US President Barack Obama was due to visit Colorado yesterday to meet victims of the Batman cinema massacre, a day after police entered the gunman’s booby-trapped apartment.
The visit also comes after police revealed the names of the 12 people who died — including a six-year-old girl whose mother was seriously injured — while asserting that the alleged killer had been planning the attack for months.
The White House said Obama would meet with families of the victims and local officials in Aurora, near Denver, where James Holmes, 24, is alleged to have opened fire during a packed midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises.
The actor who plays the caped crusader in the film voiced sorrow at the shooting, and the studio behind the movie said it was withholding box office data out of respect for the victims.
“Words cannot express the horror that I feel,” British actor Christian Bale said in a statement. “I cannot begin to truly understand the pain and grief of the victims and their loved ones, but my heart goes out to them.”
The horrific attack early on Friday in Aurora has revived the debate over gun control in the US, and drew condemnation by Obama and Republican White House presidential candidate Mitt Romney. A further 58 people were wounded.
Bomb experts spent Saturday inching their way into Holmes’ apartment. A small boom from a controlled detonation blew out a few pieces of debris, and a short time later police announced they had defused all major threats.
Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates did nothing to hide his anger at what the authorities found.
“Make no mistake, this apartment was designed to kill whoever entered it, and who was most likely to enter that location after he planned and executed this horrific crime? It was going to be a police officer,” he said.
Early yesterday, police dismissed media reports that another person, a fellow doctoral student, had helped Holmes in his killing spree, and had called the police and threatened more violence if Holmes was not released.
“There are multiple unconfirmed and inaccurate news reports about a second suspect,” a spokeswoman said. “An associate of Holmes was interviewed this evening. There is no reason to believe that he is involved.”
The 12 fatalities included six-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan, according to the Arapahoe County Coroner’s Office, which said they all died of gunshot wounds.
“She was beautiful and innocent,” the girl’s great aunt Annie Dalton told the Denver Post, recalling how the blonde child “loved to dress up and read, and was doing well at school.”
Her mother Ashley, 25, was shot in the neck and abdomen and is in critical condition at Aurora Medical Center, drifting in and out of consciousness, and is unaware that her daughter is dead, according to the newspaper.