Monday, November 20, 2017

Obama offers comfort after Colorado shooting



President Barack Obama came to this city Sunday to meet with survivors of the shooting rampage at a movie theater last week, visiting the victims and their families and leading the country in mourning the 12 people killed in the attack.

"Even in the darkest of days, life continues and people are strong," Obama said shortly after meeting with victims and their families. He describing sharing hugs, tears and laughs as they shared stories about loved ones lost and acts of heroism.

"I come to them not so much as president as I do as a father and as a husband," he said.

Across the city, residents gathered at makeshift memorials to grieve as a community as condolences poured in from places as far as Hollywood and the Vatican. As the families of victims struggled with their loss, new details emerged about the suspected gunman, James Holmes, and what happened as he reportedly fired into a crowded theater during a midnight premiere of "The Dark Knight Rises" on Friday.

The carnage could have been worse, but one of Holmes' weapons, a high-powered semiautomatic rifle, jammed, the New York Times reported Sunday, attributing it to an unnamed law enforcement official. Police Chief Dan Oates of Aurora said that while they were making progress in the case, the investigation would take time.

"We're focusing on how he got the materials that he got that were used in the shooting, that were used in the apartment," he said in an interview on CBS' Face the Nation. "We're focusing on anyone who knew him and statements he may have made. We're building a case to show that this was a deliberative process by a very intelligent man who wanted to do this."

The police said Sunday that they had finished collecting evidence at Holmes' apartment, which was booby-trapped with a complex web of incendiary devices and explosives, and they allowed residents of neighboring buildings to move back in. Holmes' building, however, remained on lockdown, the police said, because of chemical hazards in his unit.

Obama arrived about 3:30 p.m. local time and was greeted on the tarmac by local officials, including the governor and the mayor and police chief of Aurora. He headed straight for the University of Colorado Hospital, which received 23 shooting victims.

The police believe that Holmes began planning his rampage months ago, when he began acquiring the materials, mostly via mail-order, that he would use in both the shooting and to rig his apartment.

There were also clues as to how Holmes might have paid for the weapons and other materials he acquired. He was receiving a $26,000 stipend, in monthly installments of $2,166, for a National Institutes of Health neuroscience training grant for the graduate program he was enrolled in at the University of Colorado Denver Anschutz Medical Campus, a spokeswoman said. Holmes withdrew from the program last month without explanation, the university said.

Holmes was being held in solitary confinement at an Aurora jail, awaiting his arraignment this morning. He has an attorney and is not cooperating with police, Oates said.

Obama never mentioned Holmes by name during his remarks, instead referring to "the perpetrator of this evil act."

The president focused his remarks on the "remarkable" stories he was told.

"Most of the conversation was filled with memory," Obama said. "It was an opportunity for families to describe how wonderful their brother or their son or daughter was, and the lives that they had touched and the dreams that they had held for the future."

He told the story of one girl he met, Allie Young, 19, who was shot in the neck. She survived, Obama said, because her 21-year-old friend, Stephanie, laid by her side and stanched her bleeding even as shots continued to ring out.

"Allie told Stephanie she needed to run. Stephanie refused to go," the president said. "Because of Stephanie's timely actions, I just had a conversation with Allie downstairs and she is going to be fine."

The president spoke at the University of Colorado Medical Center, where 23 of the victims from the shooting were treated. By the time he arrived on Sunday, one was dead, 12 had been released, leaving 10 patients: seven still in critical condition and three in good condition, a hospital spokesman said.

Condolences poured in to the small Colorado city from across the country and around the world. Pope Benedict XVI added his condolences during his Sunday morning blessing.

"I was deeply shocked by the senseless violence," he said.

In Aurora, hundreds of people gathered throughout the day around a growing memorial across the street from the theater. A collection of teddy bears, flowers, posters, candles and notes steadily grew as friends, families and strangers gathered, seeking solace in community.

In the evening, thousands of people, including families of the victims, members of the military and elected officials, attended a prayer vigil held at the Aurora Municipal Center

Meanwhile, several media outlets reported Sunday that the The Dark Knight Rises was on track to earn $160 million, which would be a record for 2-D films, over the weekend. That amount would best the $158.4 million debut of The Dark Knight in 2008 and give Dark Knight Rises the third-highest domestic weekend opening ever after the 3-D films The Avengers with $207.4 million and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2 with $169.2 million.

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