AURORA, Colo. (AP/CBS4) – Three people wounded in the shooting that killed 12 people at a Colorado theater have filed lawsuits alleging the exit door the gunman used to enter the building should have had an alarm.
Two lawsuits were filed Friday in U.S. District Court on behalf of Denise Traynom, Brandon Axelrod and Joshua Nowlan. Their attorney, former Denver judge Christina Habas, declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Cinemark USA Inc. had no immediate comment.
The lawsuits filed against the subsidiary of Cinemark Holdings Inc. are believed to be the first. They were filed the same day the company revealed plans to refurbish and reconfigure the theater and have it ready to open by the beginning of 2013.
James Holmes, 24, is accused of killing 12 people and wounding 58 others during a special midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Prosecutors allege the former University of Colorado, Denver, graduate student left the theater through a back exit, propped open the exit door and re-entered the theater to begin the shooting. The lawsuits claim Holmes was able to move his car into position after he left the theater through the back exit.
In addition to failing to have alarmed exit doors, the lawsuits claim Cinemark was negligent in failing to hire extra security for the midnight showing or generally protect patrons who were sitting in a darkened theater. They also say Cinemark failed to help evacuate the theater even after the shooting ended. The lights were either off or very low even after the gunfire stopped, according to the lawsuit.
Traynom was wounded in the buttocks, while Axelrod suffered bone injuries to his right knee and ankle. Nowlan’s right arm was nearly severed by a bullet, and he was also wounded in his left leg.
Meanwhile, Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan was celebrating the announcement that Cinemark will reopen the theater. Cinemark President and CEO Tim Warner advised Hogan of the company’s intention by letter before the lawsuits were filed.
In a statement, Hogan said there has been overwhelming support to reopen the theater.
“We will always remember those who lost their lives and the many others impacted that day. While no one will ever forget that day, this is another step in the community’s healing,” Hogan said.
In a letter to Cinemark, the mayor asked that special provisions be made for a victim and survivor visitation, memorials, and a change to the outside appearance of the building.
Details of the changes that would be made were not immediately available.
In this returned letter to Hogan, Warner said, “It will be our pleasure to reopen the theater. We pledge to reconfigure the space and make the theater better than ever. We hope the theater will be ready by the beginning of the new year.”
Alex Teves was killed in the shooting. His father says reopening the theater won’t bring his son back but understands it’s a business decision but the letters are the first he’s heard of the reopening.
“From a business perspective I don’t think they will get a lot of people who will want to sit in there,” Teves said. “I don’t live in Aurora though. I don’t have to see it. I certainly think for their own sake should change the look because that lighted neon 16 became the brand of this nightmare.”
– By P. Solomon Banda, AP Writer
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