AURORA, Colo. (AP) — A gunman wearing a gas mask set off an unknown gas and fired into a crowded movie theater in suburban Denver at a midnight opening of the Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises," killing 12 people and injuring 59 others, authorities said.
Moviegoers didn't know what was happening and some thought the attack was part of the show. Then they saw a silhouette of a person in the smoke at the front of the theater near the screen, pointing a gun at the crowd.
"I told my friend 'we've got to get out of here,' but then he shot people trying to go out the exits," Jennifer Seeger told NBC's "Today." She said the shooter made his way up the aisle, firing as he went, saying nothing.
Some of those injured are children, including a 3-month-old infant who was shot.
Police earlier said 14 people were dead, but later revised the number to at least 12. It was not immediately clear for the reason for the revision.
Witness Shayla Roeder said she saw a young teenage girl on the ground bleeding outside the theater.
"She just had this horrible look in her eyes .... We made eye contact and I could tell she was not all right," Roeder said.
Victims are being treated for chemical exposure apparently related to canisters thrown by the gunman. The shooter, a man in his 20s, was arrested shortly after the attack at 12:30 a.m. MDT at the multiplex theater at a mall in Aurora.
FBI spokesman Jason Pack said there's no indication so far of any connection to terror groups.
It was the worst mass shooting in Colorado since the Columbine High School massacre on April 20, 1999. Students Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, opened fire at the school in the Denver suburb of Littleton, about 15 miles west of Aurora, killing 12 classmates and a teacher and wounding 26 others before killing themselves in the school's library.
President Barack Obama said he was saddened by the "horrific and tragic shooting," pledging that his administration was "committed to bringing whoever was responsible to justice, ensuring the safety of our people, and caring for those who have been wounded."
Aurora is on Denver's east side and is Colorado's third-largest city with 327,000 residents. It is home to a large Defense Department satellite intelligence operation at Buckley Air Force Base, as well as The Children's Hospital, the University of Colorado Hospital and a future Veterans Affairs hospital.
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Published in Boston Globe on Jul. 20, 2012.