TAMPA — Zane Noland opened a bathroom stall door at an Ybor City theater and unfolded a plot line rivaling the drama of the superhero movie playing on the screen.
"Dad," the 9-year-old said. "There's a gun."
On Father's Day, the boy, his 15-year-old brother, Ryan, and his dad, Wesley, were at Muvico Centro Ybor 20 to see Man of Steel, the new Superman movie.
Shortly after it started, about 3 p.m., Zane said he needed to go to the bathroom.
There, perched atop a toilet paper dispenser inside a busy bathroom inside a busy movie theater, he discovered the loaded Glock 26, a small semiautomatic weapon.
Noland, 48, a Marine veteran with years of gun experience and a concealed weapons permit, said the weapon just needed the slide pulled back to chamber a round. Then the trigger could be pulled to shoot it.
"This isn't like forgetting your keys or cellphone," he said Monday. "This is a loaded firearm."
He was horrified. There were other children in the bathroom. What if one of them had found it? What if a teenager pocketed it to play with later? Or someone with intent to harm others?
Nearly a year ago, 12 people in Colorado were massacred at a showing of another superhero movie, the Batman film The Dark Knight Rises.
Noland quickly took the gun, and brought his son into a private bathroom designed for families. Noland disarmed the Glock, put it on the diaper changing table and called 911.
Officers responded in minutes. Laura McElroy, a Tampa police spokeswoman, said Monday that the gun is being processed by the police agency and by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to try to determine its owner and to see whether it has ever been used in a crime.
Noland, of Temple Terrace, said he and Zane rejoined Ryan in the theater and watched the rest of the movie.
He is thankful they were the ones to find the gun, rather than someone inexperienced or curious. He said he is continually teaching his children about gun safety.
Zane told his dad he would not have touched the gun and gotten an adult if he had found it by himself.
"We did our Superman deed for the day," Noland said he told Zane. "We protected people from getting hurt."