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Aurora, Colorado – If any police chief can handle the emotions, the investigation, and the media glare surrounding the horrible rampage that took so many lives last week, it's Dan Oates, the man who leads the Aurora Police Department, those who know him say.
Oates knows the streets -- he learned his trade on the unsparing streets of New York City, where he spent 21 years in police work, serving as a patrolman in Manhattan's Upper East Side and ending up as chief of intelligence and a deputy chief overseeing 3,000 patrol officers in Brooklyn.
And he's got the intellectual heft to match his street instincts. An English literature graduate from Bucknell University, Oates earned a law degree at New York Law School and is admitted to practice law in Colorado, New Jersey and New York. He also has a master's degree in management from New York University.
His legal education surfaced at the news conference Saturday, when Oates tried to head off a mental incompetence defense for suspect James Holmes. He told reporters Holmes received numerous commercial deliveries to his home and school over the past four months, showing "evidence of some calculation and deliberation."
Those who know him say Oates cares deeply about his community and his officers.
"You think we're angry? We sure as hell are angry," Oates said in describing the threat to the people of Aurora and his colleagues at the apartment of the suspected gunman in Friday's movie theater shooting.
The apartment had been rigged with booby traps to kill a police officer who might have opened the door.
It was a rare public show of emotion for Oates -- and a reflection of his city's pain after 12 people were killed and 58 wounded during a midnight showing of the new Batman movie at a busy cinema.
Oates left New York to become chief of the police and fire departments in Ann Arbor, Mich.
In 2005, he took over the department in Aurora, a diverse city of 400,000 that sprawls 160 square miles east of Denver.
Oates, a father of two girls, has also revealed some compassion. Gone somewhat unnoticed in the frenzy of the investigation was his admission to reporters that his own daughters also had been watching "The Dark Knight Rises" that night -- but at a different theater.
On a separate, high-profile case in 2009, he urged an Aurora father convicted of fatal child abuse in the presumed death of the man's missing daughter to reveal the body's location so the 6-year-old girl could be properly buried.
After the verdict, Oates said: "Aaron has within his capacity the answer to all of our questions about where Aarone is. And as I said before, if he has any shred of decency left in him, this is his moment to finally close that part of this tragedy by telling us where Aarone is."
She has never been found.
Now departments across the country are watching Aurora's investigation of the massacre.
"He will be all over, he'll be everywhere," Rich Kinsey, a retired detective sergeant in Ann Arbor, told Ann Arbor.com. "He's well prepared to do something like this."
This story is based on reporting by The Associated Press.