Two shot dead as lone gunman opens fire inside packed cinema
A lone gunman opened fire inside a crowded cinema last night in Lafayette, Louisiana, killing two people and injuring seven before taking his own life, police said.
Gunfire erupted during a 7pm showing of the romantic comedy film, Trainwreck. The incident took place almost three years to the day after 12 people were killed at a cinema in Aurora, Colorado.
Trainwreck star Amy Schumer tweeted her support for the community on hearing the news.
"My heart is broken and all my thoughts and prayers are with everyone in Louisiana," Schumer wrote.
Lafayette police chief Jim Craft said two people died in the hail of bullets before the 58-year-old suspect killed himself with a handgun as officers rushed to the scene.
Seven people were wounded, three of them critically. One person underwent surgery and "was not doing well", Craft said.
Authorities said they knew the gunman's identity but were not yet releasing his name. They offered no immediate motive.
"The shooter is deceased. We may never know," Craft said, adding that the man appeared to have a criminal history that he described as "pretty old".
Police officials said bomb- sniffing dogs had picked out a backpack inside the Grand 16 Theatre and that had also signalled "suspicious" items inside the suspect's car.
None of the victims, who were described as ranging in age from teens to early 60s, were immediately identified by authorities.
Witnesses said the gunman abruptly stood up in the darkness of the cinema about 20 minutes into the movie and began shooting.
"He wasn't saying anything. I didn't hear anybody screaming either," said Katie Domingue, who was watching the film with her fiance.
State governor Bobby Jindal said two of the wounded victims were teachers, one of whom told him she survived the attack because her friend rolled over her as bullets rang out. That teacher then managed to pull a fire alarm.
"As governor, as a father and as a husband, whenever we hear about these senseless acts of violence it makes us furious and sad at the same time," said Jindal.
Four police officers in the area heard the gunfire and rushed to the cinema, which is on a main thoroughfare.
The shooting came three years after a gunman opened fire in a cinema in Aurora, Colorado, during a midnight screening of Batman film The Dark Knight Rises, killing 12 people and wounding 70.
James Holmes, a former neuro-science graduate student at the University of Colorado, was convicted last week on 165 counts of murder, attempted murder and explosives.
Jurors in that case were trying to determine if Holmes should face the death penalty or life in prison.
The US has witnessed several mass shootings in the last two months.
A gunman is accused of a racially motivated shooting at a black church in South Carolina that killed nine church members last month.
Last week, a gunman attacked military offices in Tennessee, killing five servicemen.