Jalen Fernell, 20, a student at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette, was in the Grand Theater when last night’s shooting began. Here is his account, edited for space, as told to The Post: 

I was inside the Grand 16 but I wasn’t inside the actual theater where he was shooting. I was directly next door. I was watching “Southpaw.” As we were watching, it was the opening scene. The movie had just started. As we were watching the opening scene, I heard gunshots in the background. I heard two gunshots in the background. Immediately I was like, “why would there be a gunshot in this scene? I don’t understand.”

It wasn’t loud so I thought maybe it was just background noise from the movie. Maybe it was supposed to be there.

So I was like, oh, whatever. Maybe I’m just hearing things.


Police surround the Grand Theatre following a shooting on Thursday, July 23, 2015, in Lafayette, La. (Brad Kemp/The Advocate via AP)

About five seconds later, the sirens started to go off on the inside of the building. When those sirens went off, immediately my heart sank into my chest because I was like, “wait, those gunshots came from inside the building.” I felt like maybe I was the only one who heard those gunshots, since they were real faint. But it was enough to hear them.

When the sirens started going off, [the intercom] said for everyone to start evacuating the building. So people just started to rampage out of the building, like a stampede. When we got outside, all we could hear was the sirens, police sirens, everywhere. That’s all we heard. As we looked around, we saw cops posted on every corner, just watching the building.

People started to run out of the building and stuff. There was a cop in front with a bullhorn yelling, “Get out of the street. Go to the front. Get out of the street.” So as we turned the corner, we saw a lady lying down shot, and there was blood everywhere. She was shot in the leg.

As we were looking at the lady, we were kind of wondering, “Hey, are you okay? How’d you get out here?” She said that she was shot in the leg and they dragged her out there. She was shot in the leg, and they put her on the speed bump, on the curb.

She said the ambulance was on the way and everything.

[Here’s what we know so far: Gunman kills 2, wounds 9, takes own life]

As we were talking to her, a bunch of cops pulled up; they were burning rubber and everything as they pulled. It was a bunch of cops. It kind of looked like a SWAT team. They came up with a bunch of assault rifles and charged the inside of the building.

As they charged inside of the building, we heard a couple of gunshots. After we heard those gunshots, we heard from the cop car that was nearby, “Six down in theater 14.”


Bystanders embrace outside the Grand Theatre as emergency personnel respond to the scene of a deadly shooting in Lafayette, La., Thursday, July 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Denny Culbert)

After hearing “six down in theater 14,” almost immediately after that more cops pulled up. They were yelling amongst each other. “Where are the ambulances? There are people hurt.”

Then more guys charged in. And then we heard more gunshots. It kind of sounded like a war. It almost sounded like there was more than one shooter in there.

After hearing those gunshots, I’d say between five and 10 gunshots, that’s when we heard “suspect down” over the radio from the inside of the cop car. That’s when they put the tape around the parking lot and directed everyone to move to the other side of the parking lot so they could talk to everyone who had been inside.

[The cruel and terrifying irony of theaters as targets]

As we crossed the parking lot, I heard two police officers saying the guy committed suicide.

As we got outside the movie theater … it was real chaotic. Everybody was trying to run through, trying to get to their cars, trying to leave the scene.


An officer walks with people near the scene of a shooting at the Grand Theatre on Thursday, July 23, 2015, in Lafayette, La. (Leslie Westbrook/The Advocate via AP)

The group that I was with, we were kind of hesitant to go through the parking lot because what if there is a shooter in the parking lot, just waiting for us to pass through so he could shoot us. What if there is one far away. That was before we knew where the lady came from. We just saw a lady shot and heard gunshots from inside the theater, but then you see cops outside, too, so it’s like “where is it coming from?”

It was a computerized intercom saying, “Evacuate the building. Please move to the nearest exit.” The exit signs were flashing that white light.

I was terrified because at that moment I knew that those gunshots didn’t come from the movie.

[I was in] more of a shock state; I was terrified because I didn’t know what was going to happen next. My main thing was I was trying not to get shot because we didn’t know what was going on. Everybody was running around; everybody was screaming. It was a stressful state.

That’s the last thing that you’d think would happen at a movie theater, especially on a Thursday night.

I’ve never experienced anything like this before.