Residents Return to Building Where Colorado Suspect Set Boobytraps
(CNN) — For the first time since last week’s deadly shooting rampage at a crowded Colorado movie theater, residents who shared an apartment building with the alleged shooter have been allowed to return.
“Yes, residents have been allowed back in,” Sgt. Cassidee Carlson of the Aurora Police Department said Wednesday evening. “Police will remain present throughout the night for security purposes.”
The tenants were rousted out of their apartments by police in the early hours of Friday after shooting suspect James Holmes allegedly opened fire in the theater, killing 12 people and wounding scores of others.
Holmes booby-trapped his Aurora apartment with more than 30 homemade grenades and 10 gallons of gasoline, a law enforcement official who viewed video showing the apartment’s interior has told CNN.
The sophisticated setup was found inside Holmes’ sparsely furnished third-floor, one-bedroom unit. The official said it was meant to harm, or possibly kill, anyone who entered — and tested the skills of bomb squad members charged with clearing it.
As of Wednesday evening, five area hospitals were still caring for 17 patients, six of whom were in critical condition.
Several of the hospitals said they would pay for the medical care of uninsured victims out of charity funds.
Holmes made his first court appearance Monday.
The man who identified himself to police as “the Joker” will continue to be held without bond. He is to be formally charged July 30.
Meanwhile, families grappling with Friday’s carnage were beginning to bury the dead.
On Wednesday, a funeral was held for 51-year-old Gordon Cowden, who took his two teenage children to see the midnight premiere of the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises,” CNN affiliate KCNC-TV reported. Cowden’s children survived the shooting inside the Aurora theater.
Nine miles away, visitation was held for Micayla Medek, a 23-year-old woman who had been working toward her college degree. Her funeral is scheduled for Thursday.
The developments came as President Barack Obama forcefully spoke out against gun violence as he addressed the National Urban League in New Orleans.
While the president said he stands by the Second Amendment and recognizes the traditions of hunting and gun ownership in the country, he told the crowd that there is work left to be done in tackling the problem.
“I also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals,” Obama said. “That they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities.”
The president has largely steered away from talking about gun laws. While he visited the families of victims in Aurora, Colorado on Sunday, he did not wade into the political debate over gun legislation that dominated national dialogue over the weekend.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee said Monday that he also saw no need for new gun-control laws and reiterated those comments on Wednesday, saying a change in legislation won’t stop those who truly want to do harm.
“I don’t know that I’m going be able to find a way to prevent people who want to provide harm from being able to purchase things that can carry out that harm. What I want to do is find the people that represent a danger to America and find them and keep them from having the capacity to use or buy things that can harm or hurt other people,” Romney said in an interview with NBC News.
Meanwhile, authorities on Monday discovered a package in a mailroom at the University of Colorado – Anschutz Medical Campus apparently sent by Holmes, a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation said Wednesday.
It was sent to the school’s campus in Aurora, where the suspect had recently dropped out of a Ph.D. program in neuroscience.
CBS News reported that the package was addressed to a psychologist at the university.
“Sources say the letter was from a pent-up Holmes to one of his professors,” the news organization reported. “In it, he talked about shooting people and even included crude drawings of a gunman and his victims.”
School officials said in a statement that a package discovered at the Facilities Services building had been delivered to the campus by the U.S. Postal Service and was turned over to authorities within hours of delivery.
“This package prompted the building’s evacuation at 12:26 p.m. and employees were allowed to return by 3:06 p.m.,” the statement said.
Those who were wounded in Friday’s shooting still face the specter of permanent injury and long recovery periods.
In Aurora, actor Christian Bale, star of “The Dark Knight Rises,” visited a memorial for the dead and met Tuesday with survivors, CNN affiliate KDVR reported.
One of the victims, Carey Rottman, posted a picture of Bale visiting him in his hospital room on Facebook.
“Wow! Thank you so much for the visit Christian! What a great guy! Still in shock!” Rottman wrote, KDVR reported.
Shooting victim Caleb Medley’s wife, Katie, gave birth to their son, Hugo Jackson Medley, Tuesday morning. Both the mother and baby were doing well, the University of Colorado Hospital said.
But Caleb Medley, who was shot in the head, lost an eye and suffered brain damage.
“The surgeon came and talked to us and said he’d be in ICU at least a week,” said Medley’s friend, Michael West, who set up a website to help take care of medical bills and the needs of Medley’s family. By Wednesday afternoon, it was more than halfway toward its goal of $500,000.
“I knew it was going to rack up in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions,” West said of his friend’s expected medical expenses.
Medley, who had been doing standup comedy routines in Denver and was working full-time at Target, had no health insurance, his brother Seth said.
Chloe Anderson has set up a similar fund for her sister, Petra Anderson, an aspiring musician who was also shot in the head. In a video posted Sunday asking for funds, Chloe Anderson notes that her mother was preparing to undergo cancer treatment later this month when Friday’s shooting occurred.
“My sister’s hospital bills on top of that are making the financial reality look pretty daunting,” she says. “So that’s why we are reaching out to you — the people who have already asked us what they can do to help.”
By Wednesday evening, the fund had received more than $184,000 with a goal of $250,000.
Money is also streaming in to GivingFirst.org, which is accepting donations for the shooting victims and their relatives. By Tuesday, the amount had reached almost $2 million, Gov. John Hickenlooper said.
“The needs will be great and we look forward to seeing the fund grow exponentially,” he said. “This money will help those impacted by this tragedy begin to recover and rebuild their lives.”
Hickenlooper said donors include Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures, co-producers of “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Sources at Warner Bros. studios told CNN the company made a “substantial” donation. Warner Bros., a subsidiary of CNN’s parent company Time Warner, would not divulge how much money it was giving out of respect for the victims, the sources said.
An analysis in the aftermath of the shooting shows overwhelmed emergency responders struggled to get to where they were needed most — theater 9 — where the gunman opened fire.
Although Aurora police were at the scene within three minutes of the initial emergency call, it wasn’t until nearly 24 minutes after shots rang out that ambulances arrived at the theater’s back door.
“They were overwhelmed with patients,” Aurora Fire Capt. Al Robnett told the Denver Post. “Patients were running towards them. They were covered with blood. We cannot move past a patient to get to another patient.”
It took another 19 minutes for responders to get to theater 9.
Emma Goos, who escaped from the theater, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that she saw a critically wounded victim wandering around the parking lot.
“He was asking for help but no one stopped to help him,” Goos said. “I’m not trained in paramedics at all but I should talk to him. And I went over and he had been hit in the head.”
CNN’s Randi Kaye, Ed Payne, Tom Watkins, Holly Yan, Drew Griffin, Kathleen Johnston, Scott Zamost, Elwyn Lopez, Carol Cratty, Poppy Harlow, Dana Ford, Breeanna Hare, Alta Spells, Ed Lavandera, Nick Valencia and Jessica Jordan contributed to this report.
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