COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A man has been arrested after causing a disturbance at the Easton Town Center AMC movie theater Saturday night.
Benjamin Pendleton, 25, was arrested and faces a misdemeanor charge of inducing panic.
Police said they received reports of an active shooter around 8:54 p.m. However, Columbus Police Sgt. James Fuqua said there were no shots fired at the theater. Fuqua attributed the initial, erroneous reports of shots being fired to young people fleeing the theater in a panic.
“Because the young people who were inside were yelling this as they were coming out, word spread very, very quickly,” Fuqua said.
Comedian Fortune Feimster tweeted from the Funny Bone, where she was performing.
According to Fuqua, Pendleton entered the theater toward the end of a showing of “The Suicide Squad,” ran to the back of the theater, and began screaming, “I am the king of this ******* town,” obscenities, and other things. Pendleton then reached into a bag he was carrying, which caused people in the theater to panic and run out, Fuqua said.
Some movie patrons leaped over a railing, suffering minor injuries. Otherwise, no other injuries were reported.
“There were multiple exits, so people were running through exits,” Fuqua said. “People even jumped off the railing down from where they were sitting because they were anticipating that this guy, quite frankly, had some type of weapon, whether it was a gun or a knife or whatever. We’ve seen across the country many times over that people will go into a theater and create harm with a gun, knife, whatever.”
Fuqua said Pendleton was apprehended without any use of force and without anyone being injured. Fuqua added Pendleton was “extremely uncooperative” when being booked at the Franklin County prison. Pendleton’s identity was confirmed through police records.
As a precaution, all stores and restaurants in the area were evacuated, including AMC, H&M, and The Cheesecake Factory.
Aaron Arnette, of Columbus, was at a nearby business Saturday night when he caught word of what was happening at the theater. He said he and about 100 other people were shuffled through a kitchen and out another exit.
“You definitely just think about your life and everything that goes on in your life and you just want to get out of there alive, so that was definitely my kind of thought process, like, ‘I need to get out of this now,’ and get out,” he said.
Easton management issued the following statement Sunday:
“There were no shots fired last night. An individual acted in an erratic manner inside one of the AMC theaters causing concern among our customers. Easton Public Safety and Columbus Police responded. Columbus Police Special Duty immediately apprehended the person. There was no firearm in his possession and it was determined there was no threat to public safety.”Easton Town Center management
An AMC spokesperson issued the following statement Sunday afternoon:
“A moviegoer’s disruptive behavior during a show caused concern among other guests. Security on site and local law enforcement responded to the situation and the person in question was apprehended. There was no weapon in his possession and no shots were fired.”AMC Theaters spokesperson
Fuqua said two cases of shots being fired at Polaris Fashion Place earlier this year have made it important for police to get out in front of any misinformation that may be spread regarding incidents like Saturday’s at Easton.
“It’s well documented, unfortunately, here in the city, specifically at Polaris mall, that we had an actual incident where shots were fired — as a matter of fact, twice over,” he said. “So we don’t want the citizens of the city to feel that it is unsafe to go any shopping mall here and we wanted to make clear that our officers did the absolute right thing by doing their job and handling it quickly.”