Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Colo. theater lacked security, unlike some peers

DENVER — The Colorado movie theater complex that was the scene of a gunman's massacre this month didn't have any uniformed security guards on duty the night of the shooting, even though other theaters operated by the same company did provide such protection for the busy premiere of the Batman film The Dark Knight Rises.

It's impossible to know whether guards — often off-duty police officers — at the Aurora Century 16 would have spotted the suspected gunman, James Holmes, and thwarted the attack that left 12 moviegoers dead and dozens wounded on July 20.

Officers hired as guards are generally armed and usually spend their time roaming the complex, checking bags or dealing with minor disputes.

Cinemark provided off-duty police guards at the Aurora theater on busy Friday and Saturday nights. As for other nights of the week, theater operators decide on a case-by-case basis whether to hire security, depending on the likelihood of trouble. The attack came early Friday, shortly after the midnight screening of the Batman film began.

Cinemark, which operates the Aurora theater, is based in Plano, Texas. The company declined to explain why guards weren't provided in Aurora that night and declined to discuss safety policies in general.

Through interviews with police officers and officials outside the company, the Associated Press was able to identify places around the country that did use armed security workers for the July 19-20 Batman showings — including places like Beaumont, Texas; Lake Charles, La., and Tupelo, Miss.

Some other locations, including a Cinema Century 16 theater in the western Denver suburb of Lakewood, did not have security.

Aurora police Chief Dan Oates has said that the Cinemark in Aurora normally uses off-duty officers to provide security on weekend nights but did not have any working for the July 19 showings that went into the next morning. The theater does not have an unusually high record of complaints or crimes, police Sgt. Cassidee Carlson said.

The Aurora shooting has stirred discussion about appropriate security precautions at gathering places commonly considered safe from the cares and worries of the outside world. Experts say that security at public venues has increased substantially over the past decade, but they also note that it's impossible to maintain perfect safety at all times.

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