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Law enforcement stresses constant awareness after gun incident at Columbia movie theater

Moviegoers at the Regal Hollywood Theater had to be evacuated Tuesday night after Columbia police were advised a man was flagging down cars with a gun, and later went inside the theater, police said.

Police said they were first called to the Regal Columbia Stadium 14 Theater at 2800 Goodwin Pointe Drive just before 9:30 p.m.

Joint Communications advised a man was flagging cars down with a handgun, telling people he needed to go to the hospital because he was losing his mind, police said.

Police couldn’t find the man.

Then, about an hour later, a second call came, but this time, the caller said a man had a gun inside the theater complex, a lieutenant at the scene told ABC 17 News.

That’s when police evacuated the theater, but the alleged suspect was never found, police said.

Adam Duncan, an instructor with the Law Enforcement Training Institute, said law enforcement has to handle this kind of situation similar to an active shooter situation because there is a person with the means to cause harm to several people.

Duncan said this situation would be handled differently from an active shooter situation because the person, according to witnesses, wasn’t showing the willingness to cause harm to other people, because he had a gun but hadn’t fired it.

People still went to the movie theater the day after the incident, and Duncan said that’s what people should do. They shouldn’t be afraid to go because the chances of a similar incident happening again are slim.

Duncan also said people need to always be aware of their surroundings.

In a situation like Tuesday night’s, Duncan said people should be aware of the closest exits and of other people’s actions, including the person causing the threat.

Duncan said people should do an assessment of how far away they are from the threat and what they can use to protect themselves from it. He said that then people need to communicate to emergency personnel and to the surrounding people who may not realize there is a threat.

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