Thirteen years after the harrowing Columbine High School massacre, Colorado tragically faced another mass shooting on Friday. Twenty-four year old James Holmes is currently in custody for allegedly opening fire at an Aurora movie theatre showcasing the premiere of The Dark Knight Rises shortly after midnight. Fifty-eight people were injured and 12 were killed. (Some of the casualties died not from gunshot wounds but from the mayhem of people fleeing the cinema).
During a press conference, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, although showing deep sadness for the horrific event, commended all of the first responders and law enforcement personnel who stepped up in a timely and efficient manner. Here is a breakdown of some of the roles criminal justice professionals played during and after the tragedy:
• The first 9/11 dispatch call went out at 12:39am. Within 60 to 90 seconds, the first police officers arrived at the cinema, according to the New York Daily News. At least a total of 200 officers responded to the scene.
• Within two minutes paramedics and ambulances arrived at the theatre.
• SWAT teams set up in the cinema’s lobby with their guns pointing directly at theatre #9’s doors. “They directed frightened patrons to remain in place — or to run for the exits — as gunfire started and stopped,” states The Washington Post.
• As of Friday evening, at least 30 of those injured were still in hospital and 11 of them were in critical condition. Aurora hospital personnel were treating people both with gunshot wounds and for chemical exposure from the gas released in the theatre as part of the attack. (Two of those who died from the incident were initially brought to the hospital).
• After Holmes told authorities his apartment was rigged with “booby traps” of explosives, FBI and ATF agents, fire fighters and bomb technicians responded. They successfully disarmed the explosives and trip wire, which could have been potentially triggered if the front door was unknowingly opened.
• Investigators are attempting to understand Holmes’ apparent motive. Psychiatrist Alan Lipman (director of the Center for the Study of Violence) suggests that the young man may have experienced a psychotic break. CBC News states that Dr. Lipman was “not surprised by the profile of the suspect, who has been described as a quiet, ‘pleasant’ type. In studying the profiles of mass killers, Lipman said many of them are young men who suffered a psychotic break in their twenties and ‘lose contact with reality’”.