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A senseless act, not a movie

Tom Sullivan center embraces family members outside Gateway High School where he has been searching for his sAlex Sullivan. He

Tom Sullivan, center, embraces family members outside Gateway High School where he has been searching for his son Alex Sullivan. He celebrated his 27th birthday by going to see "The Dark Knight Rises," movie where a gunman opened fire Friday, July 20, 201

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For moviegoers

AMC Theaters announced Friday that all patrons are banned from wearing costumes or masks, effective immediately.

Updated: August 22, 2012 6:08AM

Some witnesses to the horror said at first they thought it was part of the movie.

A handful of patrons at the screening were dressed as the Dark Knight.

In the movie, the main villain wears a metal mask that covers the lower half of his face. In the horrific tragedy at a theater in Aurora, Colo., the alleged shooter wore a gas mask.

By the time most of the nation awoke Friday, Fox News was already calling this “The Batman Massacre.”

The suspect, James Holmes, had dyed his hair and taken to calling himself “The Joker.” Comic book aficionados have pointed out some surface similarities to Frank Miller’s 1986 story “The Dark Knight Returns,” in which a gunman opens fire in a theater showing a Batman-inspired porn movie.

But no matter what the level of the delusions plaguing this shooter, no one but the killer himself is responsible for this almost inconceivable act. ”

I say almost because we have seen this before. Far too many times. In Russia. In Norway. In Arizona and Virginia and Texas. In New York City, for what was 9/11 if not an act of mass murder. In Littleton, Colo., fewer than 20 miles from the site of Thursday night’s mass killing.

Even as we ask, “How could this happen,” we also say, “Again?””

Ben Leung lives on the first floor of Holmes’ apartment building, two floors directly below the suspect, whom he did not know.

“Around 2 a.m. [Friday morning], I heard a sound like an air-conditioning unit falling to the ground,” said Leung. “Then there were battering rams at the front and back doors of the building. Within two minutes there was a knock on my door. Police in riot gear and hard helmets, with assault rifles, told me to grab some clothes and evacuate the building.”

Leung said the neighbors who lived directly below Holmes heard loud music on a continual loop coming from Holmes’ apartment, and went upstairs to knock on his door to ask him to turn it down. By then, of course, Holmes was gone, having created that sound diversion in his apartment.

Tragedy captured
on YouTube, Twitter

Local TV and the national cable channels provided hours of coverage Friday, with requisite helicopters hovering above the scene of the crime and the alleged shooter’s apartment, interviews with eyewitnesses, the instant analyses.

But times being what they are, there was also constant commentary on social media.

In the hours before the shooting, “Dark Knight” fans at the Aurora Century 16 were joining the chorus of fans eagerly awaiting the late-night premieres of the film.

One fan posted an Instagram picture of his Aurora Century ticket for the film. Another wrote, “It’s going to be a good night! @Century Aurora for the Dark Knight Rises with six others.””

Soon, fans became eyewitnesses.

“There was [a] shooting in our auditorium,” a young man named Zach wrote on Twitter. “Saw people being carried to ambulance. Scary as s---.””

From a young woman named Caitlin:

“It was my theater. I’m outside, one of my friends is still inside. No one knows what’s going on.””

“Oh God, I don’t know what to do.”

“Everybody please pray for my friend Alex.”

“They’re putting us in a bus to a nearby school now.””

“I’m OK, back at my friend’s house now. We’re all valuing our lives and the sunrise. To those offering prayers, I thank you again.”

Meanwhile, on YouTube, cellphone video and Denver newscast footage were racking up the views.

We took note of weird pop culture coincidences. This is the movie theater scene in “Scream 2,” where the guy just starts stabbing people and no one notices because everybody’s wearing costumes, noted a commenter on YouTube.

On Twitter, I was directed to a comment someone made about an hour before the shootings: “If you wanna wipe out comic book nerds, then blow up every movie theater in the country right now.” (By Friday morning, that Tweet was gone. A joke that wasn’t funny in the first place had been rendered monumentally tasteless.)

On Facebook, a traffic reporter in San Antonio wrote of her friend Jessica Redfield, an aspiring sportscaster who was among the fatalities. (Jessica’s last Tweet: “Movie doesn’t start for 20 minutes.) Before catching a flight to Denver, the brother of a victim created an instant blog to pay tribute to his sister. On Reddit, one survivor posted photos of his injuries and his bloody T-shirt.

Now and quite possibly forever, “The Dark Knight Rises” will be associated with the tragedy in Aurora.

But this is not “The Batman Massacre.” By all available accounts, this appears to be the work of a lone gunman who was so disconnected from any shred of humanity he slaughtered innocent victims. We can dissect his past and examine his mind-set and ask a thousand questions, but we’ll never get an answer that makes any sense to the sane mind.

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