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Chief: Booby-trapped apartment ‘designed to kill whoever entered it’

Posted at 1:30 PM, Jul 21, 2012
and last updated 2012-07-21 17:06:42-04

AURORA, Colorado (CNN) - Officials said during a Saturday afternoon news conference that the explosive threats inside the movie theater shooting suspect's apartment have been greatly reduced.

FBI special agent Jim Yacone said technicians, using a robot, "did a marvelous job" in dealing with booby traps, wires and possible explosive and incendiary devices in James Holmes' apartment.

Law enforcement said they spotted multiple containers with possible accelerants and other materials that would have caused significant injuries or loss of life to anyone walking inside, according to Yacone.

Those explosives and accelerant materials found in suspect's apartment will be sent to the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia.

Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates would not discuss a possible motive on the part of the movie theater shooting suspect.

However, Oates said the booby-trapped apartment was "designed to kill whoever entered it," most likely a police officer.

"We sure as hell are angry" about Friday's mass shooting and the apparent targeting of officers, he said.

Oates also said a memorial prayer vigil for the shooting victims is scheduled for Sunday night.

Additionally, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said he has been moved by stories of people who saved others' lives at the movie theater in Aurora.

"Despite this one unspeakably troubled individual, there are so many others that are doing what's right," he said.

The mayor of Aurora, Steve Hogan, said the community can "begin this natural process of grieving and healing" following the shooting early Friday at a movie theater.

Earlier Saturday afternoon, investigators carried out Saturday a "controlled detonation" inside the booby-trapped apartment of movie theater shooting suspect James  Holmes, the latest move in a three-step effort to enter the apartment.

The blast came after a policeman yelled, "Fire in the hole!" three times.

Fire officials were on standby, but there was no immediate indication of a fire.

Earlier, a trip wire and an incendiary device were both dealt with, Public Information Officer Sgt. Cassidee Carlson told reporters. "This trip wire was set up to clearly detonate when somebody entered the apartment, and it was set up to kill that person," she said. "That could have been a police officer executing a search warrant. This is some serious stuff our team is dealing with."

Investigators were planning to use a robot to disarm trip wires linked to explosives, and then use that same robot to remotely remove improvised explosive devices, a law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the operation told CNN. It was also possible one of the bomb experts on site would put on protective gear and go inside the apartment, the official added.

Carlson did not say whether that occurred.

It was not clear where all the explosives were located, though many have been seen in the living area with circuitry reaching into the kitchen, the official said.

One of the incendiary devices appears to be improvised napalm and others appear to be mixtures that, if combined with other materials, could cause an explosion, the official said.

Approximately 30 aerial shells are in the 850 square foot apartment, Carlson said. They will be placed on sand trucks and taken to a disposal site for controlled detonation, she said.

"During any of these phases, and as this day goes on, again, there may be controlled detonations," she said, adding that reverse 911 calls would alert the general public prior to any blasts.

Asked what timeline authorities were expecting to follow, she said, "There is no timeline. I can't give you an endtime. We're hoping to get in there within the next hour."

But, she added, "We have no idea how long any of this is going to take."

Officials had been hoping to avoid detonations to limit any loss of evidence, she said.

"Jars of black powder" and what appear to be "liquid accelerants" attached to the explosive devices are also inside Apartment 10, another law enforcement official said. "He placed other chemicals to enhance fire/thermal effect of IEDs," the official added about Holmes' apartment.

"He has a level of expertise, not crude," the official said.

About 100 officials were called in to oversee the entrance into Apartment 10 at 1690 Paris Street. Federal personnel flown here from out of state include bomb technicians from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Explosive Ordinance & Disposal specialists. Police evacuated five buildings Friday, including the one where Holmes lived, after he told them he had rigged his apartment with explosives.

Shortly after police apprehended Holmes in the rear parking lot of the Century Aurora 16 movie complex, where dozens of people had been shot, he told them that he had rigged his apartment, Police Chief Daniel Oates said Friday.

After the shootings, police arrived at Holmes' apartment to find "techno-music" blaring from the bedroom, according to a law enforcement source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The music was on a timer and apparently started once he left for the movie theater, said the source, who was not authorized to release details of the investigation to the media.

Oates said Friday that it could take days to work through the apartment safely. While authorities did not say how many residents were evacuated from nearby buildings, the number is estimated to be in the hundreds.

Authorities began Friday night to allow families in four of the five evacuated buildings to return to their residences to retrieve personal items, such as medication, identification cards and clothing.

A shelter was set up at Aurora Central High School for those forced from their apartments.

CNN's Susan Candiotti, Poppy Harlow, Chelsea J. Carter and Kyung Lah contributed to this report.

COMPLETE COVERAGE: Gunman opens fire in Colorado movie theater 

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