The “Today Show” suspended its regular programming on July 20 to provide TV viewers with continuous coverage of the horrific mass theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado. On a typical day, “Today’s” key hosts Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie and Al Roker sign off at 9:00 a.m. to be replaced later by Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford. However, Lauer, Guthrie and Roker all remained on air two hours past their regular sign-off time to interview eyewitnesses to the shooting and law enforcement authorities involved in the investigation.
Matt Lauer spoke to 17-year-old Tanner Coon, who was in the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora with his 12-year-old friend to watch a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” when the mass shooting took place. Coon said he saw the smoke canister, but didn’t realize the seriousness of the situation until the shooting began. “I realized something was going on after the first few shots were fired,” the teen told Lauer.
Tanner said that he and his friend were about 20 feet from the shooter. At one point, between rounds, the friends climbed to the aisle behind them, but Coon slipped on some blood. He tried to help the woman at his feet, but she was unresponsive. Coon then added, “I saw some people start to get up. I put my head up and the shooting began again.”
Tanner Coon told Matt Lauer that he and his friend made their way to a nearby restaurant after the shooting stopped. Coon called his sister, who didn’t understand what happened. The two friends were eventually reunited with their families. Talking about the shooter, who has since been identified as 24-year-old James Holmes, Coon added on “Today,” “He let off 40 plus rounds in the audience. It was very traumatic.”
Witness Jennifer Seeger also spoke to the “Today Show” this morning and said, “It was mass chaos. The gunman shot the ceiling and then he threw in the gas can, and then I knew it was real.”
The “Today Show” reported that the first 911 call to police was placed at 12:39. The gunman, who wore a helmet, goggles and a bulletproof vest, gained access to the theater through a rear exit door. Twelve people were killed and at least 50 others were injured, including a 6-year-old child. The shooter was apprehended in the shopping center’s parking lot.
Matt Lauer reported just minutes ago that authorities in Aurora, located less than 10 miles east of downtown Denver, are carefully searching Holmes’s apartment after the shooter told them it was “booby trapped.”
The “Today Show” airs from 7-9 a.m. ET Monday-Friday on NBC. In the past, “Today” has provided immediate breaking news coverage of major events, such as the devastating earthquake in Haiti, Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, the tsunami that wreaked havoc in a dozen Asian nations, and the September 11 terrorist attacks.