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The Dark Knight Rises Tragedy: Understanding The Aftermath

by  |  July 23rd, 2012  |  Blog

On July 20th, the Century 16 in Aurora Colorado transformed into a nightmarish as a crazed gunman opened fire on unsuspecting men, women and children.

Are you angry?

It’s okay if you are, I am too.

On July 20th 2012, an early Friday morning, a group of strangers came together in their local movie theater to celebrate one of our favorite national pastimes… the “Summer Blockbuster”. The movie: The Dark Knight Rises.

The Dark Knight Rises is Christopher Nolan’s final chapter in his Dark Knight Trilogy starring Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman. It is also one of the most talked about and anticipated movies of the summer.

The officila Mondo poster for The Dark Knight Rises

Friends, family members and loved ones gathered together for that communal cinematic experience, packing that movie theater so they could be one of the first to experience The Dark Knight Rises. Some had pre-ordered tickets online, others waited in line for several hours. Perhaps, they didn’t want to hear spoilers that would ruin the movie or the plot later. Maybe they wanted to be the first so they could have bragging rights with friends an co-workers the next day. And possibly a few were such dedicated fans of this successful movie franchise, that they just couldn’t take they excitement and anticipation for another second or they were just gonna burst.

But, while all this is happening, a much more sinister plot’s unfolding in real life. One that will forever alter the lives of everyone attending this particular screening of The Dark Knight Rises. What happens next, could be a story straight out of the movie itself.

After the movie starts, a gunman marches into this particular movie theater through an emergency exit, and wearing a gas mask, he releases a canister (some accounts say 2 canisters which I will address) of what is believed to be “tear gas” into the crowd. And then calmly without discrimination he begins shooting people at random. When he is done, 70 people are shot and 12 people have lost their lives.

The gunman then exits the theater where police are waiting. And without any resistance he casually turns himself over to the police and identifies himself as the The Joker.

And now the Aurora PD is charged with protecting him and giving him a fair trial.

And all this truly sucks.

The Aftermath

I was up when this happened and followed these events as they unfolded on Twitter and 9News.com (whose coverage I applaud) as they gave live coverage over the internet. When I realized what was happening to these poor people I was angry and I cried.

Early posts on Twitter indicated that there was more than one gunman as evidenced by this screen shot.

I have read (though I do not know the details) that the gunman was on the same prescription drugs as Heath Ledger was when he died. Ledger was The Joker in The Dark Knight rises. I have also read, that the gunman also took vicodin before entering and shooting up the place. Again, I do not know if this is true, but it is my beliefe that if he did so, it was intended to keep himself relaxed and calm while he did his deed.

When the event happened, there was so much confusion. People were being separated and scattered to different hospitals, police had to co-ordinate their activities to apprehend the suspect. Medical personal had to gain access to the people who needed it. And I genuinely think that this was a living nightmare for every single person that was at the Century 16 Movie Theater in Aurora Colorado on that particular morning. And what training could ever prepare anyone for something like this. This to my knowledge is unprecedented.

I keep seeing posts on Twitter and Facebook demanding justice and an execution and many creative ways of disposing of the gunman. And I understand it, we’re angry and people want accountability. But, please don’t confuse justice with revenge.

* Note – Enough with the Jerry Sandusky as the gunman’s cellmate jokes already. Aside from being unimaginative and uncreative, it’s just plain not funny. Leave the jokes to the professionals. Or get some new material.

Life, is beyond any shadow of a doubt, our most precious gift. Regardless of religious beliefs, we are here and we exist and that matters. Life is precious and beautiful and should be a celebrated. And the gunman ended 12 people from existence. He robbed them of all of their experiences and relationships and milestones that every single one of us here on this planet has the inalienable right too.

He extinguished their light, and apparently did so without reason. And that angers me, in fact it makes my blood boil. And I have been waiting to say something about this. I wanted to give the investigators a chance to get the situation under control. A chance for the community to compose themselves.

Mourners gather around a makeshift memorial in the wake of savage attack on movie-goers who attended The Dark Knight Rises at the Century 16 in Aurora Co.

Now, I did at one point study pre-law in college, not for long so my knowledge is very limited. Mainly, relegated to crime scene investigation, miranda rights and how to handle evidence for trial.

First off, and I can not stress this enough, I have no doubt that the Aurora Police Department is very able and capable under the Leadership of Police Chief Dan Oates. I am also certain that everything they are doing is very important and very significant to this case, even though you may not feel it is in a timely fashion for retribution.

Allow me to explain:

Early reports indicated that there were 2 or more gunmen in the theater acting together. This theory has been silenced and sort of disappeared. There are multiple witness accounts from people within the theater also verifying this. There is also a police radio dispatch indicating a car may have fled the scene. This is definitely an area of the investigation you don not want to rush.


It was also discovered, the gunman’s apartment was rigged with explosives and accelerants in a manner that was “designed to kill” who ever entered it. This intricate bomb network, was the likes of which law enforcement and government officials have never seen. Had the Police Department rushed in and been sloppy, many more lives would certainly have been lost.

I further believe that this was fully intended to draw police and medical personell away from the Century 16 movie theater, so that the gunman could continue his rampage for maximum damage, perhaps pushing those numbers into the 100’s. Because of the timer used on the stereo that blared techno music in the apartment, intended to lure people in, approximately 15 to 30 minutes before the shooter began their rampage. It is by a miracle that this part of the plan did not work. Probably another miracle that the gunman’s firearm jammed durring the incident.

Also, making one wonder, did the gunman have any other “Booby Traps” anywhere else? This has been something that has been in the back of my mind. Remember the Virginia Tech shooter mailed his statement the morning of, and it arrived several days after the incident. This theater shooting happened on a Friday morning before a weekend. Some traps could go undiscovered or not be triggered for days and possibly even weeks. By all accounts the gunman was a highly intelligent and methodical individual. Again, this requires time.

Supposedly, he was amassing his expensive arsenal over the course of several months. Was somebody funding him? If so, who? Again, time and a thorough investigation will tell.

By all accounts gunman was “normal” at some point. Where and when did we lose him? How did we lose him? Is he the victim of one of his own Temporal Illusion (think Butterfly Effect) experiments gone wrong? Something flipped the preverbial switch inside his head, what was it? Is his hardware erased or will he comeback with answers?

Why did he do this? This is so important because not only do we as a society like to slap labels on everything and everyone, we like to have reasons when ever possible.

The Aurora PD allegedly received a call telling them if they didn’t release the gunman there would be more violence. Giving further credence to the multiple gunmen theory.

Also, there’s a certain disturbed percentage in our society that gets all juiced up and excited by events like this. And as Police it woud be in the best interest of the public to give false information or no information, to weed out the fakes. For instance, if the gunman had a dating profile, but it didn’t match up with the DOB the Police gave for the gunman. This technique could be a way of verifying the legitimacy of the profile. While sick and twisted pranksters might create a fake profile in celebration of this type of incident. Not having to sift through the fakes and copy cats will save time, man power, money and Police resources expediting their investigation.

Questions – Here are some of the questions I have read online and in some chat threads that are worth answering.

Why didn’t anyone fight back? (Perhaps one of the more stupid questions I’ve seen that keeps coming up)

Not an expert, but I would imagine that being in a dark movie theater filled with tear gas, and a trigger happy gunman a long with all the panic and bodies would have made it difficult. But assuming you were to fight back, good luck landing blows on somebody wearing full body Kevlar designed to stop bullets. You could never really know until you were in that situation.

Why isn’t the gunman being called a terrorist? (a question that’s really designed to spark more racial tension)

Well, it is my thought that whenever a terrorist commits acts of violence, as misguided as it is, there is a reason for it. Wether it is for political gain, monetary gain, freedom against perceived enemies or religious beliefs there is a reason of some kind. A gain to have been gotten. In the Aurora theater massacre, there is no gain to be had. You could not reason with, or buy off, or threaten physical harm of any kind to convince the killer not to do this act. There is no gain, and no leverage. Hence there is no reason, at least not one that we know of yet.

Why is the “Gunman” being refereed to as “Suspect” or “Alleged”?

Quite simple really, in our justice system people are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. This is the legal system we abide by. Good or bad, and though it may at times appear to not be perfect, it is still the one we go by. The gunman has rights. These rights are important. Why? Because, if one single right is violated, one piece of evidence is mishandled, or the prisoner is mistreated in anyway, the gunman could get off on a technicality or there could be a mistrial. It is of the utmost importance to do this one by the book for all concerned.

Where’s the justice?

It’s very important to have someone receive judgement and feel remorse for what they did. To have a sense of accountability for their actions, even if it is the loss of their own life if that is what a jury determines. To dole “Justice” on someone who has no concept of what they did, or what happened, or right from wrong, would be like executing air (if that’s what a jury decides). In such a case, this would rob the victims of the satisfaction of their justice, wouldn’t it? If you are going to end somebody’s existence, they should know why.

Why would parents take their kids to see a Batman movie at midnight? (honestly, if you’ve said this you’re a moron)

Anyone should be able to go to a movie and take whomever they want without fear of being shot or massacred. It is unbelievable to me, that somebody would get shot or killed and the victims in this instance would be blamed. Going to see a PG-13 movie and enjoy the time honored tradition of going with your family during summer break is completely acceptable. I can never stress this enough to those parents, this is NOT your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong and you don’t deserve this. Nobody does.

Is Batman or Warner Bros. to blame?

No. Millions of people watch movies, TV, play video games, read books, listen to music, use the internet and visit museums everyday without being driven to hurt others. In fact, people have been doing this for quite a while now. If you are really looking for someone or something to blame might I suggest looking at what caused the gunman to do what he did. He is a result.

According to TMZ.com, one of the survivors has already filed a lawsuit against the gunman’s doctors because the gunman:

“…was on several medications — prescribed by one or more doctors —  at the time of the shooting and he believes the docs did not properly monitor…”

Looks like as good a place as any to start placing accountability. And there does seem to be kind of an ongoing theme with these “shooters” and their “medication”, though I am far from being an expert.

Final Thoughts

I believe that in the coming weeks as this case unfolds and new information is revealed, this is going to become much more weirder and there is still a lot of bazaar information that is yet to come to light.

I can not even begin to imagine what it must have been like to be in that theater on July 20th. To be so happy to be out of the house and excited to see the movie you’ve been waiting to see for so long. To be laughing one minute and have your worl turn into a living nightmare the next.

To be in that place where time must have stood still. And to hear screams and gun shots. It is unimaginable. In my wildest dreams, I could never have conceived of such a gruesome premise the way the killer and ender of lives did on this day.

Guy Valentino with girlfriend Kylie Sarpa and friend Torrie Goodson attending a Los Angeles screening of The Dark Knight Rises, may be one of the last people to wear a costume to a movie showing.

If I was there, I would probably be staring in awe asking myself if this is really happening? Things like this don’t really happen? This isn’t normal. This isn’t what people do to each other. So is this really happening?

To be a cop showing up at the scene, and see so many innocent people you’ve sworn to protect laying and bleeding with their life running out of them. To be unable to enter the theater that in a few seconds was converted into a kill factory, because you don’t have gas masks. To not know who the shooter is, because fans came dressed in costumes to celebrate their favorite movie, and one person turned that into something ugly.

I give props to the Aurora PD for how they handled this event. I don’t care how much training I’ve had, or how armed I was, when somebody comes out of a theater that has blood trails, smoke, screams and cries coming out of it, throws down his gun and takes off his mask and identifies himself as The Joker to me, I think I just shit my pants. Seriously, that would terrify me on a whole other level.

Dark Knight Rises theater shooting survivor Carey Rottman receives a hospital visit from actor Christian Bale, who was in town visiting survivors and paying his respects on Tuesday.

I believe very strongly in the sanctity of the movie theater and that comunal movie going experience. And the beauty of film as a medium and art form. Going to the movies has always been an exciting experience for me filled with wonder and imagination.

I sincerely wish I could hug every single person that was in that theater and tell them it’s going to be okay. But, the truth is, it will never be okay. I genuinely am very sorry that this happened to all of them. My heart breaks over this.

I lived in Colorado for a couple of years as a kid. The people of Colorado are good, kind and strong people. I have faith in the leaders of the Aurora, Co community to guide their people through this difficult time.

In closing I will leave you with the touching true story of Allie Young who was 19 years old and Stephanie Davies who is 21 years old two brave survivors of ‘The Dark Knight Rises Massacre’. If you think you have balls, listen to this story as told by our Commander in Chief, President Obama as he fights back his own emotions to share their story.


Here’s a full list of those whose lives were lost on 7/20/12 in the movie theater shooting. Much respect and heartfelt condolences to them and their families as well as the other survivors. I know that if there is a heaven, there is a special place in it reserved for all of you there.

Veronica Moser-Sullivan, 6 yrs

Alexander J. Boik, 18 yrs

Micayla C. Medek, 23 yrs

Alexander C. Teves, 24 yrs

Jessica N. Ghawi, 24 yrs

Jonathan T. Blunk, 26 yrs

John T. Larimer, 27 yrs

Matthew R. McQuinn, 27 yrs

Alex M. Sullivan, 27 yrs

Jesse E. Childress, 29 yrs

Rebecca Ann Wingo, 32 yrs

Gordon W. Cowden, 51 yrs

May your souls find peace. You are all loved and missed by someone and your time here mattered. I found this quote that I think best sums up this event:

Take your damn fairy tale endings and your hopes, dreams and wishes and shove them up your ass. This is the real world, and that shit just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Are you angry? It’s okay if you are, I am too.



Matthew Dowling, a native Philadelphian, now residing in Los Angeles, is an actor, writer and film maker. Matt's training with 2nd City, and numerous appearances in TV shows, movies, theater, infomercials, and most importantly... B movies, has prepared him for making B Movie recommendations.

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