Witnesses describe smoke and gunfire
Witnesses to the masked shooting at a cinema in Denver last night which left 12 dead and dozens injured have been describing what happened to the media today.
Evelyn Marquez (20) and her boyfriend Fernando Santos (20) said they were sitting in the middle section of the theatre when about 30 minutes into the movie a man clad in black entered through an exit door, stood near them, and threw a smoke bomb down some stairs.
"It took us a couple of seconds to really realize what was going on," Santos said. The theatre filled with acrid smoke and breathing became difficult, he added. The man lifted what they thought was a stick. It was a gun.
Santos and Marquez hit the ground and people began crawling over them. Sparks flew off seats behind them, Santos said. He saw people struck by bullets. They crawled to an exit.
Jennifer Seeger (22) who is studying to be an emergency medical technician said the man pointed his gun at her. She dove to the ground and sensed bullets flying by her face.
One teenage victim, Seeger said, had a bullet in his back. "I felt his pulse," she said. "It was really weak. Everyone said 'Run, run.' I tried to pull him out, but he was too heavy."
Emma Goos (19), a student at St. John's College in New Mexico, said she lost a shoe trying to escape the theatre. People slipped on a theatre floor greasy with popcorn butter. Police, she said, were weeping in the parking lot.
Salina Jordan told the Denver Post newspaper that police officers ran in and told people to leave the theatre. She said some police were carrying and dragging bodies.
Benjamin Fernandez (30) also told the Post he heard a series of explosions. He said people ran from the theatre and there were gunshots as police shouted “Get down!”
Ms Jordan told the paper one girl was struck in the cheek and others in the stomach, including a girl who looked to be around nine.
She said it sounded like firecrackers until someone ran into his neighbouring theatre yelling, “They’re shooting out here!”
Hayden Miller told KUSA-TV he heard several shots. “Like little explosions going on, and shortly after that we heard people screaming,” he told the station.
Mr Miller said at first he thought it was part of a louder film next door. But then he saw “people hunched over leaving the theatre.”
A witness told CNN: "We heard anywhere from 10 to 20 shots and little explosions going on. Shortly after that we heard people screaming. Then they came on PA system and said everyone needed to get out. As soon as we got out, there were people running around and screaming." He said friends had told him the gunman was wearing a gas mask.
Another witness said the gunman opened fire during a shoot-out scene in the movie, leading to confusion. The theatre also filled with thick smoke, he said.
Reporting: Bloomberg, Reuters, AP, New York Times service