Officers went to an outdoor shopping center in northern San Diego on Saturday afternoon in response to a domestic violence call, Officer David Stafford said. He said the shooting occurred inside the Reading Cinemas theater about 3:50 p.m.
No other details were immediately released.
A San Diego Fire-Rescue Department dispatcher said the suspect was taken to a hospital with life-threatening injuries.
The owner of a business next to the theater said officers told him the armed man chased his girlfriend across a parking lot. Steve Krongard, the owner of the Nickel City arcade, said police shut down the lot, checked every car leaving the mall and went from businesses to business to look for the suspect until they found him in the theater.
"There were 20 police cars blocking the entrance, then the fire truck and the ambulance rushed in," Krongard said. "Then we saw seven cops with what looked like rifles, then paramedics went into the theater."
U-T San Diego reports the shooting occurred during a screening of "Les Miserables." Witnesses were evacuated from the theater.
Adrian Amante, the owner of the Home Trends store, told the newspaper people started running out of the theater and hiding behind cars.
It was the second shooting at a San Diego County movie theater in as many days.
A concession worker suffered an arm injury when a shot fired outside a San Marcos movie theater went through the lobby window and struck her, sheriff's officials said.
The shooting occurred during a fight in the parking lot at Edwards San Marcos Stadium 18 and triggered a large police response because authorities were initially not sure whether there was a shooter inside the Cineplex.
No arrests have been reported after San Marcos shooting.