My initial response to the theater shooting in Aurora was a simple desire to understand more and learn the facts surrounding it. Who, what, when, where, and why? After reading through whatever news reports I could find, my tactical mind began considering the situation and the environment. I was going through the process of what’s known as “mental rehearsals”.
Essentially, mental rehearsals are exactly what they sound like: rehearsing potential actions to be taken ‘in the event of’. What would I have done were I faced with the same dire situation of a heavily armed active shooter firing indiscriminately into crowds of people in a dark, smokey theater?
Using these same mental rehearsals in conjunction with a knowledge in firearms, tactics, and the ability to turn on an aggressive attitude, it is possible to mentally rehearse the outcomes of any number of scenarios. With that in mind, the purpose of this article is to ask the question: If members of the audience were armed, could the outcome of this event have been altered? If so, how and to what degree?
Considering the eyewitness accounts and reports released throughout the week, a few environmental and situational considerations stand out in my mind:
- Large darkened theater; reflected light from smoke and the screen; directed light from projector
- Loud surround sound audio playing from the movie throughout the incident
- Smoke canisters thrown (type unknown); good airflow and rapid movement in theater would spread smoke rapidly; smoke causes irritation in lungs
- Densely packed theater; approximately 300 people in ~5500 square feet
- According to cinema website, every seat in the auditorium is placed higher than the seats immediately in front of them. Each row is roomier and provides excellent sight lines (to the screen).
The shooter must also be taken into consideration. Knowing the likely course of action of your enemy is extremely important when conducting any mental rehearsals. Some important considerations in regard to the shooter:
- 24 year old; reportedly 6’3” tall and athletic, slender build; likely around 200 lbs
- Armed with 12 gauge shotgun, AR15 assault rifle with 100rd drum, .40cal handgun
- Wearing load bearing vest, likely with extra shells, handgun magazines, and additional 100rd AR15 drum
- Wearing armored helmet, throat, groin, leggings, chest, and gas mask
- Fired shotgun in the air first, began firing indiscriminately into crowd
From the moment the first grenade was thrown at around 12:38 until the moment the first round was fired from the shotgun into the crowd, until the time the shooter was apprehended outside the building at 12:45, approximately seven minutes passed. Little information is given on the amount of time that elapsed before the shooting stopped. Based on the amount of rounds fired, I would estimate the shooting lasted approximately 90 seconds.
I would speculate the shooter was inexperienced with the firearms based on few reports coming in regarding the shooter spending time at ranges. Given his level of intelligence, preparation of both his apartment and his vehicle parked directly behind the theater exit, it is highly likely that the shooter conducted extensive dry rehearsals in preparation for this specific event.