AURORA, Colo. — Jennifer Seeger was in the second row of the theater, about 4 feet from the gunman, when he pointed a gun at her face.
At first, ‘‘I was just a deer in headlights. I didn’t know what to do,’’ said Seeger, 25, of Aurora. Then she ducked to the ground, and the gunman shot people seated behind her.
‘‘There were bullet [casings] just falling on my head. They were burning my forehead,’’ Seeger said.
The gunman fired steadily except when he apparently stopped to reload. ‘‘Every few seconds it was just ‘Boom, boom, boom,’ ’’ she said.
‘‘He would reload and shoot and anyone who would try to leave would just get killed,’’ she said.
Seeger said she began crawling toward an exit when she saw a girl about 14 years old, ‘‘lying lifeless on the stairs.’’ She saw a man with a bullet wound in his back and tried to check his pulse, but ‘‘I had to go. I was going to get shot.’’
‘‘I thought it was showmanship. I didn’t think it was real,’’ she said.
Sylvana Guillen, 20, said that when a man appeared at the front of the theater clad in dark clothing looking like a SWAT team member as Catwoman made an appearance in the movie, the audience ‘‘thought it was a joke, a hoax.’’
Then they heard gunshots and smelled smoke from a canister he was carrying, and Guillen knew it was real.
The gunman began walking toward the seats and firing. Guillen said she told her friend, Misha Mostashiry, ‘‘You better get ready to be shot.’’
Mostashiry, also 20, said they couldn’t tell where the gunman was. ‘‘All you could do is hope he didn’t come for you,’’ she said.
Tanner Coon told the NBC ‘‘Today’’ show he was at the movie with a friend and his friend’s 12-year-old brother when about 20 minutes into the movie the gunman appeared. Coon said that when they realized they were being shot at, they got on the floor in front of their seats.
After ‘‘a period of quiet’’ everyone started to run out.
He said he went to a row behind him and ‘‘slipped on some blood and landed’’ on a woman. He said he shook her, telling her they needed to get out, but she was unresponsive.
Moviegoer William Kent told CBS’s ‘‘This Morning’’ he was in theater 8, next door to the theater where the shooting happened.
‘‘There was a lot going on in the soundtrack of the movie at that time. So in the beginning, I don’t think people realized what was happening,’’ he said.
Kent said he saw pieces of the wall fall out, apparently as shots came through, and the emergency alarm went off. The theater told people to leave.
‘‘There was huge commotion to get out of the theater and when I exited, there were police with assault rifles running in.’’
‘‘I went out to enjoy a movie and I ended up in a gruesome thing. I don’t know how you would qualify it. I think it seems like a terrorist act.’’
Jordan Crofter, 19, of Aurora, said the suspected gunman ‘‘looked like an assassin ready to go war.’’
Crofter was sitting on the left side of the theater and toward the front when the door swung open and a silhouette appeared in front of the street lights. He said the shooter was calm and almost strutted in, then pulled up his rifle and started shooting, stopping only to reload, like ‘‘shooting fish in a barrel.’’
When he saw two gas canisters hit the ground, Crofter immediately ran out of the theater.
Crofter said he was the first one in the lobby and when the manager asked what was going on, he yelled, ‘‘Bomb.’’
Eric Hunter, 23, said he and his friends thought what they were hearing firecrackers that were part of the movie. So, they settled back to continue watching the movie for another 10 to 20 seconds before they heard several more shots.
Hunter said he and his friends made their way to an exit. When Hunter opened the door, he saw two teenage girls, one shot in the mouth and the other one crying.
Hunter said he was about to close the door when he saw the gunman. ‘‘He’s coming my way so I shut the door. So I hold the door for a little bit. He’s banging on the door for about 10 seconds,’’
Hunter said he was afraid the gunman would shoot through door, so he let it go and managed to get out of the theater safely.