Update 12:08 p.m. Sunday: Police have identified the suspect as Tom Billodeaux of Escondido. Story here.
An armed man trying to evade police after threatening his girlfriend at her job was shot in a San Diego movie theater, where he had slipped into a screening film to hide among more than a dozen moviegoers, police said Saturday.
No one other than the suspect was injured, police said, but scores of people were evacuated from the theater and the search required a large deployment of officers and a helicopter. It was the second shooting at a San Diego County movie theater in less than 24 hours.
The incident began just after 2 p.m. when the suspect confronted and grabbed his girlfriend while she was on a lunch break in the parking lot at her job in a Rancho Carmel Drive shopping center, said Capt. Terry McManus, of the San Diego Police Department, during a press conference.
“They have had ongoing domestic violence-type problems,” McManus said.
As the woman began yelling, people nearby came and helped her get away, he said, but the suspect caught her from behind a second time—this time with a gun.
The boyfriend fled while the woman’s manager called police, who arrived around 2:25 p.m. and began a ground and air search after receiving a description of the suspect, McManus said.
Around 3:40 p.m., a couple of women who had watched a movie at Reading Cinemas at 11620 Carmel Mountain Rd., across the street from the woman’s job, told police that they thought a man matching the description had been in their theater watching a movie, McManus said.
Officers, while searching the theater and evacuating patrons, saw a man matching the description sitting by himself in a theater and told him to show his hands, McManus said. There were about 15 people in the theater at the time, he said.
The suspect showed his hands briefly, then put them in his lap. When he showed his hands again, he had a gun, McManus said.
“Fearing for their life and the life of others, one of the officers removed his service revolver and fired at the suspect, striking the suspect,” McManus said.
The captain said the boyfriend was shot in his upper torso, but he did not know how many times the man was shot, or by how many officers. He was transported to a hospital in “acute status” around 4 p.m., according to a Rural Metro Ambulance spokeswoman. McManus said the boyfriend is expected to survive.
The theater was to remain closed for an undetermined amount of time while the investigation continued, McManus said, adding homicide detectives had not spoken with many witnesses. Most of the people who had been in the theater where the suspect was shot remained inside by 7 p.m. Saturday.
Nick Anastasopoulos, who owns Athens Market Cafe just steps from the theater, said officers came into his restaurant looking for the suspect about an hour before the shooting. Later, a few people who had been at the movies told him they'd been in the theater when police asked a man sitting behind them to show his hands. Not long after, they heard three shots, Anastasopoulos said.
The shooting came less than 24 hours after a woman was shot in the arm at an Edwards Theater in San Marcos. The woman, an employee at the theater at 1180 W. San Marcos Blvd., apparently was shot after a bullet fired during an argument across the street or in the parking lot shattered a glass door at the theater and struck her, according to a San Diego County Sheriff's Department press release. The woman's injuries were not considered life threatening.
In light of the back-to-back shootings at local movie theaters, McManus sought to reassure San Diegans.
"Certainly it is safe to go to the movies," he said.
In July, former San Diego resident James Holmes allegedly killed 12 people and injured 58 others in a shooting at an Aurora, CO movie theater.