A least 12 people were killed and dozens injured in Colorado early this morning when a gunman kicked in a theater exit door during a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises and opened fire with an assault rifle, NBC reports. (Earlier reports put the toll at 14.) The rampage occurred at a Century 16 theater in an Aurora mall outside Denver after the gunman apparently tossed a tear gas canister into the theater before opening fire. A suspect, who was wearing a gas mask, is in custody. Initially, some movie fans thought the gunshots were part of the film, according to a reporter for 850 KOA Radio. Others thought "they heard firecrackers, then they saw the bullets flying," she added, citing witnesses.
Panicked moviegoers stampeded for the doors when they realized what was happening as the six-foot gunman clad in black continued to squeeze off rounds. Three local hospitals were alerted to prepare for a "mass casualty" incident. Some of the 50 injured are in critical condition. The Denver suburb has been hit with a spate of violence recently, with a number of shootings in the past few weeks, according to the Denver Post.