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Joker mask causes freak out at Boulder movie theater, teen facing charges

It's been less than four months since James Holmes fired shots during a showing of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, killing twelve and injuring dozens more in one of Colorado's worst tragedies. But that didn't stop one student from wearing a "Joker" mask into a theater yesterday, prompting a group of movie-goers to run away in fear. The student says he was trying to scare his friends, but Boulder police didn't find the gimmick all that funny.

Officials with the Boulder Police Department reported last night that they arrested a seventeen-year-old male (he's a part-time CU student) after "five people...felt imminent fear for their personal safety and ran from the theater because of their fear."

The teen, whose name is not being released because he is a minor, was charged with five counts after the group of movie-goers at the Century Boulder Theater reported that the suspect donned a clown hat and a "Joker" mask inside one of the theaters.

Families of those who died in the Aurora theater shooting speaking at a press conference.
Families of those who died in the Aurora theater shooting speaking at a press conference.
Sam Levin

In the immediate aftermath of the July 20 shooting at the Aurora Century 16 theater, there were a string of scares across the country related to the incident, with law enforcement officials launching evacuations and making arrests sparked by fears of possible copycats. In early August, for instance, a man was arrested in Thorton for bringing a gun to a movie theater, even though he had a concealed-carry permit.

But given the connection to the Batman movie, it's no surprise that a Joker mask might lead to this kind of commotion.

Continue for more details on the incident yesterday in a Boulder movie theater.

Boulder Police note in its news release that the suspect says he was aware of the Aurora theater shooting incident -- and that he was trying to frighten his friends.

A group reported him to a manager on-site after running away from the theater in fear and officers then responded and contacted the suspect.

The suspect admitted to police that he wore the mask to scare his friends and added that he wanted to dress as the "Joker" next year for Halloween. When police contacted him, he was carrying the mask and hat in a shopping bag.

No weapon was seen, no threats were made and no one was injured. But because five people ran from the theater, the suspect is facing menacing charges. He was arrested last night and taken to juvenile detention.

Boulder police are encouraging anyone who has information about the incident to call detectives at 303-441-3330.

Here's the full news release:

Boulder police have arrested a 17-year-old male and charged him with five counts of misdemeanor Menacing after a group of movie-goers at the Century Boulder Theater reported that they feared for their safety and left the building after the suspect donned a clown hat and a "Joker" mask inside one of the theaters. Century Boulder Theater is located at 1710 29th Street.

The group who reported the incident was so frightened that they ran from the theater, according to the theater's manager. Officers responded to the theater and contacted the suspect.

The suspect admitted to police that he wore the mask to scare his friends, and said he wanted to dress as the "Joker" next year for Halloween. He was carrying the mask and hat in a shopping bag when police contacted him. He was aware of the theater shooting that had occurred in Aurora.

No weapon was seen, no threats were made and no one was injured. However, because the five people reporting the incident felt imminent fear for their personal safety and ran from the theater because of their fear, the suspect is being charged with Menacing.

He was arrested this evening, Sunday, November 11, 2012. He was taken to juvenile detention. Because he is a minor, police cannot release information about his identity.

Anyone who was at the theater at the time of the incident and who has information or who would like to speak to police is encouraged to call Boulder Police detectives at 303-441-3330.

More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Scott Gessler says he's innocent as Ethics Commission begins investigation"

Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin. E-mail the author at Sam.Levin@Westword.com.


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