Nashville movie theater shooting suspect pronounced dead

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Vincente David Montano, 29, who wielded an ax and a pellet gun at a Nashville-area movie theater, is shown in this Metro Nashville Police Department photo released on August 5, 2015. Montano, with a history of mental health issues was shot dead by police on Wednesday, authorities said. REUTERS/Metro Nashville PD/Handout via Reuters FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

Metro Nashville Police Department photo of Vincente David Montano

The suspect behind yet another movie theater shooting was declared dead after opening fire on a police officer early Wednesday afternoon in a Nashville, Tenn., suburb.

Officers from the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department responded to reports of a man with a gun and a hatchet inside a showing of "Mad Max: Fury Road" at the Carmike Hickory 8 cinemas on Bell Road at 1:15 p.m. in Antioch, authorities said.

Don Aaron, a public information officer, said the gunman shot at a police officer, prompting him to return fire. A SWAT team moved in and exchanged fire. Ultimately, he said, the suspect exited out the back door of the theater, where he was confronted by more police officers who shot and killed him.

"The actions of that first officer who went in the theater to engage this individual may well have saved multiple individuals inside that theater," Aaron said during a press conference.

The suspect, a 29-year-old local man, was wearing a surgical mask and doused two women's faces with pepper spray, authorities said. He was also wearing a backpack that authorities later detonated after they found a suspicious device eventually identified as a fake bomb inside.

“The gunman apparently unleashed this pepper spray throughout the theater,” Aaron said. “As the SWAT team entered that theater, it was very thick with chemical spray, with irritant. Gas masks were brought in to those officers as they attempted to get this person into custody.”

Brian Hass, a Nashville Fire Department spokesman, confirmed that two people were injured with pepper spray and one person was injured by the hatchet. The injuries were minor and no one was hospitalized.

"This could have been a lot worse," Hass said.

Aaron explained that the first two officers were able to respond quickly because they were working a crash on Bell Road just beyond the cinema's property. Moviegoers ran to the officers and alerted them of the armed man's presence.

Two backpacks were left inside the theater and the bomb squad was called to the scene to clear the bags, Aaron said. The suspect was wearing one of the bags when he opened fire on the officer.

"We want to make sure that there is no danger with those backpacks," Aaron added.

Jeremy Cardoza, who works at the nearby Ford Ice Center, told the Tennessean that the business was placed on lockdown with roughly 25 people, mostly children, inside.

"We're waiting on instructions from police, we have not been contacted yet," he said to the local paper. "We had a parent come in and they kind of just told us that there were a bunch of cops posted outside."

The incident comes less than two weeks after a gunman opened fire inside a movie theater in Lafayette, La., killing two people and injuring nine others before committing suicide. Both shooting events have come as jurors in Colorado have worked to decide the case of James Holmes, who killed 12 and injured 70 others during a theater shooting in 2012 and may receive the death penalty. Final determination in the Holmes case could come this week.

The Nashville-area incident also comes a day after al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula released an online video calling for "lone wolf" attacks and praising Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, a 24-year-old gunman who killed four Marines at a pair of military facilities in Chattanooga, Tenn., and injured two others before he was killed by police. A Naval officer who was injured in the attack died two days later.

The FBI said it is investigating that attack as an instance of "homegrown violent extremism," but would not officially label it an act of domestic terrorism.