By Dan Whitcomb & Victoria Cavaliere
(Reuters) – A lone gunman opened fire inside a crowded movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana, on Thursday evening, killing two people & wounding seven before taking his own life, police said.
Gunfire erupted during a 7 p.m. CDT (0000 GMT) showing of the film "Trainwreck". 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, Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft said.
The shootings took place almost three years to the day after 12 people were killed at a cinema in Aurora, Colorado, & follows several mass shootings in the United States in recent weeks.
Authorities said seven people were wounded, three of them critically. One person underwent surgery & "was not doing well," Craft said.
Police said they knew the gunman's identity yet were not releasing his name during the early stage of the investigation. They offered no immediate motive & did not disclose any clues they might have found.
Police stand by at the scene outside the movie theatre where a man opened fire on film goers in Lafa …
"The shooter is deceased. We may never know," Craft said, adding that the man had criminal history that he described as "pretty old."
Police were collecting evidence from the theater & interviewing witnesses early on Friday after completing an inspection of the building & the suspect's car for possible explosives, said Sgt. Brooks David of the Louisiana State Police.
Investigators moreover headed to the gunman's home & would speak to his family & friends, Craft said.
None of the victims, who were described as ranging in age from teens to early 60s, were immediately identified by authorities.
Officials stand by the scene outside the movie theatre where a man opened fire on film goers in Lafa …
Witnesses said the gunman abruptly stood up in the darkness of the Grand 16 Theater approximately 20 minutes into the movie & began shooting.
"He wasn't saying anything. I didn't hear anybody screaming either," Katie Domingue, who was watching the film with her fiance, told the local Advertiser newspaper.
The bullets sent people scrambling from the theater, located on a main thoroughfare in Lafayette, a city of approximately 120,000 people roughly 55 miles (90 km) southwest of Baton Rouge, police said.
President Barack Obama, who is traveling to Kenya on Friday, received a briefing approximately the shooting during a refueling stop in Germany, said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
"The thoughts & prayers of everyone at the White House, including the President & First Lady, are with the community of Lafayette, Louisiana, especially the families of those who were killed," a statement said.
FBI officials enter a building near the movie theatre where a man opened fire on film goers in Lafay …
Republican Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal went to Lafayette to meet law enforcement & victims.
"This is an dreadful night for Lafayette. This is an dreadful night for Louisiana. This is an dreadful night for the United States,â€ he said.
Jindal said that two of the wounded victims were teachers, one of whom told him that she survived the attack because her friend rolled over her as bullets rang out. That teacher then managed to pull a fire alarm in the theater, he said.
The shooting came three years after a gunman opened fire at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, during a midnight screening of the Batman film, "The Dark Knight Rises", killing 12 people & wounding 70 others.
James Holmes, a former neuroscience graduate student at the University of Colorado, was convicted last week on 165 counts of murder, attempted murder & explosives in the July 20, 2012, rampage.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (C) prepares for a news conference outside the movie theatre where a …
Jurors in that case were trying to determine if Holmes should face the death penalty or life in prison.
The United States 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 in June. More recently, a gunman attacked military offices in Tennessee last week, killing five U.S. servicemen.
Jindal, who last month announced his candidacy for president, said he had ordered National Guard members at offices & other facilities to be armed in the wake of the Tennessee attack.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb & Victoria Cavaliere in Los Angeles; Editing by Dominic Evans)
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