Hero Cop Saved Lives by Rushing into Tennessee Theater Where Man Attacked Moviegoers with an Air-Pellet Gun and a Hatchet

Nashville Theater Attack: Officer Jonathan Frith Saved Lives with Quick Response
Officer Jonathan Frith
Nashville Police Department

08/06/2015 AT 11:25 AM EDT

Moviegoers attending a showing of Mad Max: Fury Road in Antioch, Tennessee, on Wednesday may have Officer Jonathan Frith to thank for their lives after a man armed with an air-pellet pistol and a hatchet attacked patrons at the Carmike Hickory 8 Cinemas just outside Nashville.

The South Precinct police officer was one of two cops responding to a car crash just outside the theater when people came running out to tell them that they'd been attacked, according to a press release from the Nashville Police Department.

Frith, a six-year veteran with the force, raced over to the theater to take on the suspect, who has since been identified as 29-year-old Vincente David Montano. By this point, a call had already gone out to 911 as well.

Terror Inside the Theater

"Montano, armed with an ax and a pistol, and carrying two duffle/backpack type bags, attacked persons who were in an auditorium to watch the film Mad Max," reads the press release. "One man received a laceration to his shoulder from the ax. That man's wife and daughter were doused in the face with pepper spray."

Witnesses to the attack ran for help. "Office Frith was the first officer to encounter Montano as he entered the auditorium showing Mad Max," the press release continues. "Montano pointed his pistol at Frith and pulled the trigger, prompting Frith to fire one round from his patrol rifle in defense of himself.

"Frith then backed out of the theater and worked to keep Montano contained inside as SWAT officers responded."

Montano tried to exit the theater through a rear door, but "as he emerged with ax in hand and started toward officers, five opened fire. Montano was hit and died at the scene."

Nashville police spokesman Don Aaron praised Frith for his bravery, telling reporters on Wednesday: "The actions of that first officer who went into that theater may well have saved [lives]."

The three family members who were injured were treated outside the theater. No one else was harmed.

A History of Mental Illness

Little is known about Montano, who is believed to have been homeless, according to the press release. "He has no arrest history in Nashville, but was charged with assault and resisting arrest in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, 11 years ago," the release states.

However, he did have mental health issues and had been committed to an institution at least three times while living in Murfreesboro, according to the release.

The Hazardous Devices Unit checked both of the bags that Montano was carrying. One contained a "hoax explosive device" that was rendered safe by the unit; the other "contained nothing harmful."

The attack came just weeks after a gunman killed two women at a showing of Trainwreck in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Reporting by SUSAN KEATING

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