Investigators: Marksmanship remarkable in theater shooting |

Investigators: Marksmanship remarkable in theater shooting

Law enforcement officials familiar with the investigation say the gunman in a massacre on Friday in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater must have had a substantial amount of target practice before the shootings.

They based their assessment on what they call the gunman’s “unusually high” hit rate during the attack in the theater. Twelve people were killed, and 58 were injured.

Among other things, the law enforcement officials said, authorities are searching the suspect’s apartment for evidence of a gun range receipt, a brochure, related information he accessed on his computer or phone calls he may have placed to a range.

The officials are being briefed on the local investigation, but did not want to be named because of the sensitivity of the developing case.

Such evidence would go to the gunman’s state of mind, the officials said, and provide more evidence of premeditation and that he deliberately planned the attack. For the government, investigators said, such evidence would tend to knock down any defense strategy that the suspect is insane.

One local shooting range owner said the suspect in the Aurora case, James E. Holmes, applied for membership at his club in June.

Officials monitoring the local investigation in Colorado said the gunman displayed a high degree of marksmanship for an amateur.

The gunman was shooting in a dark theater after midnight and aiming at moving targets, all amid a canopy of thick gas from canisters he’d set off. That environment, when combined with the kick from the shotgun and the Glock, would make firing with much precision all the harder.

To kill 12 people and wound 58 in that kind of chaos would be “unusually high for someone new to this,” one official said.

Meanwhile, state data show background checks for gun purchases spiked 41 percent in Colorado after 12 people were killed inside a suburban Denver movie theater.

In the four days after the July 20 shooting, dealers submitted 3,647 requests for state background checks required to buy a firearm, said Susan Medina, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. That’s 41 percent more than the 2,583 requests during the same four days the prior week and a 38 percent increase over the 2,636 checks during the first Friday to Monday in July.

Debate over gun laws after high-profile shootings can prompt gun sales. Last year, one-day sales in Arizona jumped 60 percent after a gunman killed six people in a Tuscon parking lot.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.