NEW HAVEN, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A prominent Connecticut attorney who brought a handgun to a movie theater showing the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises” said Wednesday that the charges are baseless and that he followed all police directions.
Sung-Ho Hwang, president-elect of the New Haven County Bar Association, said at a news conference that the charges against him threaten “our constitutional right to bear arms.”
He was charged with breach of peace and interfering with police after officers said they found a handgun in his waistband. Police said he had a permit to carry the weapon.
Hwang was released Tuesday night on a promise to appear in court on the misdemeanor charges.
“I understand we’re in state of heightened security since the incident in Colorado,” he said, referring to a mass shooting that killed 12 moviegoers on July 20. “I really feel for those victims and I pray for their family members.”
Hwang said he brought the gun to protect himself late at night.
His lawyer, Hugh Keefe, called his client “a leading citizen of the city of New Haven.”
“He’s doing everything by the book,” Keefe said. “He has a permit to carry. He’s out at a movie theater. Suddenly people are pointing guns at him.”
On Tuesday, officers arrived at the Criterion-Bow Tie Cinemas in New Haven shortly after 10 p.m. after managers reported a man inside with a gun. It wasn’t clear whether the call was about Hwang or someone else.
About a dozen people were inside waiting for the movie to begin, police said. Officers asked each of them to raise their hands and file out, where they were patted down, according to a news release.
Police said they identified the suspect and with weapons drawn they ordered Hwang to put his hands up. They said he remained in his seat while using his cellphone and did not comply with their commands and was taken into custody by force.
The gun was found in his waistband near the small of his back, police said.
Keefe said it was his understanding that police were not going to arrest Hwang once they realized he had a gun permit, but New Haven Chief Dean M. Esserman ordered the arrest. He said Hwang lives near the theater and “has a perfect right to bring a gun anywhere he wants, except an airport.”
“If somebody has a problem with that law then they ought to go to Hartford and change it, not make baseless arrests,” Keefe said.
A message was left for Esserman, who has praised officers who responded to the call. City officials planned a news conference Wednesday afternoon and planned to issue a statement about guns in public places.
Since the Colorado shootings, several instances of people bringing weapons to showings of the film have been reported across the country.
Over the weekend, a man in northeast Ohio brought a gun, ammunition and several knives to a screening because he wanted to protect himself in case someone tried to replicate the shooting, his attorney said. The man was arrested.
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