NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN/WLNS) – A man officials say entered a Tennessee movie theater armed with a hatchet and air soft gun was killed by Metro-Nashville police Wednesday afternoon.
Officers responded to the Carmike Hickory 8 theater on Bell Road within minutes of receiving calls shots were fired around 1:13 p.m. CDT as they were working a nearby crash.
Vincente David Montano, 29, who officials say was wearing a surgical mask and bought a ticket to enter the theater, reportedly began attacking people and spraying pepper spray during a showing of “Mad Max: Fury Road.” According to a preliminary estimate, around eight people were inside the theater at the time.
Officers confronted Montano inside the theater, firing shots at him before he fled out back where he ultimately died.
In a press conference Wednesday night, officials said it appeared Montano had “significant psychiatric or psychological issues.”
Metro police Spokesman Don Aaron said he had been committed four times in the past in Rutherford County, twice in 2004 and twice in 2007. The exact nature of his issues weren’t immediately known.
Metro police also said Montano was reported missing two days ago from Rutherford County on Aug. 3 by his mother who had not seen him since May 2015 in Illinois.
In the missing persons report, his addressed is listed as “homeless.” Murfreesboro police also state his mother told them he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 2006.
Both the hatchet and air soft gun Montano had with him were found by officials at the scene.
Montano’s backpack was detonated by the bomb squad just before 4 p.m. as officials were not comfortable opening it. The suspect also had a smaller satchel with him.
Police say a “hoax device” was found in the gunman’s backpack and posed no threat to the community. The second bag, a “parcel,” was left in the back of the theater. Police are working on finding out the contents of that bag.
Initial reports indicated the suspect was also seen in or near the Southeast Branch Library prior to the shooting, but police Chief Steve Anderson later said there was no information to indicate that.
According to Brian Haas with the Nashville Fire Department, three people had minor injuries from being pepper sprayed, reportedly by the Montano. They were a 58-year-old man, 53-year-old woman and 17-year-old girl.
One of those three also received a bruise on the arm, reportedly from a hatchet the suspect was carrying. No one was taken to a hospital.
Steven, the 58-year-old victim who chose to only release his first name, told media he is “eternally grateful for the Metro Police Department.”
Chief Anderson made a powerful statement Wednesday evening, saying “this is maybe the new normal.”
“And we can’t just shut down America. We can’t say we’re not going to theaters. We can’t say we’re not going to church. We carry on,” he added.
Spokesman Aaron said multiple lives were likely saved by the first officer who ran inside the theater.
“Nashvillians should know they have a brave, well-trained police department,” Aaron added.
Nashville Mayor Karl Dean said he applauds the police department for its great work to apprehend the suspect, keep our citizens and visitors safe, and “prevent a tragedy in Antioch today.”
His statement continued, “We have one of the best police forces in the nation, and it showed this afternoon in the way our officers lived up to their very thorough training. I recognize that this situation must have been traumatizing for everyone in the theater and many who were nearby, and I’m sorry that some were injured and needed treatment. I’m relieved that no one else was killed, and again, I thank the police for that.”
District Attorney Glenn Funk released the following statement on Wednesday’s incident:
I am extremely grateful for the fast, professional and effective response of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department to this crisis. These heroes prevented what easily could have become a massacre inside the theater. I would like to personally thank Chief Steve Anderson and the men and women who risked their lives to keep Nashville citizens safe.
Carmike’s corporate offices in Georgia said they “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,” Carmike officials added.
Multiple other agencies responded to the scene to assist in the investigation, including the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Federal Bureau of Investigation, agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) as well as SWAT.
There were reports of nearby schools also being placed on lock down but students were not there at the time as Metro had a half day Wednesday.
The nearby Ford Ice Center plans to remain closed for the rest of the day. They will resume normal operations Thursday.
The ride sharing company Uber said on Twitter they are “concerned about the event in Antioch,” and are therefore refunding all Uber rides from the Carmike Hickory 8 theater to help riders get home safely.