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Gunman Opens Fire In Colorado Theater


It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE: And I'm Renee Montagne. Often, when a tragedy happens, you hear victims and eyewitnesses describe what they went through as something that could have happened, or reminded them, of a movie.

INSKEEP: In the case of last night's Colorado shooting, eyewitnesses are describing an incident that happened in a movie theater where a fantasy was onscreen - the latest Batman film. It was the premiere at the Century 16 Multiplex in Aurora, Colorado. We've heard vivid accounts this morning from people in Theater 9. Let's listen to some of them. Many moviegoers were in costume for this film, when a man entered who had a strange mask and clothing of his own. And here are some of the witnesses' words, starting with Jennifer Seeger.

JENNIFER SEEGER: He had a gas mask on. He had Kevlar, and a gun. And I thought it was part of the show, at first. You know, I didn't think anything of it 'cause I was just like, what is this guy doing? And he threw this gas can. And then I was just like, well, maybe that's just smoke, or something, for an effect. Then he shot his gun into the ceiling. At that point, I knew he wasn't playing around. He's shooting the people trying to escape.

And I just saw him going upstairs and just shooting people; anybody that got up, that tried to leave the aisle, he would shoot - just shoot at random, no particular order. And there was little children; there was women; there was just people there - there were little kids. There was a 6-year-old that got shot, apparently.

INSKEEP: He's shooting the people trying to escape, she says. Donovan Tate was also at the theater. He said the chaos started with an explosion near the screen.

DONOVAN TATE: And then you just see smoke arise - like, in the right corner of the theater. And as the smoke arises - like, is rising, and you just hear like, these cracking noises, like pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop. I thought it was firecrackers or something. I thought it was someone pulling - like, a prank or something. You know - like firecrackers, bringing fireworks to a movie theater. I didn't think it was gunshots - at all.

INSKEEP: And Shale Jackson said he realized it was not a prank when he saw flashes.

SHALE JACKSON: You see it's real because you could see the fire, and you hear everybody in panic. And I just ducked down, and ran out. And as I was running out - like, the teargas, it was like stinging my eyes. And you just hear everybody in a panic.

INSKEEP: And you see this gentleman - he comes in, you said, the emergency exit. So a door down there by the screen, actually, is where this person entered.

JACKSON: Yes. Right by the screen, on the right side of the theater. I was sitting on the left side, so I just thank God that I wasn't on the right side.

INSKEEP: How did people get out of there?

JACKSON: Um - well, they got out through the - like, where you come in, on the left side, like, that's how I got out. I didn't see how everybody else got out. I was told that people - like, most of the people on the right side really didn't make it out, or they were just hiding behind some of the stairs in there.

INSKEEP: Was there panic, or did people manage to remain calm?

JACKSON: No. There was definitely panic - because when I was running out, I still heard the gunman shooting.

MONTAGNE: And that was Shale Jackson, who was in the theater last night. Again, let's go back to one of the people who poured out of the theater, Donovan Tate.

TATE: As we exited the building, all you saw was just injured people; people - you saw bullet wounds to people's backs - um - to their legs, to their arms. It was terrible; it was a terrible sight.

MONTAGNE: Some of the eyewitnesses to last night's shooting in surburban Denver. People say 12 people are dead. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.