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Colorado latest: victims named as police say suspect planned massacre for months

More on the suspect, the victims and police activities on the booby-trapped Paris Street.

Candles, flowers, and a Batman figure are shown at a memorial.
Candles, flowers, and a Batman figure are shown at a memorial.
Image: Ted S. Warren/AP/Press Association Images

THE 12 PEOPLE shot and killed during Friday’s movie massacre in Denver, Colorado have been named.

Sky News lists the victims as Veronica Moser-Sullivan (6), Jessica Ghawi (24), John Larimar (27), Alexander Boik (18), Jesse Childress (29), Jonathan Blunk (26), Rebecca Wingo (32), Alex Sullivan (27), Gordon Cowden (51), Micayla Medek (23) and Alexander Teves (24). The twelfth victim has been provisionally named as 27-year-old Matthew McQuinn. A coroner attributed all the causes of death to gunshot wounds.

Police in Aurora have said that the massacre had been planned for months by the suspect, James Holmes. Investigations got underway yesterday after bomb experts were eventually able to gain entry to the 24-year-old student’s apartment which had been booby-trapped with various rigged explosives and chemicals.

After examining the contents of the property, which included evidence of a number of deliveries that armed him for battle, police said the attack was planned with “calculation and deliberation”.

Police chief Dan Oates said that Holmes’s home was so well booby-trapped that it was designed to kill “whoever entered it”, which would have most likely been one of his officers. His team spent hours yesterday removing the explosives, including what bomb technicians called a “hypergolic mixture” and containers of accelerants.

“It was an extremely dangerous environment,” FBI special agent James Yacone said at a news conference, noting that anyone who walked in would have sustained “significant injuries” or been killed.

The suspect had four firearms on his person during the attack. Reports this morning indicate that one of them – a a semi-automatic assault rifle – jammed during the shooting, forcing the killer to switch weapons.

Police have said that a 100-round drum magazine was recovered at the scene. Such a weapon would be able to fire 50 to 60 rounds per minute.

“He had a high volume of deliveries,” Oates said. “We think this explains how he got his hands on the magazine, ammunition,” he said, as well as the rigged explosives in his apartment. Holmes had bought about 6,000 rounds of ammunition online in the months prior to the attack.

The suspect killer

By 6.30pm (US time) yesterday, residents of Paris Street were allowed back to their homes except for those who live in the same building as Holmes as police remained on scene to collect evidence. Some left at about 8pm carrying a laptop computer and hard drive.

While authorities continued to refuse to discuss a possible motive for one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent US history, details about Holmes’ background as a student and would-be scientist continues to trickle out.

Holmes had recently withdrawn from a competitive graduate program in neuroscience at the University of Colorado-Denver, where he was one of six students at the school to get National Institutes of Health grant money. He recently took an intense three-part, oral exam that marks the end of the first year of the four-year program there, but university officials would not say if he passed, citing privacy concerns. The university said Holmes gave no reason for his withdrawal, a decision he made in June.

“The focus of the program is on training outstanding neuroscientists and academicians who will make significant contributions to neurobiology,” the university said. The doctoral program usually takes five to seven years to complete, it said.

In a resume posted on Monster.com, Holmes listed himself as an “aspiring scientist” and said he was looking for a job as a laboratory technician.

The resume, first obtained by The Press-Enterprise in Riverside, paints a picture of a brilliant young man brimming with potential: He worked as a summer intern at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla in 2006 and mapped the neurons of Zebra finches and studied the flight muscles of hummingbirds while an undergraduate at the University of California, Riverside.

He also worked as a cabin counsellor to underprivileged children at a summer camp in Los Angeles in 2008. In a statement, Camp Max Straus confirmed Holmes had worked there for eight weeks. The camp provided no other detail about Holmes but said such counsellors are generally responsible for the care and guidance of roughly 10 children.

Neighbours and former classmates in California said although Holmes was whip-smart, he was a loner who said little and was easily forgotten – until this week.

Holmes is currently in solitary confinement at a county detention facility, held on suspicion of multiple counts of first-degree murder.

Police have dismissed reports that a second man helped the suspect.

“There are multiple unconfirmed and inaccurate news reports about a second suspect,” said a spokeswoman, adding: “An associate of Holmes was interviewed this evening. There is no reason to believe that he is involved.”

The victims

Among the deceased victims was a 6-year-old girl and a man who died on his 27th birthday and a day before his wedding anniversary. Families grieved and waited at hospitals, which reported at least seven still in critical condition and others with very serious injuries that could bring permanent damage.

Veronica Moser-Sullivan, 6, had gone to the movies with her mother, who is not yet out of danger after being shot. She was drifting in and out of consciousness in a hospital intensive care unit yesterday, bullets lodged in her throat and a gunshot wound to her abdomen.

“Nobody can tell her about it,” Annie Dalton said of her niece, Ashley Moser. “She is in critical condition, but all she’s asking about is her daughter.”

Another victim, 27-year-old Matt McQuinn, was killed after diving in front of his girlfriend and her older brother to shield them from the gunfire, said his family’s attorney, Rob Scott of Dayton, Ohio.

Alex Sullivan had planned a weekend of fun, first ringing in his 27th birthday with friends at the special midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” and then celebrating his first wedding anniversary on Sunday.

Flowers surround a photograph of shooting victim Alex Sullivan at a makeshift memorial near the movie theatre. (Image: David Zalubowski/AP/Press Association Images)

“He was a very, very good young man,” said Sullivan’s uncle, Joe Loewenguth. “He always had a smile, always made you laugh. He had a little bit of comic in him.”

Sports reporter Jessica Ghawi was the first victim to be named. A journalist writing under the name Jessica Redfield, the 24-year-old was a Denver-based hockey blogger who worked with a local radio station. In a recent blog post, she had given details about being in the Eaton Centre in Toronto just seconds before a shooter opened fire.

Jonathan Blunk was a 26-year-old had plans to re-enlist in the US Navy and become a SEAL. He had already served three tours in the Persian Gulf and the North Arabian Sea between 2004 and 2009. He died in the shooting Friday after throwing himself in front of friend Jansen Young and saving her life, she told the Today Show. He told her to stay down.

Two active service members were also killed in the attack. Jesse Childress was an Air Force cyber-systems operator based at Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Air Force Capt. Andrew Williams described the 29-year-old from Thornton, Colorado, as knowledgeable, experienced and respectful. “We’re going to miss him incredibly,” he said.

John Larimer was a Navy sailor based at Buckley Air Force Base, where he was a cryptologic technician – a job that the Navy says on its website should be filled by someone with “exceptionally good character, above-average writing and speaking skills, a good memory, curiosity and resourcefulness.”

Alexander J. Boik, known as AJ, recently graduated from high school and was to start classes at the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design in the fall, The Denver Post reported. He was with his girlfriend at the cinema. She survived.

A tribute to movie theater shooting victim AJ Boik, is shown along with his photo, on a message table. (Image: Ted S. Warren/AP/Press Association Images)

As the attack in the movie theater unfolded, Matt McQuinn, 27, dove in front of his girlfriend and her older brother to shield them from the gunfire. He died protecting them, said Rob Scott, an Ohio attorney retained by the families of McQuinn and his girlfriend, Samantha Yowler.

Rebecca Ann Wingo had started a job several months ago as a customer relations representative at a mobile medical imaging company. She was 32.

Alexander C. Teves, 24, of Phoenix, earned a master’s degree in counseling psychology in June from University of Denver.

The death of Micayla Medek was heartbreaking, said her father’s cousin, Anita Busch. The 23-year-old lived in the Denver suburb of Westminster and attended Aurora Community College.

The oldest victim, Gordon Cowden, 51, had attended the movie with his two teenage children who were unharmed in the shooting.

Obama to visit families

US President Barack Obama is to travel to Colorado today to meet with the victims and the families of the deceased.

The studio behind the movie, The Dark Knight Rises, which was being shown in the theatre when the shooting occurred, said it would not release box office data this weekend out of respect for the victims.

The actor who plays Batman, Christian Bale, has issued a statement, expressing his horror over the incident. “I cannot begin to truly understand the pain and grief of the victims and their loved ones, but my heart goes out to them,” he said.

The massacre in Aurora was one of the deadliest in the US, and the worst mass shooting since the November 2009 attack at Fort Hood, Texas, when an Army psychiatrist killed 13 soldiers and civilians and wounded more than two dozen others.

In Colorado, it was the deadliest shooting since April 20, 1999, when two students opened fire at Columbine High School in the Denver suburb of Littleton, killing 12 classmates and a teacher and wounding 26 others before killing themselves.

-Additional reporting by AP and AFP

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