By Alan Neuhauser and Farran Powell
NEW YORK CITY — Extra cops were deployed to movie theaters screening the "The Dark Knight Rises" Friday, hours after a gas-masked gun-toting graduate student allegedly shot and killed at least 12 people and wounded at least 38 others at a midnight screening in Colorado.
"As a precaution against copycats and to raise the comfort levels among movie patrons in the way of the horrendous shooting in Colorado, the New York City Police Department is providing coverage at theaters where 'The Dark Knight Rises' is playing in the five boroughs," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said in a statement.
James Holmes, 24, a student at the University of Colorado Denver according to multiple news reports, allegedly burst through an emergency exit at the front of a packed multiplex theater about in the Denver suburb of Aurora, tossed a tear-gas grenade, and opened fire.
Police later arrested him without incident in the cinema’s parking lot near his car, the New York Times reported. He was armed with a rifle and handgun and was carrying a gas mask.
The University of Colorado Denver said Holmes had been in the process of withdrawing from the school's graduate neuroscience program. He enrolled at the school in June 2011.
“It’s a bit scary,” said Park Slope resident Alicia Cedano, 30, who was on a date at the 34th Street theater with her boyfriend. “It makes sense that they are there to protect while you’re having fun.”
Seventeen-year-old Vincent Garcia, who was waiting to meet a friend at the Times Square cinema, said his mother was worried about his decision to see the movie Friday.
"My mom, before I came here, had to warn me about it," he said.
Uniformed police were nowhere to be seen at AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 on Broadway at 66th Street, which rattled some patrons.
“I actually felt a little nervous reaction that something like that can happen here or in New York of anywhere,” said Richard Vargas, 22, a recent graduate of Brooklyn College. “I would feel much safer with a police presence.”
LaGuardia Community College student Ron Gardner, 21, said he would not oppose greater security at movie theaters. “If there was going to be a metal detector, I wouldn’t mind,” he said.
Warner Bros., the studio that produced "Dark Knight Rises," canceled Friday’s premiere of the film in Paris and media appearances by director Christopher Nolan, Gawker and the Hollywood Reporter said.
"Warner Bros. is deeply saddened to learn about this shocking incident,” the studio said in a statement. “We extend our sincere sympathies to the families and loved ones of the victims at this tragic time."
City politicians said they were stunned by the shooting.
"I join the nation in deep sorrow and shock upon hearing of the tragic shooting in Colorado," Rep. Charles Rangel said in a statement. "May peace be with the family and friends who lost their innocent loved ones. Our prayers are with those who were wounded. Such violent actions have absolutely no place in our society and will not be condoned."
"Guns…[are] killing people every day, and it's growing, and it's not just an inner-city, east coast, west coast, big-city phenomenon," the mayor said. "We can talk about it on the talk shows, we can wring our hands and say it's terrible. You know, 'I need more guns to protect myself.' And that strategy doesn't work.'"
Police have not identified those killed and wounded in the shooting. One victim, however, has attracted particular attention.
Jessica Ghawi, an aspiring sportscaster who narrowly survived a similar shooting in a Toronto shopping mall last month, was shot and killed in the theater Friday morning, according to news reports and a blog reportedly maintained by her brother, Jordan.
"Everyone please send a tweet out for Jessi #RIPJessica," Meloff wrote on Twitter. "She was the most wonderful and beautiful person I've ever been lucky enough to know and share lifes offerings with. She loved tweeting and loved twitter, please send out a tweet for her."