WASHINGTON, July 20 – US President Barack Obama and his rival Mitt Romney suspended their campaigning Friday out of respect for the victims of a shocking shooting at a Colorado movie theater that left 12 people dead.
Obama, who overnighted in the swing state of Florida, dropped a planned re-election campaign event in Fort Myers and instead spoke about the shooting spree at a Batman movie showing, saying the killings were “beyond reason.”
He cut his appearance short and headed to the airport where he boarded Air Force One for a return to the White House.
His campaign team said they were pulling all contrast ads in Colorado, one of the key battlegrounds of the 2012 election, and Romney’s team said they were taking similar action.
At least 12 people were killed and around 40 others wounded in the midnight rampage at a movie theater in the Denver area showing “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Obama earlier released a statement saying he and his wife Michelle were “shocked and saddened” by the incident.
“My administration will do everything that we can to support the people of Aurora in this extraordinarily difficult time,” he said.
In Florida, Obama denounced the “senseless” violence and made a plea for unity during a period of tragedy, saying it would not be appropriate to hit out at his campaign rival at such a time.
“I was looking forward to having a fun conversation with you about some really important matters that we face as a country, and the differences between myself and my opponent in this election,” he said.
“But this morning, we woke up to news of a tragedy that reminds us of all the ways that we are united as one American family.”
Romney altered a planned campaign event in Bow, New Hampshire, and will now use the opportunity to make comments about the shooting, Saul said.
Earlier he issued a statement saying he and his wife were “deeply saddened” by the violence and that they were “praying for the families and loved ones of the victims during this time of deep shock and immense grief.”
He and Obama both expressed their hope and commitment that those responsible for the crime be brought to justice.
Obama was notified of the shooting at 5:26 am (0926 GMT) by his homeland security advisor John Brennan, according to White House spokesman Jay Carney.