Less than a year after a masked gunman killed 12 people and wounded 58 others at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises, the management of a Missouri theater paid an actor -- or, rather, actors -- dressed in tactical gear and carrying fake guns to walk into the multiplex last weekend to promote the opening of Iron Man 3. Needless to say, it wasn't well-received by everyone, including the police.
Columbia, Missouri's ABC 17 News reports Jefferson City police responded to a series of 911 calls from moviegoers stating "that a man dressed in all black and body armor and a rifle was walking into Capital 8 Theaters." However, instead of confronting the active shooter that they expected, Capt. Doug Shoemaker said police arrived to find a publicity stunt orchestrated by the theater.
"Everything was in place, 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," he told the news station. "There's really no good that can come of this."
According to a commenter on the station's website, the theater actually hired multiple actors, including one in an Iron Man costume, to appear over several evenings, and that, "Their fake guns were obviously plastic, with bright orange tips and one with a completely clear outer case." Although the news coverage doesn't reflect any of that, there are photos from at least one of the nights (via Reddit) showing the actors posing together.
Theater manager Bob Wilkins is unapologetic, and apparently oblivious to the tragedy that could have unfolded at the premiere. He told ABC 17 he had no regrets about the publicity stunt, which had been planned well in advance of the screening. "No, my job is to entertain people," he said.
Shoemaker, whose department held an active-shooter training at the theater only months earlier, said it was fortunate an off-duty officer wasn't at the multiplex, as the cop likely would've engaged the "gunman." It's not difficult to imagine how events might've unfolded from there.
"It's an unfortunate lack of wisdom in this particular judgment that hopefully will never occur again," Shoemaker concluded.