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Judy Goos hugs her daughter's friend, Isaiah Bow, 20, while eyewitnesses Emma Goos, 19, left, and Terrell Wallin, 20, right, gather outside Gateway High School where witnesses were brought for questioning Friday.Barry Gutierrez

A woman so close to the gunman who attacked a Batman movie premiere that hot shell casings landed on her head said he shot people trying to leave the theatre.

Jennifer Seeger said she was in the second row of the theatre when the man, wearing a helmet and bullet-proof vest, came in through an emergency exit beside the screen. She thought it was a joke or stunt related to the movie until he threw a gas canister and aimed a gun at her from "five feet" away.

"I dove into the aisle and I got lucky because he didn't shoot me," she told NBC News. "He started to shoot people behind me and the bullets started falling on my head. It was like burning my head because it was so fresh, you know. I could smell gunpowder."

Twelve people were killed and scores wounded when the gunman opened fire at the midnight screening of Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado. A suspect has been taken into custody.

Ms. Seeger said the man didn't say a word before opening fire and described him walking up the aisle to the back of the theatre and then down. He was shooting as he went and appeared to be targetting those heading for the exits.

"They were trying to escape and he shot those people as well," Ms. Seeger said.

Another person said that it had been "a nightmare" and she couldn't sleep later. Someone identified as Brianna Dozier wrote on Twitter that she'd been lucky to have been near an exit at the back of the theatre.

"He was in the front on the right hand side & all I heard is a hiss, saw smoke, light flashing, & shooting," she described."Got out before he could reload again."

A woman posting at Reddit said that the shooting started during a gunfight scene in the movie, causing her and her boyfriend to believe smoke in the theatre was special effects.

"When shots happened again and people began to run, we thought something was up," she wrote. "I now know what tear gas feels like. I've never had to 'get down' with a police officer screaming at us."

Another witness called it "extremely terrifying."

"All i can remember is hearing noises and seeing smoke in our auditorium," Zach Eastman wrote. "I saw one man with blood running down his hands being carried into a cop car."

And a person posting under the name Caitlin revealed the chaos and fear in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. "No one knows what's going on," she wrote, adding seconds later: "Oh God, I don't know what to do."