Police had to decipher between customers with guns and the suspect after Walmart shooting

Police confirmed to NEXT that 2 to 5 people pulled out their own weapons after the triple-shooting that left three dead.

THORNTON, COLO. - Thornton Police are clearing up the five-hour gap between learning about the Walmart shooting and the first news conference that revealed a shooter was on the loose.

At around 11:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Ofc. Victor Avila provided a description of the shooting suspect and the getaway vehicle. The shooting happened at 6:10 p.m.

According to Avila, officers encountered "a handful" of customers with guns, either identified by officers running into Walmart, or later scene on surveillance video in the store.

RELATED: This is why Thornton Police took five hours to announce search for Walmart shooting suspect

He ultimately said there were between two-and-five "good guys" with guns.

He explained that dispatch was receiving 911 calls from customers inside and outside of the building and that officers needed to clear the scene to make sure there was no active threat.

He said officers did not take five hours reviewing surveillance video. Once officers realized that they only had victims on scene, they were able to access the surveillance video, which revealed more people with guns.

Avila said that officers needed to review the video to verify if there were one or more shooters based on seeing multiple people with guns.

He said he did not want to go in front of cameras and simply say that there was a shooter on the loose, without being able to provide a helpful description.

Ultimately, investigators identified the best video from the surveillance to share with the public.

In Colorado, you can carry a weapon concealed with a permit. Since 2012, more than 156,000 new concealed carry permits have been issued. Each county sheriff's office handles concealed carry permits. The County Sheriffs of Colorado compiles that data for the state legislature, however there does not appear to be a full accounting of how many current concealed carry permits are active in the state. They expire every five years and require renewal, but the total numbers don't account for people who move out of the state after their permit was issued.

Concealed carry permits allow gun owners to have their guns hidden while in public areas, except most government buildings, like jails and courthouses or anywhere else that you would be subject to search.

Businesses can also restrict customers from bringing in concealed weapons with a notice near the door.

Colorado is an open carry state, meaning you can walk down the sidewalk with a visible gun. However, the city of Denver succeeded all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court to exempt the city limits from open carry laws.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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