Cops Offer Theater Owners Tips to Prevent Shootings

Suffolk police holds active shooter seminar for area theater owners after Aurora, Colo. shootings during "Dark Knight Rises" premiere.

Just over a month after 12 people were killed during a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises,” Suffolk County police told theater owners to start thinking through plans to deal with a mass shooting, even if the odds of one occurring are unlikely. 

Suffolk County Police Department held an active shooting seminar Tuesday morning for more than 40 local theater owners and managers at Suffolk County Police Academy in Brentwood, covering a history of mass shootings in the United States and reviewing preventative counter measures. 

"It's very unlikely anyone here will have to be involved in response or prevention of an active shooter incident. They don't occur very often, but when they do, the consequences are so tragic you can't be unprepared," said Deputy Chief Mark White. 

The training seminar comes in the wake of the July 20 shooting in Aurora, Colo., where James Eagan Holmes is accused of entering a theater and opening fire, killing 12 people and injuring 59. Suffolk police  at area movie theaters the following night. 

"My concern for Suffolk County was a copy cat attack or some kind of suspicious behavior could cause a panic," said Inspector Stuart Cameron, who led the seminar. 

The SCPD has specific rules and procedures in place to deal with an active shooter, which they define as someone, “who has used deadly physical force against others and continues to do so; and it is reasonable that the shooter has unrestricted access to additional victims.”

Cameron told theater owners time is of the essence should one of these situations arise. 

"They are going to continue to shoot people until something happens: they run out of ammunition, they run out of victims, or we stop them," Cameron said. 

The inspector said he has read studies – based on a history of mass shootings in the U.S. dating back to the 1920s - that estimate once there is an active shooter, a person is shot every 15 seconds. 

"What active shooters do is study prior attacks and express a desire to outdo prior attacks in body count - not only to shoot more people but kill more people during the attack," Cameron said. 

There are steps theater owners and managers can take to help reduce the odds of a shooting. 

"We see very often in terrorist attacks that they tend to do dry-runs. It's an opportunity to prevent the attack," the inspector said. 

Cameron said movie theaters are what Homeland Security calls "soft target" due to the number of doorways, entrances, and the constant shift of people in a movie theater as there are different people at every showing. It makes it more challenging than schools, Cameron said, where teachers can hold drills. 

Police advised both theater owners to think through their response to "what if" scenarios and to devise a more definitive plan of action and train their employees.

He also encouraged theater owners to allow police officers who regularly patrol their area inside the movie theater, especially in large complexes, so they are familiar with its layout and where specific theaters are. 

One last piece of advice Cameron said was to put obstacles or barriers in front of the shooter, as it helps to slow them down and protect potential victims. It also gives police time to arrive on scene. 

"I think the information we are learning today is very important to learn about the cues that we might not have paid attention to in the past," said Diana Cherryholmes, director of the Huntington Arts Council. 

The Huntington Arts Council holds outdoors concerts each summer that bring more than 59,000 to Heckscher Park, as well as numerous outdoor festivals each year. 

Jerome Kohn, associate dean of administration at Five Town College, said the college had lockdown plans after the Virginia Tech shooting, then made plans for its theater in the past month. Though more work could still be done, she said.

"Maybe we'll improve our camera system or improve our surveillance by public safety." 

He did note, despite the shootings, attendance at Five Towns theater programs has not been affected. 

Captain Howard Hawrey August 29, 2012 at 04:13 PM
I want to give you a different perspective. I am not nor have I ever been a "real" gun guy. I love my bb-pellet guns but that has always been the extent of my gun ownership. My 15 year old son who is an active member of LI's Civil Air Patrol took a NRA 22 cal gun course upstate with the civil air patrol this summer where he became certified as a marksman. When he came home he asked if I would buy him a 22 cal rifle. Since he was trained and is a fine young man I did. I have taken him to the Ridge gun range several times since. What I have found is a community of passionate gun owners respectfully enjoying target shooting. My point: The guns are not the problem. The problem is with maniacs that use guns improperly. There are enough laws in place already restricting gun ownership. The large caliber stuff is not for me or my son but those using them at the range are proper gun owners.
Jaguar-Guy August 29, 2012 at 04:29 PM
Sure, I'll forfeit my Constitutional Right to protect myself and my home. Multi-Round High Calibur Fully Automatic Machine guns - yes. My Shotgun and .44 and .50 caliburs - no.
Jaguar-Guy August 29, 2012 at 04:31 PM
The Empire State shooter was stopped last week after he killed his old boss, but before he killed anyone else by armed officers who happened to be at the right place at the right time. Awesome - they shot his ass up.
Jaguar-Guy August 29, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Where is the advice - increase police patrols (let them in the theatre) and "put obstacles between yourself and the shooter"? Sure, I'll throw the popcorn - What the hell advice is that ???!!!!
John Gruber August 29, 2012 at 04:38 PM
not even a gun, if some lunatic decides he's going to kill people, he's going to find some way to do it
Jaguar-Guy August 29, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Oh My God - I agree with John Gruber - I am retiring.
John Gruber August 29, 2012 at 04:45 PM
i always thought if more people owned guns there'd be less violence because a criminal might realize their potential victim might have a gun which is enough to deter many
John Gruber August 29, 2012 at 04:46 PM
yea, because criminals always follow the law...
Griffster August 29, 2012 at 04:57 PM
A new law to prohibit guns will have as much success as the old law that currently prohibits people from going into movie theaters and murdering people.
Captain Howard Hawrey August 29, 2012 at 05:15 PM
The agreeing comment was funny! But a point well made by John. If a nut job in an automobile decides to run over all the pedestrians on a street in Manhattan during rush hour, we are talking about a serious mess. So do we then ban all automobiles? Hope you see my point.
Paul L. August 29, 2012 at 05:21 PM
@John Gruber - I think you're giving too much credit to the criminals in the area of intelligence.
Mary Beth August 29, 2012 at 05:45 PM
John, what a simplistic argument. We see mass shooting after mass shooting where killers use 30 round plus clips and automatic weapons. How about injecting some sanity into the issue. Keep your gun but give up automatic weapons and multiple round clips meant only to kill. Not only that, but make it harder for whackos to get guns by strengthening background checks, waiting lists and making the same requirements apply to gun shows. What is the harm in that?
Mary Beth August 29, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Captain Hawrey, another simplistic argument - but let's look at it on face value: to drive a car you need to go to school, have a license, pass a test, and register your vehicle yearly - not so for guns. If you think a nut job with a car can kill as many people as a nutjob with a 100 round clip and an automatic weapon you're wrong.
Mary Beth August 29, 2012 at 05:48 PM
This is how you incurious zealots try to distract from the truth. No one is talking about "prohibiting guns" - see my post above.
Captain Howard Hawrey August 29, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Mary Beth, Though your point is well taken. How much damage to individuals do you think would be done to the public if an automobile was driven down a block in Manhattan during rush hour. It might mimic the 100 round clip you mention. By the way 10 round clips are legal in NY. But as with my son's semi-auto rifle you can own multiple 10 round clips that can be exchanged rather quickly. My point: It's not the gun owners. It's the sick, deranged, idiots that are the problem that have access to weapons and use them in a manner not intended for their use. Same as an automobile!
brookhavenconfusing August 29, 2012 at 06:23 PM
Mary Beth, I'm good with strengthening background checks and increasing waiting times to allow for agencies to do them properly, and these roving gun shows should certainly have to operate under the same requirements as fixed-location dealers. But CAPT HH makes a great point about magazine clips... they're so quickly and easily changed it pretty makes limiting their capacity a moot point. FYI full automatic weapons are ALREADY illegal to all but military, law enforcement, and licensed gun dealers (who sell to police forces and are held to single weapon limits for demo purposes). I forsee the effectiveness of any new gun laws the same as I see the effectiveness of automobile cell phone laws when there were already laws on the books prohibiting "distracted driving". If the existing law isn't being adequately enforced, then adding a new law to achieve the same affect really isn't going to solve the problem.
John Gruber August 29, 2012 at 07:03 PM
first of all those fully automatic guns ARE illegal for civilians. the fact of the matter is how many of these nut jobs actually HAVE licenses to own guns? I'd bet the majority of them DON'T and just get them off the street. I am honestly more confident that someone who has a license and whatnot is NOT going to shoot me than the man with a handgun in his pocket he picked up on the corner of some street
JG - St. James August 29, 2012 at 07:45 PM
@Mary Beth, I read your posts above, "to drive a car you need to go to school, have a license, pass a test, and register your vehicle yearly"......are you serious??? I bet you voted for Obama too didn't you.............
brookhavenconfusing August 29, 2012 at 07:54 PM
"to drive a car you need to... have a license... and register" And yet somehow a person can vote without having to do that.
Archie Bunker August 29, 2012 at 07:56 PM
No law is going to stop a psychopath from killing.
John Gruber August 29, 2012 at 08:47 PM
well i mean it's still the basic principle that everyone would be able to defend themselves and I don't know to many people who own guns that get robbed or anything
Griffster August 29, 2012 at 09:08 PM
What fraction of U.S. households owns firearms?...42% What fraction of U.S. residents owns firearms?...28% Accidental, suicide, and homicide deaths by firearm Total accidental deaths per year (all causes), U.S....96,000 Motor vehicle accidental deaths per year...43,000 Fatal firearms accidents per year...1,100 (The firearms accidents figure is an all-time low, even though the U.S. population is at an all-time high, and gun ownership is at an all-time high.) Fraction of all Emergency Room visits that involve firearms accidents...0.2% Suicides by firearm, per year...18.000 Murders by firearm, per year...14,000 [Centers for Disease Control, both figures] Researchers have studied the figures on firearms ownership, firearms accidents, suicides, and murders, during the period from 1959 to the present. Purpose: To find out whether accidents, suicides, or murders by firearm increase or decrease as the supply of firearms increases or decreases. Result: The rates of accidents and murders by firearms do not show any relationship to the number of guns owned by civilians. The gun supply has increased and decreased without affecting the accident or murder rates. Suicides by firearms have increased when more guns have been available, but the total suicide rate hasn’t changed; when guns are less available, people find other ways to commit suicide. Defensive gun uses (DGUs) by civilians, per year...2,500,000 to 3,500,000 Fraction of DGUs in which no shot is fired...92%
Griffster August 29, 2012 at 09:14 PM
Banning assault weapons doesn't work, because "assault weapons" are about 1 percent of the guns used in crime. Criminals want the same guns as law-abiding people—handguns that are small, concealable, reliable, and affordable. Criminals use whatever guns are available; if one type is banned, criminals will switch to whatever they can get Banning inexpensive handguns does not work because: criminals prefer reliable, middle-priced guns; 80 percent of the handguns used in crime do NOT fall under the government definition of "Saturday night special" [BATF definition of "Saturday Night Special"; statistic from Kleck's Targeting Guns]. Criminals use whatever guns are available; if one type is banned, criminals switch to whatever they can get. Diarrhea kills significantly more people worldwide than firearms.
John Gruber August 29, 2012 at 10:22 PM
not unless those republicans enact those laws that make it even more difficult to vote all to fight against the "rampant" voter fraud occurring (a whole 12 cases in something like 20 years)
RockyPointDiver August 30, 2012 at 12:41 AM
John, I have no idea where you got that statistic from, but even if that were true it would only be the cases of KNOWN voter fraud... there can be no statistic for voter fraud that goes undetected.
James M August 30, 2012 at 10:03 PM
GLENN September 01, 2012 at 12:47 AM
If everyone had a legal gun,like in Texas this wouldn't happen any more, get a registered gun, learn how to use it and stop being a sitting duck! I am not willing to give up one ounce of my rights for anything. EVER! Your a fool if you would give up your rights, many great men and woman in the military defended our freedom and you want to give a part of it away....NOT ME!
John Gruber September 02, 2012 at 01:26 AM
do you really think criminals are interested in voter fraud? seriously? most of those laws are to weed out potential voters.
BD September 04, 2012 at 12:04 PM
So we all want all the constitutional rights, correct? We'll let free speech go because, ew hippies at occupy wall street, unreasonable search and seizure, due process, yaddayaddayadda, not important. Are we in or out on this slavery thing? I know we had an amendment and all, but it's really not following our forefathers original vision. (sarcasm of course) There are times, in order to form a more perfect union, that we have to look at what's really going on and see what the greater civic good is. you don't need a banana clip to hunt pheasant. it's a sliding scale. I get that people feel like they need guns because criminals can get a gun, apparently "on some street" as Mr. Gruber so eloquently pointed out. I don't know where this street is, but isn't that a reason to do something about that street, not arm everyone to the teeth. Go stand in a line, anywhere, and look around. Tell me all the people standing around you should be bearing arms. There are people who chronically forget to zip their flies but they can have immediate access to deadly force? Thank god the cops were there with the wall street shooter, because how else would those 9 innocent bystanders been shot if they weren't? Maybe the police should be the only ones legally carrying guns because it's not like they hand you a shirt that says "the shooter" when you decide to stop taking your meds and go crazy. If 10 civilians pulled out guns and started taking shots at this guy how many bystanders might have been hit?
knee jerk October 28, 2012 at 03:06 AM
That advice for the theatres is really useless. Many shootings involve cops shooting at each other (friendly fire).Most cops never have to pull their guns, but when they do, duck.All that training goes out the window when they pull that gun, heart racing, panic setting in, (nobody shoots back at the gun range). Now you want to arm a relatively untrained public and have all these dillweeds walking around with guns?You know that old saying that the gun rights avocates love, "if they outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns"? Then it would be easier to know who the outlaws are and lead to less "friendly fire incidents".


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »