Police, theater owner talk about public safety

Police, theater owner talk about public safety

LAWTON, Okla._In the wake of Thursday night's deadly shooting at a movie theater in Louisiana, people all across the country are once again questioning their own sense of security in public places.

The killer in the latest incident killed two people and wounded nine others before taking his own life as the police moved in. 7News reached out to local theaters to get their approach to security, as well as Lawton police for their input on personal safety, and how their officers are trained to respond to an active shooter.

Justin Hackney, the owner of the Vaska Theatre, says he won't be making any changes to his security following the shooting, but he wants people to feel comfortable coming out to see a show. Hackney says if something were to happen at his theater, he has a concealed carry permit.

"The fact of the matter is the only way to truly defend against an armed attack is to be armed and trained for it. That is the best way to do it," Hackney said.

Lawton Police Captain Craig Akard said they'd never advise people not to go public places, like theaters, but they can offer some general suggestions on how to stay alert.

"Do whatever they had to do to save their life. It's kind of hard to say do this or do that, because if they are sitting right next to the exit down here at the front and something happens all the way up in the back, maybe then they can get out the door," Capt. Akard explained.

Since the shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, the Lawton Police Department has conducted active shooter training for its officers. Akard says they have even changed their policy on responding to calls like that. At one time, they had to wait for a special tactics team to enter a building first.

"After what happened in the school in Colorado that is not the case anymore. Now, even through our policy, if we have an active shooter, once we get a minimum number of people there we are required by policy to go confront that active shooter," Akard explained.

The department even held training exercises in an abandoned theater in 2013 on how to handle a mass shooting situation. Police scoured the dark theater for the shooter and victims, while firefighters helped pull them out to safety.

Central Mall's movie theater management says they won't make any changes after the Louisiana shooting. Management at Carmike never responded to a request for comment.