LAPD to increase presence at movie theaters during 'Joker' opening weekend

The heightened response is due to "public concerns," though no threats have been made


Colleen Shalby
Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Police Department will increase its visibility around theaters for next week’s opening of the “Joker.”

The announcement comes after both the FBI and the U.S. Army issued internal warnings about possible threats related to the movie. The messages later were shared publicly and surfaced online.

The new film premieres seven years after a shooter killed 12 people at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., during a screening of the 2012 Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises.”

“The Los Angeles Police Department is aware of public concerns and the historical significance associated with the premiere of ‘Joker,’ ” the LAPD said in a statement. “While there are no credible threats in the Los Angeles area, the department will maintain high visibility around theaters when it opens.”

Police did not confirm whether the announcement comes at the directive of higher law enforcement, but the decision does appear to be influenced by the FBI’s suggestion.

“While our standard practice is to not comment on specific intelligence products, the FBI is in touch with our law enforcement and private sector partners about the online posts. As always, we encourage the public to remain vigilant and to promptly report suspicious activity to law enforcement,” the FBI said.

Concern about potential threats became public knowledge after a memo circulated widely this week on social media from the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command field office at Fort Sill, Okla. The memo warned of a “credible potential mass shooting” at an unknown movie theater during the Oct. 4 release of the film.

Chris Grey, chief of public affairs with the USA criminal investigation command in Quantico, Va., confirmed that the memo was sent to an internal group at Fort Sill on Monday after obtaining information from the Joint Crime Information Center in the Texas Department of Public Safety.

“The Fort Sill CID office did so out of an abundance of caution to help keep our soldiers and their families safe. At this point, we are not aware of any information indicating a specific, credible threat to a particular location or venue,” Grey said.

According to Gizmodo, the Army first became aware of a potential threat after receiving a bulletin from the FBI. That information was separate from what the Texas Department of Public Safety provided.

The movie, starring Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker and directed by Todd Phillips, has sparked controversy over the film’s violent portrayal of the man that would become known as one of Gotham City’s most twisted villains.

The families of the victims of the Aurora shooting issued a letter this week to Warner Bros. — the studio behind the film — expressing concern over the movie’s violence while requesting that the studio end contributions to political candidates who accept contributions from the National Rifle Assn., help fund gun violence intervention programs and lobby for gun reform.

“When we learned that Warner Bros. was releasing a movie called ‘Joker’ that presents the character as a protagonist with a sympathetic origin story, it gave us pause. We want to be clear that we support your right to free speech and free expression. But as anyone who has ever seen a comic book can tell you: with great power comes great responsibility. That’s why we’re calling on you to use your massive platform and influence to join us in our fight to build safer communities with fewer guns.”

On Friday, Variety reported that the studio announced it was restricting red carpet access by journalists during the premiere of film.

LAPD is encouraging filmgoers to remain vigilant but is not instructing anyone to refrain from venturing to see “Joker.” An online search shows that several theaters in Los Angeles are set for midnight releases of the film next Friday.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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