We may or may not be living in the age of Idiocracy, but there is no dearth of people doing and saying completely idiotic things. Take, for instance, Sung-Ho Hwang. Mr. Hwang is an attorney and president-elect of the New Haven County Bar Association. He also did something kinda dumb, or really smart, depending on your perspective. He took a gun to a movie theater late at night and settled in to watch the latest Batman offering.
Someone spied the gun, called police and
hilarity chaos ensued. 23 of New Haven’s finest responded and went to the wrong screening. I imagine the 911 dispatch went something like this:
Caller: There’s a guy in the movie theater and he’s got a gun.
911: Oh shit. We’re coming.
Apparently no one bothered to ask which movie, or what he was doing. Because the answer to that would’ve been “paying $3.75 for a fucking bottle of water and $14.00 for a tub of popcorn”, which is the real crime, if you ask me.
But I digress.
Mr. Hwang, apparently, is talking on his phone (frankly, he should’ve been arrested for that, amirite?) in the movie theater, when police swarm in and this happens:
Officers went into the theater, ordered the approximately 12 patrons to put their hands up, and had them file out of the theater. They were then patted down as they passed.
When officers located the armed man, who they later identified as Hwang, they drew their weapons and ordered him to put his hands up. He did not comply with their orders and remained in his seat while using his cell phone, police said.
Now, if you’re reading that thinking “wait a second, if he’s standing when they patted him down, how did he end up seated again?” that’s not your fault. That’s shitty journalism from the oldest continuously published newspaper in the country. What really happened, at least according to the police, is this:
According to police Lt. Jeff Hoffman, officers responded and searched two rooms of the theater at about 10:10 p.m. and found several people matching the description of the armed man. Those people were given pat-downs and then told to leave the theater with their hands up, police said.
None of the people in the first room, where “The Watch” was showing, was the suspect. In the second room, where the Batman movie was playing, police with pistols and Tasers drawn approached a man on his phone fitting the description and told him to show his hands.
This, kids, is where, as they say, the plot thickens. Police say Hwang didn’t immediately comply with their request to please get off the phone sir so other people can enjoy their movie-going experience show them his hands (shouldn’t that be hand, since one hand was presumably holding the phone?). Hwang, of course, says he did.
Hwang, it turns out, has a valid license to carry a concealed weapon in the State of Connecticut. Bollocks. So what else is left to do but charge him with that catch-all, useless and routinely misapplied Breach of Peace as well as Interfering with an Officer.
I’m honestly fascinated by the thought process behind some of these arresting and charging decisions. Is there such faith in the presumption of guilt and the juggernaut like nature of the criminal justice system that cops just think “fuck it, let’s arrest him for something, the courts can sort it out later and we’re pretty sure he’ll get convicted of some crime or other?”
Listen very carefully, I shall say this only once. What he did is no Breach of Peace:
Here‘s the relevant Breach of Peace statute:
(a) A person is guilty of breach of the peace in the second degree when, with intent to cause inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, such person: (1) Engages in fighting or in violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior in a public place; or (2) assaults or strikes another; or (3) threatens to commit any crime against another person or such other person’s property; or (4) publicly exhibits, distributes, posts up or advertises any offensive, indecent or abusive matter concerning any person; or (5) in a public place, uses abusive or obscene language or makes an obscene gesture; or (6) creates a public and hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which such person is not licensed or privileged to do. For purposes of this section, “public place” means any area that is used or held out for use by the public whether owned or operated by public or private interests.
Openly carrying a licensed weapon into a public place doesn’t fit subsections (1), (2), (3), (4), (5) or (6). You know what that means? It’s not, by definition, a breach of peace.
Neither is sitting in a movie theater and having people panic around you while you’re doing something legal. If that were the criteria for a Breach of Peace, wouldn’t a black man be guilty if he showed up at a KKK jamboree and the racists went nuts? Wouldn’t it be a crime if I wandered the halls at Yale reading ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and the literature majors booed and hissed at me?
I’d recommend that whoever has to prosecute this piece of shit case take a close look at subsection (6) above. “By an act which such person is not licensed or privileged to do”.
But what of the Interfering, you ask? If you believe everything a cop says, why don’t you come over and we can sign that deed to that bridge I’m selling you for $1,000,000,000. Don’t take my word for it? Here’s what someone else at the movie had to say:
In New Haven, Porsche Edmundson and a companion described a confusing, frightening scene when police first barged in. They were in the theater next to where “The Dark Knight Rises” was playing, sitting in the back, when police entered with weapons drawn. She said there were less than a dozen people there and police told everyone to put their hands up. Police then frisked her companion and the other white males.
Edmundson was upset that before the lights came up it was difficult to tell that the men were police. “It was a split second of indecision as to who they were,” said her companion, who did not want to give his name, but seemed shaken by the event.
So, you’re in a movie theater, in the dark, chomping on unhealthy popcorn and talking on your cellphone and men barge in and start shouting commands at you: you’re a lawyer, you have a gun, you don’t know what the hell is going on. Is it that unreasonable that it took him a few extra seconds to get his hands in the air like he just don’t care?
Hey, you want to throw up in your mouth a little? Here:
Had he immediately showed his hands, the official said, criminal charges might have been averted and instead “maybe he would have been counseled on how to better conceal his weapon while attending a ‘Dark Knight’ movie.”
Police Chief Dean Esserman, who was on scene late Tuesday, thanked the citizen who brought his fears to the attention of the manager and for the manager who called 911.
“New Haven police are remarkable,” Esserman said. “Their response was prompt and it was clear to everyone that I spoke to that their discipline was notable,” Esserman said.
You know what they say: If you see something, say something.
Moral of the Story 1: On a serious note, shouldn’t this incident and the one last year that I linked to above and the general confusing about concealed carry laws in CT and the apparent hysteria that’s generated whenever someone sees someone else carrying a gun in public suggest that perhaps we might need to have a debate in CT about whether we actually want it to be legal to carry a concealed weapon in public? If we can’t handle it without overreacting and freaking out, then maybe it should be illegal. That way, we’ll stop crying wolf every time we see someone with a concealed weapon.
Moral of the Story 2: Don’t take a gun to a movie theater right after some whackjob’s just killed 12 people at a movie theater. With a gun. That was showing the same movie you went to.
Moral of the Story 3: People are idiots.