AURORA, Colo. — Police moved to complete the grim task of identifying the dead and notifying their families Friday evening in the aftermath of the movie theater massacre that left 12 dead and 58 wounded.
Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said he met with 70 family members of the victims at 4 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time who were still waiting for word of their missing relatives. An hour later, he said the last of the bodies had been removed from theater nine at the Century 16 at the Town Center of Aurora.
“Hopefully in the next hour we will get a confirmed list of the deceased and will begin the agonizing process of meeting with the families and determining what happened to their loved ones,” Chief Oates said at an evening press conference.
He said that the suspect, James Eagen Holmes, 24, purchased four firearms legally in the last 60 days from local Denver-area gun shops. Police discovered Mr. Holmes shortly after the midnight shooting by his white Hyundai in the theater parking lot with three firearms and one in his car.
Mr. Holmes also bought more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition on the Internet, including more than 3,000 rounds for the AR-15 rifle, 3,000 rounds for the two 40-caliber Glock handguns, 300 rounds for the Remington 12-gauge shotgun, and a 100-round drum magazine. All were purchased legally.
Security at the four Aurora movie theaters now showing “The Dark Knight Rises” has been heightened, with police patrolling the theaters “out of an abundance of caution,” Chief Oates said.
Efforts to gain access to Mr. Holmes‘ apartment were shelved for the evening, with plans to resume Saturday, as authorities tried to figure out how to avoid detonating the maze of explosives, chemicals and trip wires. The three-story building in north Aurora and four others have been evacuated, with the residents staying at nearby Central High School.
Of the 58 people who were injured, 30 remain in area hospitals and 11 of those are in critical condition. Most but not all of the injured are suffering from gunshot wounds, Chief Oates said.
Gov. John Hickenlooper praised police and emergency workers for their rapid response to the shooting. Less than two minutes after the first of hundreds of 911 calls were received at 12:39 a.m., Aurora police arrived at the theater, with 200 local, state and federal officers ultimately converging on the crime scene.
“We are seeing this community rise up and do the things that great communities do,” Mr. Hickenlooper said.
The governor called the shooting “an act that defies description,” and referred to the suspect as “clearly disturbed.”
He said President Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano have been in contact with him to offer their assistance.
“The whole country recognizes this is something we don’t accept, we can’t explain, but we’re not going to accept this. We’re going to push back,” Mr. Hickenlooper said.
Several organizations held vigils for the victims Friday night. The only victim identified by name Friday was Jessica Ghawi, who moved last year to Denver from Austin to seek a career in sportscasting.
Mr. Holmes moved to Colorado after graduating from the University of California at Riverside, where he earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in neuroscience. He entered the University of Colorado’s neuroscience graduate program in order to earn his doctorate, but had recently moved to withdraw from the program of his own volition, Chief Oates said.