MANATEE -- Local law enforcement agencies are aware of possible concerns resulting from the massacre Friday at a midnight premiere of the new Batman movie in Colorado.
But, despite the shooting that claimed at least 12 people and wounded 58 in Colorado, Bradenton theatergoers were still buying tickets to "The Dark Knight Rises" at multiple local theaters Friday.
Law enforcement is on a heightened state of alert, but there were no special requests from local theaters for added security, said Capt. Warren Merriman, Bradenton Police spokesman.
An off-duty officer, for example, already works every Friday at Regal Oakmont 8, 4801 Cortez Road.
"They have been doing that for a long time," Merriman said.
Dave Bristow, Manatee County Sheriff's spokesman, said off-duty officers patrol all of the Main Street area in Lakewood Ranch, but not specifically where Batman was playing at the Lakewood Ranch Cinemas theater, 10715 Rodeo Drive.
"If in fact one of the theaters asks us to do some extra pa
trol, we would," Bristow said. "And we're obviously aware of the shooting, and when we're available, we will do patrol without them asking."
The Regal Entertainment Group issued a statement on its website today expressing sadness and concern for the shooting victims and their families, but offered no specifics on increased security measures at its theaters. "The security and safety of our guests and staff is always our number one priority. As is our custom, we will continue to monitor the situation and adjust our security needs as necessary," the statement said.
Many who lined up for the 3:50 p.m. Friday showing of the PG-13 "The Dark Knight Rises" at Regal Oakmont 8 said they were not worried about anything happening during their showing, but some did say they thought twice before deciding to attend.
They were nervous about a copy-cat incident, they said.
"It crossed our minds, but we are going," said Anna Maria Island vacationer Robbie Sinks who attended with his sons, Tyler, 17, and Andrew, 13, and their friend, Burrus Cox.
"It's sad and crazy," added Sinks, who is from Nashville.
John Randle of Minnesota came to the theater early to buy tickets for a Friday evening showing for his son, Jackson Randle, and friends, who are all attending a football camp at IMG Academies.
"I will tell you that Jackson said to me, 'Dad, we want to see Batman, but we're a little bit nervous,'" Randle said.
Randle encouraged the boys to not succumb to fear.
"My view is that someone was ready to shoot and that's where he was," Randle said.
Bradenton's Mike Carleton and his daughter, Alessandra, 12, a King Middle School student, attended the 3:50 p.m. showing and said they were not nervous at all.
"The odds that it would happen here are pretty great," Carleton said. "But, what also helps here in Florida are our gun laws regarding concealed weapons. It makes it possible that an average citizen in the theater could stop such a shooter."
Carmike Cinemas, which controls the Royal Palm 20 theaters on 53rd Avenue East in Manatee County, also issued a statement that said, "We pride ourselves in taking every reasonable measure to ensure the safety and enjoyment of all of our guests.
"Carmike Cinemas posts a policy in view of guests that informs them of our right to inspect the contents of any backpack, package, or bag prior to admission. Weapons of any type are strictly not allowed in Carmike Cinemas."
Capt. Paul Sutton with the Sarasota Police Department said officers who work in the downtown area of Sarasota have been instructed "to direct more attention to Hollywood 20."
Sutton said two walking off-duty officers patrol the area. The patrol zone officer was also told to increase security near the theater, he said.
Regal Hollywood Stadium 20, 1993 Main St., Sarasota, has a private security team, Sutton said.
Just before Bradenton's John Paul purchased his ticket Friday at Regal Oakmont 8, he said most people in Florida wear shorts and a T-shirt to the movies so someone carrying two 40-caliber Glock handguns, a pump shotgun and an assault-style rifle would be noticed.
About a dozen members of the Chicago Fire soccer team were at Regal Oakmont 8 at 3:50 p.m. for "The Dark Knight Rises," along with their coach, Chris Brisson.
"I have to go with the percentages and say we will be safe watching the movie today," Brisson said.