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Bomb experts touch off explosion in Holmes' rigged apartment

July 21, 2012|By John M. Glionna and Molly Hennessy-Fiske
  • A bomb disposal squad inserts an explosive device into the apartment of mass shooting suspect James Holmes in Aurora, Colo., to destroy some of the booby traps and trip wires left behind.
A bomb disposal squad inserts an explosive device into the apartment of… (Mark Boster / Los Angeles…)

AURORA, Colo. -- Mourners continued to come forward to name their relatives and friends killed in the Colorado theater shooting while authorities on Saturday were undertaking the dangerous work of dismantling explosives in the booby-trapped apartment of shooting suspect James Holmes.

Shortly after 11:30 a.m. local time, officials set off a controlled detonation inside the unit. An officer could be heard yelling "fire in the hole" and an explosion was heard about a block away.

Police had planned to enter Holmes' apartment to seek clues about the science student who authorities say turned into a deadly gunman, terrorizing a suburban movie theater showing the latest Batman film.

PHOTOS: Colorado movie theater shooting

The apartment was rigged with explosives and a tripwire designed to kill anyone who entered, officials said. Officials announced earlier in the morning that controlled detonations were likely and a wide evacuation zone was set up. Firefighters stood by.

Twelve people were killed and 58 wounded in the Aurora massacre that erupted just after midnight on Friday, according to the latest police figures. As of Saturday morning, the identities of seven of the dead had been confirmed by their families or officials, including a 6-year-old girl, Veronica Moser, the youngest of the dead identified so far.

Veronica went to the movie with her mom, Ashley Moser, 25, of Denver who was preparing to attend nursing school, Annie Dalton said on Saturday in the parking lot of the Century 16, the movie theater that became a chamber of horrors. Waiting to retrieve a car, Dalton described her grandniece as “a vibrant little girl.”

TIMELINE: Mass shootings in the U.S. 

Ashley Moser, also shot, survived and is hospitalized, Dalton said, tearing up. “They thought she might be paraplegic. Now it looks like she will have some use of her hands,” she said. “She's not going to be starting school like she planned.”

The latest victims to be named include Rebecca Wingo, 32, of Aurora, who has two small children and other family in California. She had gone to the midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” with a friend, Marcus Weaver, 41, who was wounded in the right arm when the armor-clad gunman opened fire about 25 minutes after the movie began.

Weaver described his futile effort to save his friend. “When I lifted her up, she was unconscious -- she may already have passed,” he said in a telephone interview with the Los Angeles Times.

Also identified was Petty Officer 3rd Class John Larimer, 27, of Crystal Lake, Ill. Larimer joined the Navy on June 16, 2011, and was a cryptologic technician who had been stationed in Aurora since October, the Pentagon said.

“We respectfully ask that the family and friends of John be allowed time and privacy to grieve for John,” the family said in a statement from their home. “We send our thoughts and prayers out to the families of the other victims and those still recovering in the hospital. We love you John and we will miss you always.”

Air Force Staff Sgt. Jesse Childress, 29, died after he was taken to a hospital, military officials said on Saturday. Childress was a reservist, a cyber-systems operator with the 310 Force Support Squadron, according to the military.

At the movie theater on Saturday, friends of Childress', including one wearing an Air Force Reserve T-shirt, moved about the parking lot. With him was another friend who had brought a teddy bear in a miniature uniform and small folded blue-and-white flags and a red, white and blue centerpiece. They declined to comment.

As the mourning continued, officials resumed their efforts to examine Holmes' Paris Street apartment. Authorities are seeking clues about the  quiet, well-regarded science student whose only documented  contact with police was a traffic ticket. Holmes was in the process of withdrawing from a doctorate program in neuroscience at the University of Colorado.

Holmes, 24, lived in an apartment on the third floor of the building. More than 100 officers and specialists were working Saturday to disable explosive traps inside the building, a stone’s throw from a four-lane road. As a precaution, officials have evacuated five buildings in the area.

Aurora police Sgt. Cassidee Carlson told reporters that officers had made some progress and were preparing to enter the apartment.

“We have been successful in defeating the first threat, which includes defeating the tripwire and the first incendiary device,” she said at a news conference.

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