Active shooter: Tenn. firefighters treat pepper-spray, hatchet victims
Only the 51-year-old male gunman was shot in the movie theater attack; no one was taken to the hospital
By Erik Schelzig
The Associated Press
ANTIOCH, Tenn. — A man armed with a hatchet and gun unleashed a volley of pepper spray at audience members inside a movie theater Wednesday, exchanging fire with a responding officer before being shot dead by a SWAT team as he tried to escape through the theater's rear door, police said.
The attacker, identified as a 51-year-old white local man, was carrying a backpack on his chest and was wearing a surgical mask, possibly to protect himself from the pepper spray he unleashed in large amounts during the showing of "Mad Max: Fury Road," Nashville Police spokesman Don Aaron said. He said three people were blasted with the spray and treated.
The latest shooting comes about two weeks after a gunman opened fire inside a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana, and on the same day jurors were preparing to decide whether a man should be executed for murdering 12 people and trying to kill 70 others in a 2012 attack on a movie theater in Colorado.
One of the people who was hit with the pepper spray in the Tennessee theater also had a superficial wound that could have been caused by a hatchet, said fire department spokesman Brian Haas. No one was taken to a hospital. The only person shot was the suspect, Aaron said.
Aaron said law enforcement officials were going to detonate a bag they believe the shooter carried into the theater because they were uncomfortable with what they were finding. He said witnesses in the theater when the gunman entered had been taken to a nearby location to be interviewed about what they saw.
Police responded quickly after the call came in at 1:13 p.m., Aaron said. Two officers were outside in the midst of a traffic stop on Bell Road, and witnesses to the shooting ran to them to alert them to the situation. Aaron said they responded within two minutes. An officer came into the theater and was fired upon by the suspect, Aaron said. The officer shot back, then backed off, but Aaron said the officer kept the gunman confined to a single theater in the complex.
The gunman exchanged gunfire with the SWAT team before he was shot dead, Aaron said. About two dozen gunshots could be heard in a 10-second period in raw video footage posted online by WKRN TV.
Erick Vale, 32, an Uber driver, told The Tennessean newspaper that he was dropping off passengers in the theater's parking lot when he heard gunshots.
He described it as "utter chaos."
"I just couldn't believe this was happening again," he said.
The theater in Antioch is near Global Mall, a shopping center in a middle-class neighborhood.
The latest shooting comes about two weeks after John Russell Houser killed two people and wounded nine others before fatally shooting himself during a screening of the movie "Trainwreck" at a theater in Lafayette, Louisiana.
Also Wednesday, jurors in Colorado were preparing to decide whether James Holmes should be executed for murdering 12 people and trying to kill 70 others in a 2012 attack at a Batman movie.