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Obama to meet families of Colorado victims

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Holmes is currently being held in solitary confinement for his own protection, according to authorities [Reuters]Barack Obama, the US president, will travel to Colorado to meet families bereaved after a shooting rampage at a cinema in a Denver suburb killed at least 12 people and wounded 58.

The victims, who ranged from six to 51 years of age, were shot to death in Aurora, Colorado, early on Friday when a gunman opened fire during a packed midnight premiere of the latest "Batman" film.

Obama's trip, announced by the White House, comes as investigators are deepening a probe into James Holmes, the man accused of planning and carrying out the massacre.

A vigil to the victims is scheduled for 6:30pm local time on Sunday (midnight on Moday GMT) in front of Aurora City Hall, organised by civic, community and religious leaders.

"We can now start the natural process of grieving and healing," Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan said at a memorial late on Saturday for one young shooting victim: "We're still reeling."

On Saturday, local and federal authorities disarmed explosives in Holmes' booby-trapped apartment.

A small boom from a "controlled detonation" could be heard by reporters outside the apartment block and pieces of debris were blown out of one of the windows through which police had been assessing the booby-trap set-up inside.

'Calculation and deliberation'

Holmes, 24, a graduate school dropout, was arrested immediately after the fatal spree in a car park near the scene of the shooting. He offerred no resistance.

Dan Oates, Aurora police chief, said the shooting followed months of "calculation and deliberation," as Holmes received a "high volume" of deliveries of weaponry to both his work and home.

"Make no mistake, this apartment was designed to kill whoever entered it. And who was most likely to enter that location after he planned and executed this horrific crime? It was going to be a police officer."

Residents of several nearby buildings were allowed to return home on Saturday, while the red-brick apartment block remained under evacuation as local and federal authorities completed the painstaking process of disarming the explosives and sifting through evidence.

Sources familiar with the probe said that some 30 shells filled with gunpowder were found in the apartment, together with containers filled with "incendiary liquids" intended to fuel a fire from the initial explosions, as well as bullets meant to ricochet around the apartment.

On Saturday afternoon, the local coroner's officer released the names of the 12 people killed, including those of a six-year-old girl, a young man celebrating his 27th birthday and an aspiring sportscaster who had barely escaped a shooting in a Toronto mall earlier this summer.

The incident stunned the nation and evoked memories of the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, 27km from Aurora, where two students opened fire and killed 12 students and a teacher.

The attack also revived the debate over gun control in the US, and drew condemnation by Obama and his Republican White House rival Mitt Romney.

Solitary confinement

The shooter, dressed in black and wearing body armour and a gas mask, had burst into the cinema barely 20 minutes into the screening of The Dark Knight Rises on Friday, throwing two tear-gas type devices before opening fire with several weapons.

Raymond Kelly, New York City police commissioner, said on Friday that the gunman "clearly looks like a deranged individual".

"He has his hair painted red. He said he was the Joker, obviously the enemy of Batman," Kelly told reporters.

Holmes is currently being held in solitary confinement for his own protection from other inmates, according to officials.

Oates declined to speculate on any motive for Holmes, who is to make his first court appearance on Monday. "We're not going to talk about motive," he said.

He said that out of "an abundance of caution," bomb-sniffing dogs had made a sweep of buildings at the University of Colorado medical school, which Holmes attended until last month, but did not find anything unusual.

Holmes had no criminal record aside from a citation for speeding in October 2011, according to police.

Raised in a middle-class San Diego neighbourhood, he earned a degree in neuroscience from the University of California at Riverside before seeking his graduate degree from the University of Colorado.

Holmes was described by acquaintances as bright but was in the process of dropping out of his graduate programme at the time of the shooting, according to the university.


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