Baton Rouge women’s peaceful reststop in Aurora turns into setting of horror

This story was published as a sidebar to the A1 story on July 24 which covered President Obama’s visit to one of the shooting victims from Baton Rouge. 

As Elizabeth Sumrall pored over a map a month ago in Seattle, planning her cross-country road trip home to Baton Rouge, she decided Aurora, Colo., would be a more peaceful place than nearby Denver for her and her best friend to spend the night.

“I heard the parking was terrible in Denver,” Sumrall said Sunday.

So last week, Sumrall, 23, and her best friend, Bonnie Kate Pourciau, 18, embarked on their road trip to Yellowstone National Park and Mount Rushmore.

After arriving at their Aurora hotel Thursday, their plans took a fateful turn when the women decided to go see the midnight screening of the latest Batman movie.

By the time the pair arrived at the theater, there were only a few seating options left — either in the front or in the back. They were about to sit in the front, but at the last second Sumrall decided they should move to the back.

About 15 minutes into the movie, Sumrall said, she noticed a gray plume of smoke flash just above those front seats and explode with smoke. Then came the booms of gunfire. And the screams — “Help! “Somebody call the police!”

“When we heard what turned out to be gunshots, Bonnie Kate pulled me down under the seat and we prayed, ‘Lord please protect us please keep us safe,’” she said. “The firing went on for awhile, on and on, and then there was that sudden moment where it ceased. Do we stand up? What if he is still shooting? Is he gonna shoot us?”

The women instinctively stood up and were caught in a bloody stampeding mob of horrified theater-goers, running for their lives. Everyone was screaming. One man had blood running down his head. Another was carrying a wounded child.

“It was a mass exodus,” she said. “I thought someone was going to get trampled and die.”

Once outside, Pourciau realized she had been shot in the knee.

“The biggest thing is to see how people have ministered to us,” Sumrall said.

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