Jul. 22, 2012: Colorado Movie Shootings

Sorry for being a few hours late this week. After being sick all day yesterday, I didn’t have the strength to put this post together until now.

With that in mind, the presidential campaign hit a lull this week; there aren’t any earthshaking headlines in the technology or science worlds (sorry, you can’t find the Higgs Boson every week); the London 2012 Olympics don’t begin until Friday’s opening ceremonies; and although the trade deadline is just around the corner, the biggest news in even the baseball scene is the induction of Tim McCarver, Bob Elliott, Barry Larkin, and the late Ron Santo into the Hall of Fame.

So this week is going to be a little different than usual as we jump straight into the one topic that has overwhelmed news coverage, captured the nation’s attention and even stalled the presidential election: the Colorado movie shootings.

At about 12:30 a.m. on Friday morning, as moviegoers in Aurora, Colorado took in a midnight showing of the new Batman movie, Dark Knight Rises, a silhouetted figure entered through the emergency exit. At first, many moviegoers thought that the man, dressed in full riot gear and armed with an array of heavy weaponry, was part of a further stunt to promote the new film, even as he threw gas canisters that enveloped the theater with a shadowy haze.

Then he opened fire on the crowd.

Holmes’ Armament

The gunman has since been identified as 24-year-old James Holmes, a quiet but brilliant young man with virtually no online presence (aside from, apparently, Match.com and adultfriendfinder.com profiles) who had been accepted into one of the nation’s top Ph.D. programs in neuroscience, the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

According to victims and witnesses, Holmes flooded the crowd with bullets before marching up the theater aisle, deliberately targeting anyone who tried to flee. He only paused to reload his weapons, as well as to deal with a jammed assault rifle (which had been his primary weapon before it malfunctioned), one of the many firearms he purchased in the weeks before his rampage. Ultimately, 12 people were killed and 58 others injured in the assault before police apprehended him, with the number of injuries and casualties making it the largest mass shooting in U.S. history. Among the victims was six-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan, whose mother remains in critical condition at Aurora Medical Center, and Alex Sullivan (no relation), a bartender who was celebrating his 27th birthday. Sullivan’s last Twitter post read, “Oh man one hour till the movie and its going to be the best BIRTHDAY ever.”

Holmes, who had previously served one summer as a Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters camp counselor responsible for overseeing ten underprivileged children, has no prior criminal record aside from a single traffic violation. Yet he spent the last two months preparing for this attack, a fact which grew more evident when he admitted to police that he had filled his apartment with booby-traps designed to explode if anyone tried to enter. Reports suggest that, had Holmes not warned authorities before they entered his apartment, the sophisticated network of wires and bottles filled with unknown liquids could destroyed the entire complex in which Holmes lived. It took two days for authorities to safely detonate the traps in order to begin collecting evidence.

In the wake of Holmes’ attack, which served as a chilling reminder of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, the acrimonious presidential campaign was effectively silenced, with Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both pulling advertising in the state and Obama further “>abandoning the campaign trail to visit victims and their families. Even Warner Bros. has, in a highly unusual move for the hype-driven movie industry, opted to forego normal Sunday box office earnings estimates, choosing instead to wait until Monday, when official weekend totals will be released. (It’s nonetheless a virtual certainty that Dark Knight Rises will be #1 in America, given that its midnight release was the second-most successful of all time.)

As the nation pauses to reflect, momentarily setting aside more trivial subjects in the wake of this tragedy, so too shall we subordinate the rest of our news coverage this week. So let us wish for the injured to quickly recover, the slain to rest in peace, and the nation to remember this devastating loss.

Other articles of interest:
Penn State president orders Paterno statue removal
Papers are yesterday’s news as Murdoch exits boards
Russian held over botnet attack on Amazon.com
In First, Software Emulates Lifespan of Entire Organism
Superman Returns: ‘Man Of Steel’ Trailer Debuts With ‘The Dark Knight Rises’

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