NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – What initially appeared to be another mass shooting at a U.S. movie theater ended up being an attack by a disturbed homeless man who wasn’t armed with a real gun and was eventually shot and killed by police.
Vincente David Montano, 29, bought a ticket for a popular action film at a theater in Nashville, Tennessee, on Wednesday and entered with pepper spray, an airsoft pellet gun and an ax, Metro Nashville Police spokesman Don Aaron said.
Some of the theatergoers in the audience ran outside and alerted police officers who had responded to a vehicle crash nearby, police said in a news release.
South Precinct Officer Jonathan Frith was the first officer to encounter Montano, the news release said. Montano pointed his pellet gun at Frith and pulled the trigger, prompting Frith to fire one round from his patrol rifle in self-defense, the release said. Frith then backed out of the theater while keeping Montano contained inside as an elite police unit, SWAT, responded.
At that point, Montano began to use the pepper spray and officers said they encountered a cloud of it as they entered to take Montano into custody. Montano fired his pellet gun again and four SWAT members fired back, the release said. Montano attempted to flee out the rear door of the theater and as he emerged with ax in hand and started toward officers, five opened fire, according to the release. Montano was struck and killed.
No one other than Montano was killed. One man was cut on the shoulder, evidently by the ax Montano was carrying, and that man, his wife and daughter were treated for pepper spray, Aaron said.
Aaron said police had not uncovered a motive, but he said Montano had been committed for psychiatric treatment at least four times over the past decade. It wasn’t immediately clear why he had been committed or if that commitment was involuntary.
“This individual has had significant psychiatric or psychological issues,” Aaron said.
Just two days before the attack, Montano’s mother, Denise Pruett, contacted police and said Montano was missing. She told authorities that her son was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 2006, according to a missing person report that she filed. Pruett said she had not seen him since March 2013.
The report lists Montano’s address as “homeless” and says he “has a hard time taking care of himself.” Nashville police also noted that Montano had been arrested in 2004 for assault and resisting arrest.
As more details of the attack and Montano’s troubled past emerged, it began to appear less likely that he intended to inflict mass casualties such as those attempted by a theater shooter recently in Louisiana and carried out two years ago by a shooter in Colorado.
Instead of a packed house showing a newly released popular film, Montano waged his attack in a theater where only seven others besides himself were present at midday, watching a movie that had already been out for some time. He was armed with a pellet gun, not a weapon with bullets, and chose to use pepper spray, not the gun, when he began his assault. One of Montano’s two backpacks was detonated and found to contain a fake bomb, Aaron said. The other backpack contained nothing harmful, according to the news release.
The violence comes about two weeks after a 59-year-old drifter opened fire inside a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana, fatally shooting two before killing himself. It also happened while jurors in Colorado decide whether the man who killed 12 and wounded 70 others during a theater shooting in 2012 should get the death penalty.