The Century 16 movie theater seen from a memorial set up across the street… (Joe Raedle/Getty Images )
DENVER, Colo. – Three people injured in the Aurora theater shootings filed lawsuits Friday against the parent company of the theater, alleging that it failed to protect moviegoers.
Two lawsuits, one on behalf of Brandon Axelrod and his wife, Denise Traynom, both of Denver, and one on behalf of Joshua Nowlan of Aurora were filed in U.S. District Court in Denver asking for unspecified damages in excess of $75,000.
All three were attending the midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” when a gunman opened fire inside the theater not long after the movie began. Each of the three tried to duck behind seats but were nonetheless wounded, according to the lawsuits.
Twelve people were killed and 58 wounded in the attack. Traymon was shot in the buttocks, and Axelrod suffered “significant orthopedic injuries” to his right knee and ankle. Nowlan was shot in his right arm -- nearly severing it -- and in the left leg. The suit says the victims suffered not only physical injuries -- some permanent -- but also emotional and psychological distress.
The suit alleges that the Century Aurora 16 theater was the site of numerous previous disturbances, including assaults, at least one other shooting, and gang activity. In the past, the theater management had hired security, often off-duty Aurora police officers, especially on weekends. But on July 20, when a popular movie was to be shown that would draw large crowds, no security was hired, the lawsuit says.
Also, the exterior doors did not have any alarm system nor were the parking lots monitored, the suit says.
This could become a key point because suspect James E. Holmes is believed to have bought a ticket for the midnight show and slipped into the theater like any other patron. But when the lights went down, he allegedly left his seat, opened an exterior door, leaving it propped open, then went into the parking lot. Once outside, he is alleged to have started arming himself with weapons from his nearby parked car. He also allegedly cloaked himself in body armor before reentering the theater and opening fire.
The lawsuit says that no theater employee tried to intervene or help victims to safety.
The Denver law firm representing the three victims issued a statement Friday that accused Cinemark of failing to provide safety and security for its theater and patrons. “Readily available security procedures, security equipment and security personnel would likely have prevented or deterred the gunman from accomplishing his planned assault,” the statement said.
Attempts to reach Cinemark for comment late Friday were unsuccessful.
Although the three victims have been advised by their attorneys not to talk about the lawsuit, Nowlan previously told the Los Angeles Times he hoped to one day return to the Century 16 to see a movie. “I won’t be fully healed until I do,” he said last month.
The Denver Post reported Friday that Cinemark has told Aurora city officials it plans to reopen the theater once it was refurbished.
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