Moviegoers are on edge and police departments on high alert after last week's Batman movie massacre. At least three suspicious moviegoers were arrested and more ejected after at least six suspicious incidents at theaters across the United States.
Those incidents at screenings of "The Dark Knight Rises" have already-skittish audiences now even more jittery at the prospect of a possible copycat crime.
One such incident came courtesy of Clark Tabor, 52, who was arrested Sunday at a cinema near Los Angeles after he allegedly stood up to complain that the movie had not yet begun and ranted about a gun and Colorado.
Witnesses said he held his cell phone in the air and yelled, "I should go off like in Colorado," before asking, "Does anyone have a gun?" After unnerved patrons alerted theater security, cops arrested him for making criminal threats — a felony if he is charged — but found no weapons on him, in the theater or in his home, NBC Los Angeles reported.
That was just two days after a gunman entered an Aurora, Colo., cinema through an emergency exit and opened fire on a "Dark Knight Rises" audience, killing 12 people and wounding 58. The suspect in that massacre, who is also suspected of having booby-trapped his apartment with explosives, appeared in court Monday at the start of a criminal case against him that could last a year.
A day after Tabor frightened a Norfolk, Calif., audience, a "Dark Knight" screening in New Jersey was cancelled mid-movie after a man opened an emergency exit door, NBC New York reported.
Police told The Star-Ledger that the man spoke to somebody outside the door and returned to his seat — but didn't come forward when police asked him to. The movie was cancelled, and 100 customers were given refunds.
Cops in a Dallas suburb said they ejected a suspicious man from a theater there, too, after he falsely claimed to be an armed and license private investigator hired by the theater company to examine its security, NBC DFW reported.
In Arizona, moviegoers panicked and fled a theater when a drunk homeless man who was disrupting a screening and intimidating them suddenly grabbed for his backpack. Authorities said the backpack contained an empty alcohol container and half a bottle of liquor.
Patrons in a theater near Pittsburgh panicked and fled, too, after a fight broke out during the movie between two other moviegoers.
"There were two people who got into an argument, and one person yelled something that induced people to get into a panic," Colin Marks told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
What could have been the most tangible threat linked to the "Dark Knight Rises" shooting took place nowhere near a movie theater.
Police in Maine stopped a man for speeding and found an AK-47 assault rifle, four handguns, ammunition and news clippings about the Aurora, Colo., massacre in his car.
The man, Timothy Courtois of Biddeford, Maine, said he had seen the Batman movie a day earlier — and carried a gun into it — and was on his way to shoot a former employer. Cops later found other guns, including a machine gun, and thousands of rounds of ammunition in his home, and he was charged with speeding and possessing a concealed weapon.
"We don't know what his true intentions were," a Department of Public Safety spokesman told The Associated Press, adding that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms was aiding its investigation.
In the wake of the Friday morning shooting in Colorado, local police departments have stepped up their patrolling of movie theaters to ease public fears and deter would-be copycats.
Theaters have tightened their security measures, too, and AMC Theatres has barred patrons from wearing face-concealing masks or bringing fake weapons into its theaters.