JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A man dressed in full tactical gear and carrying a fake gun crept into the lobby of a Missouri movie theater after a late-night premiere of the film “Iron Man 3” last weekend. The theater’s owner is calling it great entertainment.
Colorado residents aren’t likely to agree with him.
According to KMIZ, Goodrich Capital 8 Theaters manager Bob Wilkins paid an actor to enter the theater wearing the a costume similar to the one donned by the gunman who opened fire on an Aurora movie theater in July 2012, killing 12 and injuring 58 more.
Wilkins insists hundreds in his movie theater were entertained by the stunt. John Morlock, a retired Army war veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress, was in the theater and left far from entertained.
“We’re just getting into the car when I spotted a man in full assault gear, carrying what appeared to be a modified M-4 and 9 mm on his side,” Morlock told KMIZ. “It’s just unbelievable. The whole country is talking about gun control because of shootings in theaters and schools.”
Morlock didn’t call 911. But Jefferson County Police spokesperson Doug Shoemaker said many others did, as his department received a slew of calls reporting “a man dressed in all black and body armor with a rifle walking into Capital 8 Theaters.”
“Everything was in place,” Shoemaker said, comparing the scene to the one that transpired at the late-night premiere of the “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora. “It’s the opening night of a superhero movie, it’s somebody walking in all-dark clothes — everything pointed to bad things about to happen. There was really no good that could come of that.”
Wilkins disagrees. The man who planned the stunt months in advance told KMIZ if he had it to do all over again, he would.
“My job is to entertain people,” he said.
Had the actor Wilkins hired been engaged by a concerned civilian — something that Shoemaker believes would have been likely had one of his off-duty officers been in attendance — the theater’s stunt could have turned tragic in a hurry, Shoemaker said.
“There is an unfortunate lack of wisdom in this particular judgement,” Shoemaker said. “Hopefully it will never occur again.”
***UPDATE: Goodrich Capital 8 posted this Facebook apology Friday around noon:
“We apologize and are sympathetic to those who felt they were in harm’s way with our character promotion for Iron Man 3. This was not a publicity stunt. We have worked with the Cosplacon group on many movies to dress up and help entertain our customers. We have had many complaints about the members dressed specifically as S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives carrying fake guns. We didn’t clearly tell our customers and some people didn’t realize it was for entertainment purposes only. We apologize that police were called to come out to our theater. We have a wonderful working relationship with the Jefferson City Police Department. Going forward we will take the necessary steps to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Security and safety for our customers is our number one priority.”