The source said Mr. Holmes allegedly had obtained a 100-round drum magazine that attached to the weapon but that such large magazines are notorious for jamming.

The law enforcement official said authorities believe the gunman first used the shotgun — some victims in the hospital have buckshot wounds — and then began using the assault rifle, which jammed.

Then he resorted to the handgun.

Chief Oates, interviewed on Fox News Sunday, did not confirm or deny that the gun jammed but said police found the 100-round magazine lying on the theater floor.

He said he did not know whether it was empty.

Initial police accounts said Mr. Holmes surrendered without incident to police who found him at his car behind the theater complex.

But Chief Oates, in an interview on CBS's Face the Nation on Sunday, described a more complicated scene in the minutes after the shooting.

He said officers arriving at the scene might have mistaken Mr. Holmes for a SWAT officer. He was allegedly dressed in black ballistic gear, including a helmet, throat guard, vest, leggings, and gloves.

Chief Oates said a piece of equipment in Mr. Holmes' elaborate gear — he would not specify which piece — struck one of the responding officers as irregular.

The officer questioned Mr. Holmes.

Chief Oates did not describe the exchange, only the result: Mr. Holmes was arrested.

Police, meanwhile, are trying to restore some sense of normalcy to the neighborhood where Mr. Holmes lived and where residents of five buildings had been evacuated after police discovered that the suspect's apartment had been booby-trapped with dozens of explosives.

After clearing the apartment of explosives Saturday, bomb squad officers on Sunday transported hazardous chemicals to a nearby field and burned or destroyed the material.

One law enforcement official told the Associated Press Sunday night that investigators found a Batman mask inside the apartment.

The shootings occurred at a midnight premiere of the Batman sequel The Dark Knight Rises. The official requested anonymity.

Police said Mr. Holmes spent months amassing explosives, weapons, and ammunition.

In an appearance Sunday on Face the Nation, Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan said nine of the people wounded at the theater were in critical condition at hospitals.

"They're in bad shape," Mr. Hogan said. "There are people who have had already numerous surgeries, numerous brain surgeries. There are some folks that are in bad shape."

Mr. Hogan said authorities were analyzing the contents of Mr. Holmes' apartment.

"I'm told there was a computer inside the apartment, and with the assistance of the FBI that computer will be completely analyzed," he said. "That may take some time. So we're hopeful that will yield some information."

Starting early in the morning people gathered at a makeshift memorial across from the theater.

On top of a hill overlooking the site, Greg Zanis, who builds electric cars for a living, had erected 12 white crosses in honor of each of the dead, just as he did more than a decade ago in Littleton, Colo., to mark the 1999 Columbine High School shooting.

There, 15 crosses had originally stood — 13 for those who were killed and two for the shooters who killed themselves.

Meanwhile, details began to emerge about the failed neuroscience student.

He tried to join a shooting range in late June.

Glenn Rotkovich, owner of the Lead Valley Range in Byers, Colo., said Mr. Holmes emailed a request for an application to join.

The application included a series of questions, including "Are you prohibited by state or federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition?" and "Have you ever been convicted of any domestic violence offense?"

Mr. Holmes replied in the negative to all four such screening questions.

But when Mr. Rotkovich called Mr. Holmes, he said, he got an answering machine with a "bizarre," guttural, unintelligible recorded greeting.

He told his staff that if Mr. Holmes showed up he should not be allowed to fire weapons at the range until Mr. Rot-kovich checked him out.



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