Nathan Jerard Dunlap is an American man currently incarcerated for perpetrating a mass shooting at a Chuck E. Cheese's restaurant that he formerly worked at in Aurora, Colorado in 1993, that resulted in the deaths of four people.
Aurora, Colorado would also be the site of the Century 16 movie theater shooting perpetrated by James Holmes in 2012.
Dunlap, 19, had a prior armed robbery conviction when he was hired by Chuck E. Cheese in May 1993. In July that year Dunlap was fired following a dispute with his supervisor over the scheduling of his work hours. Dunlap's acquaintances described him as frustrated by this. He reportedly claimed he intended to "get even".
On December 14, 1993, four employees were shot and killed and a fifth employee was seriously injured at a Chuck E. Cheese's restaurant in Aurora, Colorado, five months after his firing, Dunlap returned to Chuck E. Cheese's around 9:00 p.m. He ordered a ham and cheese sandwich and played an arcade game until 9:50 p.m., when the restaurant was nearing closing time. He then went and hid in the bathroom until the establishment was closed. Around 10:05 p.m., Dunlap re-emerged from the bathroom and withdrew a .25 caliber semi-automatic pistol.
19-year-old Sylvia Crowell was cleaning the salad bar when Dunlap shot her in the right ear, claiming her as his first victim. He next killed 19-year-old Ben Grant, who was vacuuming, by shooting him under the left eye. Dunlap moved on to 17-year-old Colleen O'Connor, who fell to her knees and begged for her life. Dunlap coldly executed her with a shot through the top of the head.
20-year-old Bobby Stephens had already left the restaurant to smoke a cigarette before the shooting had begun and returned when he heard the first shots being fired. Stephens thought that what he was hearing was the sound of balloons being popped by children. He re-entered the building and began to clean up used utensils and put them into the dishwasher. At this point Dunlap walked through the kitchen door and shot Stephens through the jaw. Miraculously, Stephens survived, but threw himself to the floor and pretended to be dead.
Finally Dunlap cornered 50-year-old store manager Marge Kohlberg, the only other person in the restaurant, and forced her at gunpoint to open the safe. Once she had done so, Dunlap shot her through the right ear. As he emptied cash from the safe, the gunman noticed that Kohlberg was still moving on the floor. Dunlap shot her again through the left ear, this time fatally. By this time, Dunlap had murdered three of his former co-workers, and the mortally injured Crowell was later declared brain dead and died the following day.
Stephens managed to escape out of the back exit and ran to the nearby Mill Pond Apartment Complex where he alerted people to a shooting at the Chuck E. Cheese's, allowing the police to be called. Dunlap, meanwhile, fled the scene with $1500 in stolen cash and was arrested at his mother's apartment twelve hours after the attack.
On May 17, 1996, after being found guilty of four counts of first-degree murder as well as additional counts of attempted murder, robbery and burglary, Nathan Dunlap was sentenced to death. What followed was a three-minute long rant filled with expletives in the court room.
Dunlap was expected to be executed in mid-August of 2013, nearly twenty years after the killings. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper decided to postpone the execution. It is unlikely that Dunlap will be put to death as long as Hickenlooper is in office. Today, Nathan Dunlap remains on death row.
On November 6, 2018, Jared Polis was elected as Governor of Colorado. During the campaign, Polis said he intends to sign a bill repealing the death penalty in Colorado. Regarding the Dunlap case, Polis said he had no problem following the current law, and that he didn't think it was appropriate to comment on a specific case during a campaign, before actually becoming governor and reviewing the case to make an informed decision.
On March 23rd, 2020, the death penalty was abolished when Governor Polis signed the bill that abolished it, and Nathan Dunlap's death sentence was commuted to life without Parole, alongside two other men that were on death row.
- Sylvia Crowell, 19
- Ben Gant, 19
- Colleen O'Connor, 17
- Marge Kohlberg, 50
- Bobby Stephens, 20