After months of buildup and speculation over which beloved Marvel characters would live or die, “Avengers: Infinity War” stirred up a lot of feelings at box offices across the country during the weekend. But one showing in Redlands, Calif., ended in panic and police.
Just as the credits were rolling at the Harkins Mountain Grove 16 in San Bernardino County on Friday night, a man stood up in the crowded theater and began yelling and jumping.
“I think when he said, ‘If you were to die tonight, would your passage to heaven be guaranteed?’ Something along those lines. I think that’s when people started panicking,” one witness named Susie Arias told CBS2 News.
Moviegoers at a major comic book movie have an understandable reason to be wary of someone shouting about death in a packed house. Twelve people died on July 20, 2012, when James Holmes opened fire on the crowd during a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colo.
When the man began shouting at “The Avengers” on Friday night, “People panicked and ran out of the theater,” Carl Baker, a police spokesman, told the Redlands Daily Facts. According to a release on the Redlands Police Department’s Facebook page, theatergoers rushed the exits. One woman jumped 20 feet over a railing. She was seriously injured in the fall and also was trampled.
“I saw the girl … fainted, and someone was dragging her out; another girl in front of me was limping and going into a panic attack,” Arias told the Daily Facts.
Law enforcement initially received a call that 30 to 40 shots had been fired inside the movie complex, according to Redlands police. All available units swarmed the location. Video from inside the theater shows police armed with assault rifles and shotguns milling about the hallways while moviegoers limped off.
Police quickly determined no bullets had been actually fired.
They also confronted the individual who had caused the panic. According to CBS2 News, 28-year-old Michael Webber is a minister with Truth and Triumph Ministries. He told both the station and police he was preaching at the end of the movie but did not mean to cause a panic. Webber told the station he had his hands in the air so the crowd could see he was unarmed.
“The lights did not turn up for quite a few minutes, and so I really couldn’t see anyone’s reaction except those of the people just right around me,” he told the station. “It’s extremely unfortunate that anyone sustained injuries because of this. Again, I was unarmed.”
Webber told police he has done this at other movie showings.
“If you’re gonna try to draw people towards the Bible, that’s not the way to do it, and he needs to stop,” Arias told CBS2 News.
Redlands police charged Webber with using offensive language likely to cause a violent reaction, a misdemeanor, according to the department’s release.
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