A 30-year-old man wearing body armor and armed with three handguns, a shotgun and a knife was arrested Thursday at Phoenix Comicon. The Arizona Republic reports he was also carrying ammunition and “a variety of handheld weapons.”
According to Phoenix police spokeswoman, the man intended to harm police, and had been taking photos of officers and posting them on social media. One of the man’s acquaintances alerted police to his behavior, and he was removed from the convention hall without incident.
In response, Phoenix Comicon has banned all prop weapons. “In light of recent events, Phoenix Comicon, in cooperation with the Phoenix Convention Center and the Phoenix Police Department, will be implementing enhanced screening to ensure the safety of all our attendees,” convention director Matthew Solberg posted to the event’s Facebook page.
The number of entrances to the hall will be reduced to three, he said: “We anticipate some delays as you are entering the building and we encourage you to carry as little as possible to make the process easier.” Vendors can continue selling prop weapons so long as they are sealed in packaging and alert customers that the props will be confiscated if opened. “We encourage you to take your purchases to your car or hotel as soon as possible after purchase,” Solberg wrote.
The ban has not gone over well with attendees, however, with many commenting on the Facebook announcement that it was unfair to punish those who had spent time, money and effort in creating their cosplay. “Props often make the costume. This us a bad decision,” wrote Lori Kander. “I understand the need to keep people safe but I feel this just plays into the hands of those who want us to live in fear.” Others criticized the con’s security, as despite screenings the man was initially allowed into the convention center.
Others, though, praised the actions of law enforcement and focused on the happy fact that in this case tragedy was averted. “Massive thanks to Phoenix Police Department for their quick response in handling this really dangerous situation,” commenter Rob Todd wrote in response to the announcement. “While I understand the disappointment from attendees, I think the important thing to take away from all of this is that nobody got hurt,” said Blakeley Boren.
Phoenix Comicon continues through Sunday. Last year the event drew more than 100,000 attendees.