German police storm movie theater, kill suspected gunman

German police killed a masked man who stormed a movie theater Thursday afternoon and was believed to have fired shots and taken hostages, authorities said.

The unidentified man was killed after police commandoes gathered around the the Kinopolis complex in Viernheim, about 40 miles south of Frankfurt, following reports that shots had been fired inside, police said.

"The police thought that the gunman was holding hostages and because of that he was shot dead," Hessen State Interior Minister Peter Beuth told local lawmakers.

Beuth said it wasn't clear whether the weapon was real, but also said he believed four "shots" were fired. Unconfirmed reports said the gun may have shot blanks.

The incident began around lunchtime, and ended with the police action some three hours later.

"We believe that there were no injured people, and that the people who were in the cinema with the perpetrator could be freed uninjured," Beuth said.

Police spokesman Bernd Hochstaedter, said that "there are no indications at present of an Islamist background."

The Associated Press reported no one was shot by the gunman, but German media said dozens were treated for exposure to tear gas. It was unclear if the tear gas was released by the suspect or by police.

Before going inside, investigators described it as a "threat situation."

Police in the nearby city of Mannheim sent officers to support the operation, spokesman Norbert Schaetzle told reporters.

The incident evoked the July 2012 incident in Aurora, Colo., in which James Holmes killed 12 and wounded dozens at a screening of the Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.