Colorado cinema shooting: Massacre survivors speak
- 20 July 2012
- From the section US & Canada
In the early morning hours after the shooting at the theatre in Aurora, Colorado, witnesses described the massacre in interviews.
About 20 minutes into the show, a man wearing what appeared to be a gas mask burst into Theatre Nine through an emergency exit on the right side near the front of the auditorium.
"He had a kevlar suit," Jennifer Seeger, 22, told MSNBC. "He looked like a Swat guy."
The man said nothing, then threw to the ground at least two gas grenades - likely tear gas.
He was dressed in black and appeared to be wearing body armour, so at first many in the audience thought he was somehow part of the show - a live-action performance.
"People do that kind of stuff at midnight premieres," Tanner Coon, 17, told NBC's Today Show.
The bombs exploded and thick gas filled the air, and then the crowd knew something was terribly amiss. Without a word, the man raised what appeared to be a rifle and fired a shot into the air, then turned his gun on the crowd.
"He had no specific target," said Trey Freeman.
"He was just letting loose, letting bullets fly. It was a pretty big gun."
Amidst the bullets and the gas, the crowd erupted into screaming panic. People dropped to the floor to avoid the gunfire and to find a pocket of air, while others made a mad dash for the exits.
"He just pointed the gun at me," Ms Seeger told another television news outlet.
"I was terrified so I just dove into the aisle. I crawled on the ground and just curled into a ball."
The gunman began shooting over her head.
"I had gun shells falling on my head, burning my head, all I smelled was powder," she said.
"All I hear was gunshot after gunshot. He was just shooting at random. He was just shooting."
'Shooting little kids'
One man told KUSA he felt a splash on his back and thought he had been shot, then thought someone's blood had spattered him. But it was only someone's spilled cup of water.
"Honestly, I thought I was going to get shot," Mr Freeman said. "I thought there was no way in the world I was going to get out of there."
A survivor named Pam told the BBC she crawled through the row toward an aisle to escape.
"Luckily the exit was close to where I was sitting so I got out pretty fast," she said. "I heard more shots as I left."
The gunman began walking up the aisle, shooting people as they fled.
"He's shooting little kids, he's shooting adults, he's shooting our friends that we went to school with," Mr Freeman said.
For those cowering among the rows of seats, the gas made it difficult to breathe.
"I'm like, 'I'm going to suffocate it I can't get out of here,'" Ms Seeger said.
Some began making their way to the exits, only to be turned back when others screamed the man was shooting people who were trying to flee.
"I slipped on some blood and landed on a lady," Tyler said. "And I shook her and said, 'we need to go, get up' and there was no response, so I presume she was dead."
Ms Seeger stumbled across a wounded man during her escape.
She has emergency medical training and her instinct was to administer aid. She felt his pulse; it was weak. She began dragging him toward an exit but abandoned him when others screamed the gunman was coming back.
"I ran for the hills," she said. "On my way out all I see is these dead bodies. People were just lifeless."
Eventually, survivors and the wounded made it outside.
"I was wondering if this was real life or a dream," witness Chayyiel Jackson told the BBC.
The scene outside the theatre was ghastly, survivors report.
"We saw people outside the theatre, faces covered in blood, backs covered in blood," Mr Freeman said. "It was a terrible sight."