AURORA - The FBI reports more than a third of all active-shooter situations last no more than five minutes. Seven minutes after the initial 911 call from Aurora's Century 16 theater, an Aurora Police officer was on the radio telling fellow officers he saw the suspect behind the building.
"I need a marked car behind the theater, [on the South] Sable [Boulevard] side. I got a suspect in a gas mask," he said at 12:45 a.m.
At 12:46 a.m., eight minutes after the initial 911 call, the suspect was clearly in custody.
"Yes, we've got rifles, gas mask. He's detained right now. I've got open doors going into the theater," reported the officer.
One minute later, the police push to call in more ambulances began in earnest.
"I need an ambulance here quick," an officer said at 12:47 a.m.
"We're bringing out bodies now," one officer said. "Get someone to the back as soon as you can."
An Aurora Fire Department internal review of the medical response reports the first ambulance to leave the scene did so at 12:57 a.m. bound for the Medical Center of Aurora. A second ambulance left for the same hospital a minute later. Both left with one patient inside.
Between 12:49 a.m. and 1:05 a.m., the same internal report highlights seven trips to two hospitals for 15 patients in five different police cars. Two of the cars actually had enough time to drop off patients at the Medical Center of Aurora before coming back to pick up additional patients at the theater within that time frame.
Aurora Police officers repeatedly asked for more ambulances to get closer to the theater around that same time. The internal report from the Aurora Fire Department suggests the crowded parking lot prohibited paramedics and their ambulances from getting closer to the building right away. In addition, crews encountered numerous "walking wounded" as they approached the parking lot.
READ the full Aurora Fire Report here: http://bit.ly/ZIitih
There were close to 1,400 people inside Century 16 the night of July 20. Most started evacuating shortly after the first shots were fired inside theater nine. Farrah Soudani was not one of those fortunate ones.
"At first, I thought it was a prank," she told 9NEWS recently. "I got down in [the theater] and was just trying to listen to the things going on around me. The only thing I could do was look at the ceiling."
She'd been hit by a bullet fired from the suspect's AR-15. The damage to her torso was catastrophic.
"Every second [in the theater] felt like an hour going by," she said.
Joshua Nowlan was somewhere in the middle of the theater.
"Actually, when I got shot, I didn't know I got shot," Nowlan told 9NEWS. "It happened too quickly that the pain didn't settle in until maybe a couple minutes in."
It wasn't until he started to lean forward that he knew he had been hit.
"There were no words to describe it other than pain and fire and agony," Nowlan said.
His right arm had taken a direct hit. A bone had been shattered, and the wound was massive.
Pierce O'Farrill was in the third row of the stadium seating. An early shotgun blast hit him in a foot. A .22-caliber bullet eventually made its way into his left arm.
"My humerus had been split in half," he recalled.
All three were taken out of the theater by members of the Aurora Police Department. All three recall hearing impatient officers as they waited for rescue near the back of the building.
"[An officer sat] me back down on a small rock pile, and I'm seeing everybody out there," Nowlan said. "Everybody is in pain. Everybody is screaming. Everybody is calling on the phone. Police officers are going around checking on people. They're doing their jobs. They were impatient only because they were frantic for the lives of the people who were extremely injured."
"I've got one ambulance here. Where are my ambulances at?" barked a police officer on scene.
Three minutes later, the mass exodus of patients inside police cruisers began.
"Do I have permission to start taking some of these victims via car? I've got a whole bunch of people out here and no rescue," one officer said.
The reply on the radio was swift. "Yep, load them up. Get them in cars, and get them out of here," another officer said.
Due to the ongoing gag order in the pending criminal case against the shooter, Aurora Fire Department and Rural Metro Ambulance officials cannot directly comment on why the ambulances couldn't get near the theater shortly after the shooting. An ongoing, outside review will try to better answer the question, but privately, fire department leaders insist the ambulance issue was not the result of a hesitancy to go near an ongoing and potentially-active crime scene.
While the suspect was in custody within eight minutes of the initial 911 call, the police radio continued to put out various suspect descriptions for an additional 15 minutes.
"All units responding to the theater, the suspect is a male. Unknown race," one dispatcher at approximately 1:04 a.m. said.
While the suspect was in custody within eight minutes of the initial 911 call, the police radio continued to put out various suspect descriptions for an additional 20 minutes.
"All units responding to the theater, the suspect is a male. Unknown race," one dispatcher at approximately 1:05 a.m. said.
"If we get two conflicting reports or two different descriptions of maybe the same person, they're generally going to assume that is a different shooter, so they're going to be looking for that person," Shawn Messinger, a police consultant for the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch, said.
The Aurora Fire Department, working with Rural/Metro Ambulance Corporation, has privately insisted the paramedic/rescue response to the theater shooting was not driven by unwillingness to put personnel in harm's way.
The Aurora Fire Incident Report suggested a combination of a bottlenecked parking lot and a torrent of escaping theater-goers was primarily responsible for keeping ambulances and fire equipment away from the building before 1 a.m.
Paramedic Engine Eight was the first fire truck on scene, but it stopped short of the entrance at 12:45 a.m. after encountering victims in the parking lot in front of the theater.
Paramedic Engine Five was able to make it to the back of the theater a little after 1 a.m., but by then the mass exodus of patients via police cars was already well underway according to a timeline provided by the Aurora Fire Department.
That same report highlights the fact that at least four ambulances that arrived on scene were never used to transport injured parties to hospitals. That night, Aurora Police officer Chris Neiman made four trips to two hospitals. His car carried a total of eight patients within 45 minutes.