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JUST IN: Video Game Reference Shouted During Movie Led to Ballston Active Shooter Panic

A mass panic of a mass shooter in Ballston last month was not caused by a criminal act, Arlington County Police say.

A weeks-long investigation determined that the panic was caused by someone misinterpreting an outburst at a screening of “IT Chapter 2.”

“During the playing of the movie IT Chapter Two, a juvenile within a group shouted a video game reference to the effect of ‘Pennywise has sharpshooter activated,'” police said in a press release Wednesday afternoon. “This statement was misinterpreted as a possible active incident, however, the investigation revealed that at no time were references to an active shooter made inside the theater.:

No charges are being sought. Arlington’s outgoing top prosecutor said the incident is a reminder that there may be “unintended impacts” of otherwise innocent actions due to “today’s climate of heightened awareness around active violence incidents.”

More from an ACPD press release:

The Arlington County Police Department has completed a weeks-long investigation into the September 14, 2019, false report of a possible shooter at the Ballston Quarter movie theater. A review of the facts and circumstances by the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office determined that there was no evidence that any crime was committed, nor did anyone enter the theater with the intent to cause public harm or concern. As a result, no charges will be filed.

To summarize this incident, at approximately 8:38 p.m. on September 14, police were dispatched to multiple emergency calls reporting a possible shooter inside the movie theater at the Ballston Quarter located at 4238 Wilson Boulevard. Upon police arrival, the theater was placed under shelter in place status while a systematic search of the entire Ballston Quarter was initiated. The search concluded with negative results and no evidence of a shooting or any victims of a shooting were located.

Following the incident, detectives conducted a thorough investigation which included the review of surveillance images, witness interviews and the identification of the involved parties. The evidence determined that during the playing of the movie IT Chapter Two, a juvenile within a group shouted a video game reference to the effect of “Pennywise has sharpshooter activated.” This statement was misinterpreted as a possible active incident, however, the investigation revealed that at no time were references to an active shooter made inside the theater.

“A thorough and complete investigation revealed no evidence to support that any crime was committed,” said Theo Stamos, Commonwealth’s Attorney. “In today’s climate of heightened awareness around active violence incidents in public places, this incident serves as a reminder about the unintended impacts otherwise innocent actions might have.”

“While we’re fortunate this incident was a false alarm and no significant injuries were reported, responding officers acted quickly and dutifully to ensure the safety of the public and mall personnel,” said M. Jay Farr, Chief of Police. “I am proud of the actions of our responding officers and the detailed detective work conducted to bring this incident to its final disposition.”

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