Hatchet-Swinging Gunman Attacks Tennessee Movie Theater, Killed by Police

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"People have the right to go about their lives in peace and safety," the National Association of Theatre Owners said in a statement.

Police were called to a movie theater outside of Nashville Wednesday in response to reports of a shooter, according to the Metro Nashville PD.

The call reporting a shooter was received by police at 1:15 p.m. Police, EMS and SWAT responded to the scene. According to police, SWAT engaged with the shooter following the emergency call, resulting in a shootout. The suspect was killed in the exchange of gunfire.

The shooting occurred at the Carmike Hickory 8 theater in Antioch during a screening of Mad Max: Fury Road.

According to law enforcement, the suspect was armed with a hatchet in addition to a gun. He also had two backpacks with him. It's unclear what was contained in the bags. 

Brian Haas, public information officer for the Nashville Fire Department, said three patients (a man, 58, and two women, aged 17 and 53) were treated for pepper spray exposure. The man was also treated for a "superficial wound" that "could have been caused by a hatchet." The injury was described further as "not much more than a bad bruise." No deaths, apart from the shooter, have been reported. 

"We don't anticipate at this point transferring anyone to the hospital," Haas said.

A Metro Nashville PD spokesperson said the gunman discharged pepper spray around the theater. According to the spokesperson, when the SWAT team entered the theater, the air "was thick" with pepper spray. The suspect, identified as a 51-year-old local white male, was wearing a surgical mask.

Following an initial exchange of gunfire, the police spokesperson said the gunman escaped out the rear of the theater. Officers then engaged with him out back, killing him. The suspect was wearing a backpack on his chest and also had a second bag with him.

"The only person who was shot was the suspect as he emerged out the rear door," the spokesperson said.

The Metro PD says the bomb squad will be detonating one of the shooter's backpacks because "they're not comfortable" with its contents, but a spokesperson wouldn't elaborate.

A witness who works at a nearby business told CNN she believes she encountered the shooter before the incident, identified by his two backpacks, and said he appeared middle-aged. The FBI will be investigating to see if the shooter had mental health issues or if his actions were an act of terrorism.  

The Ford Ice Center and the Global Mall nearby have been placed on lockdown.

The shooting comes less than two weeks after another movie theater shooting in Lafayette, La.

The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) has released a statement, saying it "is grateful to the theater staff and first responders who acted so quickly and efficiently to end today’s incident without serious injury. Whether it is in churches, schools, malls, theaters or other public places, people have the right to go about their lives in peace and safety. The safety of our guests and employees is, and always will be, our industry’s highest priority."

In a message posted on it website, Carmike Cinemas said "We are grateful for the quick and professional actions of our staff and all first responders in Antioch and Nashville. The well-being of our guests and employees has been and will continue to be of utmost importance to our organization."

Aug. 5, 5:20 p.m. Updated with Carmike Cinemas' statement. 

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