See What Witnesses Are Saying About Deadly Theater Shooting [VIDEOS]
An eager audience forgoing sleep to take in the midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" instead were witnesses Friday to a bloody mass shooting at a suburban Denver movie theater. Police said a man clad in black threw a canister that spewed smoke before he opened fire.Witnesses said that at first, they thought it was a prank or a stunt. Then the gunman shot steadily at the audience, not speaking.
Here are some of their accounts
JORDON CROFTER: GUNMAN LOOKED LIKE ASSASSIN
Jordan Crofter, 19, of Aurora, said the suspected gunman "looked like an assassin ready to go war."
Crofter was sitting on the left side of the theater and toward the front when the door swung open and a silhouette appeared in front of the street lights.
He said the shooter was calm and almost strutted in, then pulled up his rifle and started shooting, stopping only to reload — like "shooting fish in a barrel."
When he saw two gas canisters hit the ground, Crofter immediately ran out of the theater.
Crofter said he was the first one in the lobby and when the manager asked what was going on, he yelled, "Bomb."
JULIA NGUYEN: GUNMAN DIDN'T SAY A WORD
Julia Nguyen, 17, said she saw something fly across the theater, which she thought at first was a stink bomb, and then saw a flash.
Then she saw the gunman.
"He was absolutely quiet. He didn't say a word. He just started firing rounds," said Nguyen, who ran out of theater as fast as she could with her friend, Erin Post, 15.
Post said he fired round after round.
"It just kept going and going and going. Like bam after bam after bam," she said. "Between every flash you could kind of see a gas mask."
Outside the theater, they found a 16-year-old bloody and limping, suffering from wounds to his thigh and lower calf.
They said they got the boy into the backseat of their car and used belts to put a makeshift tourniquet to stop the bleeding from his leg. They said that he kept saying he wanted to find his little sister and that he wanted to pray with them.
They prayed in the car until an ambulance could take him to the hospital.
JOEL WHEELERBURG:IT SOUNDED LIKE SPECIAL EFFECTS
Joel Wheelersburg, 27, said he went to the movie with a church group that included his brother and sister-in-law.
"The first gun scene (in the movie) is where we heard real bullet shots, real gunshots, from our right," he said.
"It sounded like special effects, and from there we saw what seemed like ash or dust from the walls. We saw the smoke coming over, and that's kind of when we knew something wasn't right," he said.
Wheelersburg said people started scrambling to get out through exits at the front and rear of the theater. Wheelersburg heard someone say there was somebody with a gun.
Wheelersburg and his group got out through the lobby and then went outside.
"It was there in the parking lot that reality sunk in. There were so many lights, there was helicopters, police officers, people are literally being carried by other normal people like us," he said.
Later, the group kneeled and prayed.
Jennifer Seeger: I didn't think it was real
At first, "I was just a deer in headlights. I didn't know what to do," she said. Then she ducked to the ground.
The gunman shot people seated behind her.
"There were bullet (casings) just falling on my head. They were burning my forehead," Seeger said.
The gunman fired steadily except when he stopped to reload.
"Every few seconds it was just 'Boom, boom, boom,'" she said.
"He would reload and shoot and anyone who would try to leave would just get killed," she said.
Seeger said she began crawling toward an exit when she saw a girl about 14 years old, "lying lifeless on the stairs."
She saw a man with a bullet wound in his back and tried to check his pulse, but "I had to go. I was going to get shot."
"I thought it was showmanship. I didn't think it was real," she said.
Sylvia Guillen: Gunman Told Friend, Get Ready to Be Shot
Sylvana Guillen, 20, said when a man appeared at the front of the theater clad in dark clothing looking like a SWAT team member as Catwoman made an appearance in the movie, the audience "thought it was a joke, a hoax."
Then they heard gunshots and smelled smoke from a canister he was carrying, and Guillen knew it was real.
The gunman began walking toward the seats and firing. Guillen said she told her friend, Misha Mostashiry, "You better get ready to be shot."
Mostashiry, also 20, said they couldn't tell where the gunman was.
"All you could do is hope he didn't come for you," she said.
"We ran to the emergency exit and nothing happened. Nothing happened to us," Mostashiry said, with surprise and relief in her voice.
On their dash to the exit, they saw a man slip in the blood of a wounded woman he was trying to help.
Tanner Coon: I Slipped on Blood
Tanner Coon told the NBC "Today" show he was at the movie with a friend and his friend's 12-year-old brother when about 20 minutes into the movie the gunman appeared. Coon said that when they realized they were being shot at, they got on the floor in front of their seats.
After "a period of quiet" everyone started to run out.
He said he went to a row behind him and "slipped on some blood and landed" on a woman. He said he shook her, telling her they needed to get out, but she was unresponsive and he "presumed she was dead." He said the 12-year-old was "freaking out" and "really upset" after they escaped the theater.
Jaime Marshall: Confusion Following 'Fire cracker' Sounds
Jaime Marshall, 23, said she had tickets to theater 9, where the gunman opened fire, but had decided before the movie to watch next door in theater 8 with friends.
She said that about 20 minutes in, as a shooting scene played out on the screen, she heard "fire cracker" sounds, and thought someone might be playing a joke. Marshall said people started leaving en masse and the alarm system started blaring. Marshall said she and her friends just sat there confused until someone ran in and told people not to go into the lobby because "someone's shooting people out there."
She said she wasn't sure if it was a prank, but the group decided to leave. Marshall said that as she made her way out of the theater, she saw a girl with a gunshot wound to her leg.
William Kent: Police with Assault Rifles Running In
Moviegoer William Kent told CBS "This Morning" he was in theater 8, next door to the theater where the shooting happened.
"There was a lot going on in the soundtrack of the movie at that time. So in the beginning, I don't think people realized what was happening," he said.
Kent said he saw pieces of the wall fall out, apparently as shots came through, and the emergency alarm went off. The theater told people to leave.
"There was huge commotion to get out of the theater and when I exited, there were police with assault rifles running in."
"I went out to enjoy a movie and I ended up in a gruesome thing. I don't know how you would qualify it. I think it seems like a terrorist act."
Nichole Griek: Man in Black Threw Canister, Opened Fire
Nichole Griek said her 13- and 14-year-old daughters were in the theater when they saw a man dressed in black and wearing a mask step out of the shadows at the front of the theater. They thought he was part of the movie presentation, before he threw out a canister that started smoking and opened fire.
Griek's daughters and their friends bolted from the theater, leaving behind their cellphones, shoes and other belongings. Griek's daughters were unhurt.
"You'd think you'd be able to drop your kid off at the movie theaters, but you can't," she said.
Chandler Brannon: We Played Dead
Chandler Brannon tells ABC's "Good Morning America" he was in the theater with his girlfriend when he saw smoke and heard popping sounds that he at first believed were fireworks.
When he realized they were gunshots, Brannon said he and his girlfriend and others ducked. He said he and his girlfriend played dead as what sounded like 50 to 70 shots were fired.
He said that because of the smoke, he didn't get a good look at the shooter but saw a silhouette of a person with a gun.
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(The Associated Press 2012)