In a series of events that shocked a community, James Eagan Holmes purchased a movie ticket at the Century 16 in Aurora for the midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” playing in the early hours of July 20, 2012.
Twenty minutes into the movie, Holmes left through an emergency exit and returned in body armor and armed with three firearms.
After laying down a smoke screen, he opened fire, killing 12 people and wounding 58.
Police were on the scene in minutes and arrested Holmes without incident. Holmes had dyed his hair orange and told police, “I am the Joker.” He warned them that his apartment was booby trapped.
Tenants of Holmes’ building were evacuated. It would take authorities hours to detonate the explosives in Holmes apartment. It would be four days before tenants would be allowed back into their homes.
An impromptu vigil was organized for the evening of July 20 and was held in a parking lot across the street from the theater. A stunned community came together to weep, to comfort and to stand strong. Speakers asked mourners not to let the shooting define them and to reach out to their fellow man rather than respond with hate.
Another candlelight vigil was held July 26 on the Auraria Campus where Jessica Ghawi was a student and where Veronica Moser-Sullivan attended day care.
Christian Bale, lead actor in “The Dark Knight Rises,” made an unannounced trip to Aurora to visit victims in the hospital and to pay his respects at the growing memorial on the corner of Centerpointe and Sable and within sight of the closed theater.
A notebook that Holmes sent to psychologist Lynn Fenton was discovered July 23. By July 25, passages were printed in an article by Fox News reporter Jana Winter, precipitating a side of drama to an already complicated case as Winter has been told to reveal her sources or face jail time. Winter insisted that shield laws protect both her and her sources. She is expected back in court Sept. 30.
The healing of the community has not been without controversy. In August, Aurora mayor Steve Hogan took a poll to decide what shoud be done with the empty theater.
Poll results suggested that the community wanted the theater to be reopened. Cinemark, the company that owns the Century 16, refurbished the theater and reopened it in January.
While the community at large wanted the theater opened, other survivors and friends of victims spoke out against reopening the theater and felt that a memorial should have been built instead.
Survivors and families of victims were invited to the theater reopening and the reaction to the invitations were mixed.
In addition to hurt feelings over the reopened theater, lawsuits have been filed against Cinemark for failing to provide adequate security for movie patrons.
Cinemark has protested the lawsuits, claiming that the suits charge that the theater should have forseen the tragedy. In April, a judge made a decision in favor of the shooting victims, allowing the suit to continue.
A lawsuit has also been filed against Dr. Lynne Fenton by the wife of victim Jonathan Blunk. Chantel Blunk charges Fenton knew that Holmes was dangerous to society but did nothing to protect the public. She is seeking charges over $75,000.
The shooting has also inspired the desire to help others. The family of victim Jessica Ghawi, an aspiring sports journalist who attended Metropolitan State University of Denver created a scholarship in her honor to help other student sports journalists.
Holmes has been charged with 24 counts of first degree murder, 116 counts of attempted murder and one count of possession of explosives.
A judge entered a not guilty plea for Holmes March 12 and Holmes changed that plea to not guilty by reason of insanity June 4.
Psychiatrists have asked the judge to allow them more time to analyze Holmes further. They have been granted an extension to study Holmes further, but they have been told that they need to submit their findings by the end of September.
A Feb. 3 date has been set for the trial, which is expected to last three weeks.
The prosecution announced April 1 that it will seek the death penalty.
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Revision: made on July 22, 2013 4:50 p.m. The headline of this article was changed from “Aurora remembers Holmes’ victims” to the current headline “Remembering a dark night and the year that followed.”