Police increase security at Howard theaters

In the wake of the Colorado theater shootings, Howard County police said Friday they are increasing security efforts at the county's two movie theaters, AMC Columbia and Snowden Square Stadium.

A gunman opened fire at an early Friday morning showing of the latest Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises," in Aurora, Colo., killing 12 and injuring 59.


County police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said police "are taking measures to be prepared and address safety concerns" following the Colorado shooting.

"Police have met with representatives from the two movie theaters in Howard County, at Snowden Square and the Mall in Columbia, to address security issues and ensure open lines of communication with law enforcement," Llewellyn said in an e-mail.


Llewellyn said police are increasing patrol cars and bicyclists around the theaters and the Columbia lakefront.

Llewellyn said police are also reviewing emergency response protocols, which include dealing with a shooter, and conducting unscheduled inspections of their equipment.

Police also are encouraging movie-goers to be aware of their surroundings and take note of the nearest exits. If an emergency occurs, they recommend evacuating danger areas immediately, hiding in a safe place if unable to evacuate and calling 911, Llewellyn said.

AMC Theaters said in a statement they also are increasing security.

"Law enforcement agencies, our landlords and their and our local security teams are stepping up nationwide to ensure we prove the safest environment possible for our guests," the statement read.

AMC said movie-goers with fake weapons or wearing masks, and those wearing "costumes that make others feel uncomfortable" will be prohibited.

Movie-goers undeterred

Outside the AMC theaters in the Columbia mall Friday afternoon, movie-goers mulled the shootings.


Columbia teenager Cody Smorse said that the shootings didn't deter him or his brother from seeing the movie on Friday.

"This is a good area. I just don't think it would happen here," Smorse said.

Frequent movie-goer Gabe Young said the shooting was devastating, although it would not keep him from seeing movies in Columbia.

"Unfortunately, it can happen anywhere, but I feel comfortable coming here," Young said.

Young also said he avoids midnight showings, in part because of the increased possibility for incidents like the one in Colorado.

Ashley Carter, 26 of Columbia, said she first heard about the shooting while preparing for work Friday morning.


"I was really upset," Carter said. "There were kids in there, why would you do that?"

Carter said she had planned to see the movie on Friday night, but switched to a matinee showing because of the shooting.

She also said she was surprised by the lack of police presence at the theater.

"I thought there would be more police officers (here) now. I'm hoping there will be more tonight," Carter said.

AMC Columbia's 10 scheduled early morning showings of "The Dark Knight Rises" were canceled because of technical difficulties. Normal operations resumed on Friday morning, theater senior manager Ken Demski said.

AMC Columbia has scheduled 25 showings of the movie for Friday; Snowden Square Stadium has scheduled 19.