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Moviegoer comes face-to-face with gunman in Colorado theater

July 20, 2012|By Jenny Deam

AURORA, Colo. — The first big gun battle in “The Dark Knight Rises” was underway and Batman fan Eric Hunter heard three pops and saw thick black smoke coming into the theater. Startled, he jumped up but then sat back down, assuming it was a publicity stunt for the movie.

Hunter was in Theater 8 at the Century 16 multiplex. Next door in Theater 9, a gunman had just opened fire on the audience. As Hunter recalled the scene Friday morning, he then heard about eight more pops. This was no stunt.

“I jumped up, probably not the smartest thing to do, and started down the stairs,” Hunter said.

PHOTOS: 'Dark Knight Rises' shooting

He opened an exit door. Whether it connected directly to Theater 9 or to some adjoining room isn’t clear, but Hunter saw two teenage girls, one wounded in the face. Hunter, a radiology technician, said he saw what appeared to be entrance and exit wounds.

“Please help me!” a girl pleaded. “Please help me. God, he’s coming back.”

Hunter said he pulled the girls into Theater 8 and grabbed the door, but before he could shut it he found himself locking eyes with the shooter. The man was in black, wore what looked like a gas mask and held a gun in each hand. Hunter slammed the door.

After Hunter slammed the door, he could hear the gunman pounding on it. But the man never came through the door.

Hunter, 23, of Aurora, recounted the carnage Friday morning while at Gateway High School, where authorities asked witnesses to go so they could be interviewed. Others hoping for word on missing relatives gathered as well, hoping for information on loved ones.

Hunter said he called 911 and shouted, “Somebody is shooting at Century 16!” The operator asked for the address.

Someone hit the fire alarm and Hunter, along with an off-duty paramedic also at the theater, began attending to the two girls. Police arrived, and in a scene reminiscent of the evacuation of Columbine High School, made theater-goers leave the building with their hands raised above their heads.

Of the shooter, he said, “He is not going to keep me from going to my movies.”

ALSO:

Parents of alleged Colorado shooter: 'Hearts go out' to victims

Not again: Movie theater massacre unfolds 15 miles from Columbine

Rotten Tomatoes shuts down 'Batman' comments after death threats

nation@latimes.com

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