A 19-year-old TikTok star and his friend were gunned down in a California movie theatre on Monday, in a bizarre and bloody episode that police still have little explanation for.
The incident occurred during a showing of The Forever Purge, the most recent instalment of the grisly horror movie franchise, at a Regal Cinemas in Corona — a suburb southeast of Los Angeles.
Anthony Barajas, who has more than 900,000 followers on TikTok, is now in critical condition, and his friend, 18-year-old Rylee Goodrich, died from her injuries at the scene.
The carnage, which police are calling an “unprovoked attack,” weirdly went unnoticed by movie theatre staff, who said that they “hadn’t heard any gunshots” and only stumbled upon the pair when they came in to clean the theatre after the movie had ended.
Corona police said on Wednesday that they had arrested local 20-year-old Joseph Jimenez, and believed that he was responsible for the attack. A search warrant executed at Jimenez’s residence yielded a firearm whose calibre matched the weapon used in the murder, as well as “additional evidence related to the crime scene,” police said. Jimenez was subsequently charged with murder, attempted murder, and robbery, and booked at a local detention centre on $US2 ($3) million bail.
However, authorities are still unclear on why exactly the shooting occurred.
“Based on statements obtained, there is no known motive and it appears to be an unprovoked attack,” police said.
At a press conference on Wednesday morning, Corona Police Cpl. Tobias Kouroubacalis confirmed that Jimenez had “acted alone” in the attack, but added: “There’s no information the suspect and victims had any prior contact before these crimes took place.” He also said he wasn’t aware of Jimenez having any history of violent crime or any criminal record, at all.
Adding to the confusion, Kouroubacalis said that the robbery component of the episode appears to have been something that just “happened” and wasn’t the primary motivation: “There is no motive for this crime, at this point,” he said. “Robbery is part of what happened during that crime.”
A local reporter summed the confusion up nicely:
REPORTER: It sounds like these two victims just went there to the movie that night, minding their own business, and this suspect walked up, for an unknown reason, and shot them completely randomly.
KOUROUBACALIS: That is the information we have right now — it was completely unprovoked and the victims were shot without any kind of prior contact.
So, suffice it to say, details are scant. It’s also not entirely clear how the shooting would’ve occurred without other moviegoers noticing — since at least four other people are said to have been present during the screening.
“During the actual movie time, no one apparently heard the gunshot,” employee Kailyn Dillon told CBS. “I know that we do have security bag checks that we do on the daily and, unfortunately, I’m not sure if just was missed or if it was in a holster on their belt.”
Police have said that Jimenez was “in possession” of a ticket but that it’s unclear how he got it — and police couldn’t comment on whether he’d purchased it. Security cameras inside the movie theatre also apparently weren’t working at the time of the attack, Kouroubacalis said.