Friday, June 15, 2018
Public safety

Shooting at the movies: Our new normal

It should have been a mundane Monday afternoon at the movies, people settling in their seats for a film about Navy SEALs. It should have been that everyday escape into familiar dimmed lights and popcorn smells, air-conditioned and safe, with Raisinets.

It couldn't have been more normal, more everyday-in-America.

A man there to see Lone Survivor with his son — a movie title lost on no one afterward — would later say two guys got into an argument during the previews. The younger was texting. The older wanted him to stop. Older guy complained to management. At some point, popcorn flew.

And how everyday-America is that, too — technology and common courtesy, butting heads?

It might have ended in a few harsh words, a punch, somebody asked to leave. Conan O'Brien could have made late-night fun of two Florida guys duking it out at the movies over texting.

Except there was a gun.

Now a 43-year-old husband and father is pointlessly dead, a 71-year-old respected retired cop charged with second-degree murder.

Because, even in a place as benign as your local movie theater, there was a gun.

The words are grim deja vu. Three years ago and one county south, a man named Trevor Dooley got in a truly stupid dispute at a park over whether a kid was allowed to skateboard there. A neighbor disagreed. It might have been fisticuffs at worst, but for the gun tucked in Dooley's pants.

Now 73, he is out on bail appealing a manslaughter conviction and eight-year prison sentence. The little girl who was playing basketball with her dad at the park that day is growing up without him.

Where isn't there a gun anymore? Not far away, the University of South Florida was recently forced to let students keep guns in their cars because of an appeals court ruling. We are gun-mad, with no plans to change. If 20 schoolchildren shot dead in Connecticut aren't enough to make us look hard at our gun culture, can anything? The New York Times reports that in the year since the elementary school massacre, 109 state gun bills became law, 70 of which loosened gun restrictions.

In the Wesley Chapel movie shooting, I'm betting on a "stand your ground" defense based on our infamous law that says you have no obligation to retreat if you feel justifiably threatened. Given that the weapon apparently was popcorn, such a defense would have to do with sudden moves in a dark theater. And maybe that the man with the gun, Curtis Reeves Jr., had impressive law enforcement experience with firearms and tense SWAT situations.

And I'm guessing there won't be nearly as much discussion about why in the world a gun was there in the first place.

Do we even care about these stories anymore? By Tuesday morning, a local radio wag was referring to Reeves as "Old Man Shoots-A-Lot." Ha.

Still, it made us news right up to CNN. "It was a movie theater," says Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco. "Those are places we automatically assume to be safe." Or, not.

One of the witnesses, the former Marine there to catch an afternoon film with his son, said this: "I can't believe anybody would bring a gun to a movie." Believe it. Turns out it's who we are.

Comments
St. Petersburg police make arrest 31 years after sexual assault

St. Petersburg police make arrest 31 years after sexual assault

ST. PETERSBURG — Police arrested a man Friday in connection with a 31-year-old sexual assault case and believe he’s connected to other unsolved cases from decades ago.Anthony Stokes, 56, faces a charge of armed sexual battery, according to St. Peters...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Records detail Wrigley heir’s $480,000 betrayal by trusted employees

Records detail Wrigley heir’s $480,000 betrayal by trusted employees

ODESSA — One day in the summer of 2014, Helen Rich spotted a Facebook post about an aging black Labrador in Kansas named Lady who badly needed a new home. The author and heir to the Wrigley gum fortune had recently lost her own Black lab. Rich decide...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Hillsborough Hispanic women targeted in lottery scam

Hillsborough Hispanic women targeted in lottery scam

TAMPA — Maria Pena-Lebron, 83, was walking out of Fresco y Mas with her groceries in May when she was approached by a woman wearing a straw hat, who pleaded with her for help. The stranger claimed to be an undocumented immigrant and therefore unable ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Tampa fire captain demoted for stripping off shirt, daring homeless man to fight

Tampa fire captain demoted for stripping off shirt, daring homeless man to fight

TAMPA — Tampa Fire Rescue Capt. Jeremy Finney was, by all accounts, a model firefighter — until he lost his cool. The outburst cost him two ranks.Finney has served nearly 16 years in the department and was a member of the Tactical Medical Response Te...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Coaster that derailed in Daytona Beach had reported safety issues in 2017

Coaster that derailed in Daytona Beach had reported safety issues in 2017

DAYTONA BEACH — Two roller coaster riders fell 34 feet (10 meters) when their car derailed and was left dangling from the track, and firefighters used ladders to pull eight others to safety high above the Daytona Beach Boardwalk. "The front car which...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Largo man accused of kidnapping his ex-girlfriend’s toddler

Largo man accused of kidnapping his ex-girlfriend’s toddler

A Largo man is facing kidnapping and attempted murder charges after authorities say he took his ex-girlfriend’s 2-year-old child last weekend and rammed another man’s car to get away.Johnny A. Wise, 27, was arrested late Thursday on Williams Drive ne...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Charges dropped against two UCF fraternity members accused of rape

Charges dropped against two UCF fraternity members accused of rape

ORLANDO — Prosecutors have dropped charges against two University of Central Florida students — one of whom is from Hillsborough County — who were accused of raping a woman at a fraternity party.The Orlando Sentinel reports that the Orange-Osceola St...
Updated: 11 hours ago
2 killed when vehicle struck by train in Polk County

2 killed when vehicle struck by train in Polk County

FROSTPROOF — Two people were killed when their vehicle was struck by a train early Friday morning.Polk County deputies say the crash occurred on westbound U.S. 98 near Western Avenue just after 3 a.m.Westbound lanes on U.S. 98 are expected to be clo...
Published: 06/15/18
Pasco deputies find body of man after kayak overturned

Pasco deputies find body of man after kayak overturned

The body of a man was discovered in Frierson Lakes in Hudson on Thursday night after his kayak was seen overturned in the water.A resident living along Frierson Lake Drive contacted the Pasco Sheriff’s Office to report seeing an overturned kayak stil...
Published: 06/15/18
Florida man arrested after calling sheriff to get his meth tested

Florida man arrested after calling sheriff to get his meth tested

PALATKA — A Florida man called the sheriff’s office Tuesday after growing suspicious that the meth he had smoked was the wrong drug.The concerned caller, 49-year-old Hawthorne resident Douglas Peter Kelly, experienced a "violent reaction" to narcotic...
Published: 06/14/18