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Police: Suspected theater shooter brought gun to movie fearing mass shooting

Photo: David Nelson
Photo: David Nelson
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RENTON, Wash. (KOMO) -- A 29-year-old man suspected of shooting a woman inside a Renton theater Thursday night told detectives he brought the gun to the movie fearing a mass shooting.

The incident happened at The Landing in Renton during a showing of the film "13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi." It is the action-packed movie of the terrorist raid on the U.S. Embassy.

SEE ALSO | Woman injured in theater shooting; gunman claims it was an 'accident'

About 15 minutes into the movie, a gun went off and a 40-year-old Michelle Mallari had been shot through the back of her chair.

"I believe the lady in front of us that got shot was actually talking to her husband or significant other and that's when we heard the loud pop," said one witness, who did not want to be identified. He was sitting 3 or 4 rows behind the man when the gun went off. "It must have been a light bulb or the projector lens or something that loud, but I mean I've owned guns and that's definitely a gunshot for me," the witness added.

As others in the theater finally realized what happened, the suspected shooter made his way out a nearby exit, tossing a gun clip into the trash.

"We saw the lady, she was laying on the bench with a shot in her upper chest," a witness said.

Mallari was rushed to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle in serious condition. But she has since been upgraded to satisfactory condition Friday night and is out of intensive care, a hospital spokesperson said.

Investigators believe the shooter may have been intoxicated at the time.

"Preliminary accounts indicate that an intoxicated suspect entered one of the theaters and was fumbling with a handgun he had in his possession when it went off, striking another patron seated in front of him," Renton Police said in a statement.

The suspect's father called 911 about 90 minutes later from his Newcastle home and told dispatchers his son was distraught and told him that he dropped his gun at a Renton movie theater and it fired.

In an ironic twist, the suspect told investigators Friday he brought his gun out of fear of being shot.

"He told some people he'd taken the gun out because he was concerned about the possibility of mass shootings there," said Det. Robert Onishi with Renton Police. The suspect did have a legal concealed weapons permit, police said.

The 29-year-old suspect, who has not been identified, was booked into the King County jail on charges of investigation of felony assault.

"From having talked to him, it seems he didn't have any intent to shoot anybody," Onishi said.

No one else was injured.

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Meanwhile, family members of Mallari say she has improved quickly and has been able to speak with her family, but still has a long recovery ahead.

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