SOUTH ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO. (KTVI) – In the wake of shootings at a Colorado movie theater that killed 12 and injured more than fifty others, police in St. Louis County are among a number of departments nationally that are stepping up patrols around movie houses.
There were a number of officers present, both inside and out, at Ronnie’s Cine in south county Friday night. And one patron, there to see the same Batman film that was playing during the shootings, was glad to see police. For Jonathan Klein, all this hits incredibly close to home.
Klein’s cousin, Malory Baker, went to the movies at Midnight Thursday with her father. They were in the same building where the shooting happened, watching a film in the auditorium next door.
“Not the actual theater, but they were in the same theater complex. The theater they were in had bullets coming through the walls,” he told us in the lobby of Ronnie’s theater.
He says his communication with Mallory has been via Facebook to this point. The whole thing has been overwhelming for her and her family.
“They’ve turned off the phones right now. They’re trying to sit and rest. My uncle has seizures so he’s in the hospital right now because he’s having trouble with that.”
Klein says he’s been watching coverage of what happened, and he still can’t get his head around how close this hit to his family. Receiving the news was numbing.
“You’re hoping for the best but you’re worried when they first come up and tell you that. Especially my mom because she’s kind of crying anyway and you’re saying, ‘just tell me it wasn’t them.’ It’s just crazy to know that someone that close to you was involved in something like this.”
Preventing a copy cat, and providing peace of mind to movie goers is the goal of police and their heightened patrols. Officers aren’t certain how long they’ll dedicate manpower to cinemas.
“How long do you think do you think individuals will be upset about this?” Officer Rick Eckhard said in a Friday interview. “I think it will be a while. It will be a while before everyone can feel calmer about this. Some people will react differently than others and we’ll be there as long as it takes.”
Theater chains are also adding security according to police. Chain officials at Wehrenberg, owner of Ronnie’s and several other St. Louis theaters, say the first thing they did Friday was prepare employees to step up their game.
“Asking them to be on a higher awareness of patrons coming in if they’re carrying bags we need to inspect we should do that,” Wehrenberg Chief Operating Officer Bill Menke said. “We want to check the exits and patrol the auditoriums more frequently and make everybody feel at ease.”