James Mapes: Charge dismissed for taking gun into theater, but he's not out of the woods

Last week, we told you the story about James Mapes, who was arrested for bringing a gun into a Thornton movie house the weekend after the Aurora theater shooting. At the time, we quoted a Thornton Police rep who said that despite the fear caused among patrons, the city attorney might not charge Mapes, and that's how it turned out. But he's not yet in the clear.

According to Officer Matt Barnes, spokesman for the Thornton PD, corresponding via e-mail, "The Deputy City Attorney filed a motion to dismiss the charge without prejudice yesterday, and it was granted by the municipal judge."

However, he adds, "The dismissal without prejudice allows the Adams County District Attorney's Office to continue review of the case presented by the police department, and determine if any violation of state law has occurred."

What happened? Here's how Mapes describes the incident and his subsequent arrest, which he blamed in large part on "that jackass in Aurora" -- James Holmes, who's been accused of killing twelve people and injuring more than fifty others.

"It wasn't really a political statement," Mapes added. "I just went to see a movie. But it's a political statement that one madman out of four-and-a-half-million people shouldn't be dictating to the rest of us that we should stay in our houses."

As we reported, Mapes describes himself as a regular patron of Cinebarre theater in Thornton, which he's been visiting since it opened several years ago, as well as a movie fan in general; he goes to shows every week or two, he estimates. Moreover, he frequently carries a gun with him when he does so. In most cases, the weapon is covered, but not always, depending on the time of year and the amount of clothing he's wearing due to the weather, and he says he's never before had a problem or caused concerns.

Because July 29, the night of the incident, was warm when he got home from work, he showered and donned shorts and a T-shirt. He declined to provide the full slogan on the shirt he wore, which starts with the word "LIBERALISM," but insists that his attire wasn't politically calculated, either. The shirt was handy, so he threw it on without giving it much thought, never believing that it'd imply he'd set out to be arrested, and headed to the theater to catch The Watch, a new comedy about neighborhood watch volunteers confronting aliens that stars Ben Stiller and Jonah Hill.

By the way, Mapes notes that he saw The Dark Knight Rises, the film that was screening during the massacre in Aurora, on opening night at Cinebarre. He was viewing it during the attack across town, and says he was carrying a gun then, too.

The gun was visible on the 29th, Mapes acknowledged. "The only thing I could have done is untuck my T-shirt," he says. "[The gun is] the size of a brick, so obviously you're going to see it. But then somebody calls the police because they're all paranoid about what happened."

Seventeen Thornton officers responded quickly to the report, evacuating all screening rooms at the theater and taking Mapes into custody.

Judging by his tone of voice, Mapes was frustrated by being charged with a municipal violation for doing something that he's done countless times before without the slightest trouble. Still, he didn't express regret for bringing a gun with him -- although he conceded that "if I'd been thinking about it, I probably would have worn a different shirt."

When we spoke with Barnes the day after the evacuation, he told us it was possible city prosecutors wouldn't file formal charges against Mapes. Why not? Mapes had a concealed-carry permit, and Barnes noted that Colorado "is an open-carry state." For that reason, he went on, the city attorney might determine that this status would supersede the local ordinance, particularly given that Thornton doesn't have an open-carry rule, as does Denver. Instead, Thornton businesses can post information informing customers that weapons are off-limits -- but since Cinebarre didn't do so, that couldn't impact any case against Mapes. And because the element of a potential charge regarding a gun in a liquor and beer establishment is what Barnes terms "a sentence-enhancer," it wouldn't apply if the dangerous weapons charge was found to be a non-starter.

Today, Barnes notes that the city attorney dismissed the local allegation against Mapes "to allow the District Attorney's Office to review the case to see if any violation of state charges had occurred."

That's confirmed by Krista Flannigan, spokeswoman for the 17th District DA's office in Adams County. "It's been presented to us and we're reviewing it for the possibility of state charges," she says. As for when that determination might be made, she says, "It takes as long as it takes."

Here's a larger version of Mapes's booking photo:

More from our News archive: "Clark Tabor busted in L.A. theater after saying he should 'go off like in Colorado.'"

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts