Batman Gun-Toter: What About The Movie?

Thomas MacMillan PhotoSgt. Rob Criscuolo had reason to believe he might be walking into a Batman sequel—not to the film, but to the deadly real-life confrontation at the film’s Colorado screening.

Criscuolo was the top cop on the scene at downtown New Haven’s Criterion Cinemas Tuesday night when patrons saw an ambitious local lawyer named Sung-Ho Hwang carry a loaded Glock semiautomatic pistol as he went to a screening of the new Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises.

Soon some 15 cops entered the theater under Criscuolo’s direction. They were well aware that on July 20, another gun-toting patron at an Aurora, Colo., screening of the same film went on a deadly rampage.

Thoughts of that rampage ran through Sgt. Rob Criscuolo’s mind as he dispatched some 15 cops into the Batman screening. Especially when the smiling Glock-toting patron ignored his and terrified onlookers’ shouted calls to show his hands.

In the end, no one got hurt Tuesday night. New Haven’s downtown Criterion Cinemas did not host a sequel to Aurora.

To hear one of the drama’s main actors, Criscuolo, tell it, the police had reason to worry the evening might have turned out otherwise. In an Independent interview, Criscuolo, who confronted the gun-toting patron while directing back-up cops, offered a step-by-step account of the event. He said the patron—attorney Hwang—repeatedly and consciously ignored commands to show his hands in a tense, potentially dangerous situation.

Criscuolo served some 500 search warrants in a previous stint on New Haven police’s narcotics unit. “I’d put it up there” in terms of tense standoffs, Criscuolo said of Tuesday night’s confrontation.

For his part, Hwang, a 46-year-old immigration attorney in line to head the Connecticut Bar Association—whose clients have included members of an alleged Korean sex-trafficking ring busted in town—denied disobeying any police commands at the Criterion. At a Wednesday press conference he turned the Batman incident into an indictment of New Haven for being dangerous. (Read about that here.) He said he carried the gun for safety when walking back home after the movie; Hwang lives near the theater in a downtown condo he bought in 2010 for $370,000. He proclaimed himself not guilty of the breach of peace and interfering charges against him.

Hwang read a prepared statement at that press conference. He didn’t take reporters’ questions. He couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday for this article. His attorney, Charles Tiernan, was asked about Criscuolo’s account. “I don’t want to get into details about what [Hwang] did,” Tiernan said. “All I’ll say is that he did what he was asked to do.”

Visions Of Aurora

Criscuolo went into detail in the interview Thursday.

The sergeant, who’s 44, was supervising patrol shifts downtown and in Dixwell and Newhallville Tuesday night. His shift was to end at 10:30. But shortly after 10 he found himself responding to a call at the Criterion: Witnesses had reported “an Asian male, white T-shirt, blue jeans, in one of the theaters. He had a gun in the small of the back,” Criscuolo recalled.

Close to 20 officers responded from different city precincts as well as Yale’s force. By the time Criscuolo arrived, some of the officers had already searched the cinema’s Theater 1, where “The Watch” was showing. Hwang wasn’t there. Witnesses had seen him enter either that theater or Theater 2 right beside it in the cinema complex’s rear southern wing. Theater 2 was showing the Batman movie.

Criscuolo gathered the officers for a quick chat in the hallway before entering Theater 2.

“I slowed things down and made sure everyone was together,” he said. “I made sure we had enough personnel. I told them we would go in, control the crowd, make sure we saw everyone’s hands.”

You couldn’t help but think of Aurora, he said.

“There wasn’t a discussion about Colorado,” he said. “I’m sure it was on everyone’s mind.” It was on his mind. “In light of that tragedy, our response needed to be immediate and professional.”

Criscuolo stationed a couple of officers outside the theater while he led the others inside. It was “dim” in the theater, house lights on; the movie hadn’t started. Maybe 15 patrons were scattered in the room.

“Police!” Criscuolo called out. “Everyone put your hands up!”

Everyone immediately complied, he said. Except for one man sitting by himself in the middle of the aisle, closer to the screen than everyone else.

“I could immediately see it was a male with dark hair and a white T-shirt,” Criscuolo said.

The other patrons “turned and raised their arms and looked toward us.” The man in front “did nothing. He looked straight ahead. He never acknowledged our presence.

“It was odd. There were 15 or so officers with their guns drawn.”

“Show Him Your Hands!”

So Criscuolo made his way down the aisle.

He approached to within 5 feet of the man, who would turn out to be Hwang. Criscuolo resumed shouting to him, maybe six more times: “Police! Let me see your hands.”

Hwang continued to ignore “my presence,” Criscuolo said. Then, “he finally looked at me and he laughed.

“He had his phone in his left hand. He goes right back and looks toward his phone.”

The atmosphere grew increasingly tense in the theater. Criscuolo repeated the command. Hwang “turned towards” him once more, smiled once more, then returned to looking at his phone, according to Criscuolo.

“Show him your hands!” members of the crowd yelled at Hwang. “Show him your hands!”

Officers escorted the patrons sitting closest to Hwang out of the area, in order to remove them from possible harm.

Then Criscuolo ordered a nearby officer, Leonardo Soto, to “go non-lethal”: to put his gun in his holster, take out his taser instead. Criscuolo already had his own gun trained on Hwang; “if this was a situation where we could use non-lethal, I wanted it available.”

After several more requests to show his hands, Hwang “finally looks towards us and acknowledges us,” Criscuolo said. “He raises his arms not above his head, to about his eye level. I can see he just has a cell phone in his hand. There’s nothing in his hands besides a cellphone.”

At that point, with Soto’s taser and another officer’s gun at the ready, Criscuolo put his own weapon in his holster, then moved in on Hwang. He “got control of his hands” and, with the help of a Yale cop, handcuffed him.

“I put my hand in the small of his back,” Criscuolo said. “The gun came immediately out of the holster, and the holster fell on the ground. It wasn’t secured to his belt or person. It was just stuck in the small of his back.”

It was a .40-caliber Glock semiautomatic. It was loaded.

Hwang didn’t resist as the cops detained him, according to Criscuolo. They escorted Hwang into the hallway; he started laughing, as fearful patrons looked on.

“The scene was chaotic. I can only imagine if my family was in the movie theater and I wasn’t there, what they would think,” Criscuolo recalled.

In the lobby, Hwang finally spoke as he laughed, Criscuolo said. “Will we get to finish,” he asked, “watching the movie?”

The “Real Issue”

The answer was no. The officers brought him to the theater manager’s officers. They got ahold of witnesses. They determined that Hwang owned his .40-caliber Glock legally.

Eventually officers escorted Hwang to police headquarters, where detectives conducted a largely fruitless interview. He was released with a promise to appear in court.

In his eight-paragraph statement read to the press the next day, Hwang called the charges against him “baseless.” He said the arrest “threatens our constitution[al] right to bear arms.” The “real issue,” he said, why “law abiding citizens feel that they need to carry a weapon.” Police emphasized that the charges did not contest his right to bear arms, but rather his response to the cops dealing with a potentially dangerous public incident.

In the aftermath of his arrest, many in New Haven—including people in positions of authority—learned for the first time that Connecticut has become a state where it’s legal to carry unconcealed weapons in public. Private businesses can ban them from the premises. The Criterion technically has such a policy but didn’t post it.

Hwang Wednesday did credit the police for “act[ing] very well under a tough situation. They were very professional and understanding once they discovered that I had a valid state carry permit,” he said.

Paul Bass PhotoOn that question, he and Criscuolo agreed. Criscuolo (pictured) repeatedly praised the officers for their handling of the incident.

“We had rookies. We had veterans. We had officers from different parts of the city all work together,” he said. “They let me take command. They responded to everything—they took a stressful situation in a crowd and handled it very well. I was proud to work with them.”

“It’s not what happened,” Criscuolo concluded. “It’s what didn’t happen.”

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posted by: Wildwest on August 9, 2012  6:10pm

why is it in such a blue state that people dont just stay home all the time in fear of the criminals that are bred here?

cops themselves mostly carry when off duty, I’m ready to myself since the mayor cant get this town in order. 

what I want to know is why didnt the mayor hold a press conference when his own cops shot off guns after DRINKING in a parking lot on state st??? this guy did nothing wrong, in fact I hope more citizens start carrying and arming themselves after this fiasco.

posted by: Cheryl38 on August 9, 2012  6:10pm

The police were not aware that Mr. Hwang had a right to carry a concealed weapon with a permit so they put “resisting arrest” to cover themselves after they already arrested him.  What a shame.  I hope he sues the Police Department.

posted by: Paul Wessel on August 9, 2012  6:41pm

The more I read about ths the more I think Hwang is just looking for attention.  He’s lucky no one got hurt.  It was incredibly disrespectful of the victims in Aurora, the people who were there to watch the movie and the cops who have real work to do.

posted by: lrnoff on August 9, 2012  7:31pm

Mr. Sung-Ho Hwang sounds like quite a piece of work.
I am with the mayor on this one. Just because what you are doing is legal doesn’t mean you get to totally do away with intelligence and common sense.

posted by: LESGTINCT on August 9, 2012  9:45pm

For those who don’t think what Hwang did was intelligent or in good common sense, should think a little more with an open mind. Hwang is exercizing his Constitutional right just like one is protected against unlawful search and seizure by police. If we start forgeting about our Constitutional rights and not excersizing them then we lose them.  Most people in CT haven’t excersized their right to legally carry and therefore thinks it is not intelligent or lacks common sense when someone does. It seems strange to them and strange is scary. Our fore fathers made the right to bear arms in our Constitution for a reason and our military has fought to keep it for a reason. Don’t forget it.

posted by: horseraddish on August 9, 2012  10:31pm

Everything about this case is stupid. The fact that extra police were posted at the theatre. That Hwang chose to wear a gun so soon after the shooting. That the cops behaved the way they did. That Hwang behaved so cavalier. I can understand police culture, paranoid and militant, but I can’t understand Hwang’s motives here.

posted by: Jones Gore on August 9, 2012  10:53pm

@Cheryl38 the interference is for not obeying police. When police give instructions we are supposed to obey. That is for our safety and for theirs.

I don’t think the city can pass a city ordinance to ban legally concealed hand guns. But the Criterion and any establishment can refuse someone entry because they are carrying a hand gun.

posted by: ISR on August 9, 2012  11:16pm

As someone said to me, “I’m sure some of the people who are saying that Hwang had every right to carry, and it was ok to ignore the police were the same people who said Malik Jones would be alive if he had only listened to the police.”

I can’t confirm that for sure, but I searched on some old threads from the NHI and I did find:

“Jones was a product of his surroundings and would be alive, or at least not killed that night had he simply stopped when pursued by police.”

“I was always taught that when when the police lights say “pull over”, you pull over. You take your ticket, you get arrested, whatever the case may be, you settle it in the courts later.”

“When you see lights and sirens, you’re supposed to pull over.”

“How long will we continue this nonsense. Malik Jones was a criminal who failed to stop when ordered to. The fault for his death is his own. ...”

And these are from just one thread.

What’s ironic is that Hugh Keefe was involved in that case, defending the cops. American justice.

posted by: Nathan on August 9, 2012  11:49pm

The only thing I would add to horseraddish’s good quick analysis is that whenever I see public officials making efforts to release huge quantities of rhetoric - the mayor and police making press conferences and the officer speaking at length “on the record” to the reporter - it sends me a message that there may be little substance or law behind the matter of their position.  I’ve been a long supporter of law enforcement personnel in general, and I recognize that they are criticized for almost any choices they make, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t seen them at times exaggerate to make a point.  We have one side of a story for the most part; that alone should make people consider the need for more information before reaching conclusions.

Although the police concerns were raised - whether justified or not - because of the recent tragic attack in Colorado, and although Mr. Hwang may or may not have interacted well with the officers, this was not an active shooter situation, nor was there any indication it would turn into one, based upon the “facts” released.  I know when I was once confronted by officers with hands on their weapons, I certainly was inclined to move very slowly and obey their orders until they determined I was not the person they were chasing, but every situation is different.  This is all speculation and the matter will be ultimately be decided in court, not press conferences or the web pages of NHI and other media.

posted by: epoc on August 10, 2012  2:05am

So I am sitting here reading about how a man has been charged for doing nothing wrong. He seems to have been suspected by those who do not know the law, and arrested by those knowing the laws…

I respect his right to defend himself, and after what happened in Colorado it should seem clear that someone like this man may have turned the tides to what unfolded and saved lives. This man is a hero in his own right taking it upon himself to look over himself and ultimately the audience. There are resources available to those who are afraid of firearms. I was afraid of the dark until I turned on the light…

posted by: Walt on August 10, 2012  6:48am

Good job cops/

Hwang is just a publicity hound looking for free advertising for his practice

He succeeded but imo should be ashamed and have known better/

Deserves whatever legal charge can be proven.

posted by: anne s. on August 10, 2012  6:59am

what i find most disturbing about this account is hwang’s laughter. it seems inappropriate and odd and does contribute to the impression that this was a stunt he staged — but for what purpose? to make a name for himself? to promote his pro-gun agenda? i can’t imagine that it helps his standing in the community as an attorney or earns him respect from his colleagues.

posted by: JustAnotherTaxPayer on August 10, 2012  7:02am

This will be settled in the courts, but to question a person’s character when ignoring the logic of the situation is unsettling.

In New Haven, in the past 30 years, with the onset of randomn and gang oriented violence (1000 murders, 3000 assaulted with firearms, and a return to the statistics from 1986 through 1989 is ocurring) which has gone unabated by the city managers, unless they were benefiting in a national decrease of violent crime stats resulting as to the unprecedented upswing in the economy that occurred in the nineties, would you be in fear going into the downtown area late on a weekend night?

Tne national news coverage of the tragedy in Colorado also was explosive, and people should be uneasy and wary on attending that film at this point as copy cats can surface.That news coverage could not be manipulated the way news coverage of New Haven’s dangers are. So one individual with a heightened sense of fear, and very well justified did the right thing; they called. But if that individual had a true understanding of the randomn violence in New Haven works they would not come out of their home. The danger from the number of murderers that roam the street’s of New Haven every day would astound most, as the greater problem for the police is the number of unsolved murders they have, each one allowing a killer to wander around the city capable at any time repeating their murderous inclinations.

So if you lived downtown, and you had a permit to carry, and you were going to walk through streets where shootings and murders have occurred, just to try and see a movie would you not carry a defense weapon?

One more issue that I find “scary”. If I had been in that theaterand 15 people came in with guns in their hands preparing to fire I would have crawled under a seat. One accidental shot and all those guns would have fired in a panic response, with bullets hitting whatever and whoever they were pointed at. Just a suggesstion, in a similiar situation in the future, and sad to say this will repeat, the supervisor in charge should designate one or two individuals, one on point, and a second to cover point to be the only people with their handguns out of their holsters.This would eliminate the chances of innocent peoplebeing struck.

posted by: Tommy Hobbes on August 10, 2012  8:37am

If Sung-Ho Hwang is disrespecting the victims of Aurora, then 2nd amendment objectors are disrespecting every U.S. Armed Forces veteran, POW, and KIA. Instead of preaching from your ivory towers, you should take the oath of enlistment first.

    I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…

So think about it, if you attack the constitution (like many on this page), what does that make you?

posted by: robn on August 10, 2012  8:54am

The founders didn’t make the 1st amendment “Use common sense” because their common sense told them that people would generally use common sense. In this case, they were wrong.

posted by: LESGTINCT on August 10, 2012  9:01am

It does not matter if Hwang set this up.  It is his Constitutional right to carry a pistol or revolver.  Thinking it is not good common sense is saying it is not good common sense to excersize your Constitutional right.  If we do not excersize it we WILL lose it.  This country has no fascination with guns we have a fascination with freedom and our Constitution.  There is a reason our fore fathers put the right to bear arms in our Constitution.  If you think this is scary wait until we, as citizens, are disarmed, like England where citizens have no right to defend themselves.  Do you think criminals are going to stop using guns because it’s illegal?  We lose this right then others will follow and the Constitution will mean nothing.  The people in that movie theatre should have left if they didn’t like it.  Maybe he could have watched the movie in peace.

posted by: Sagimore on August 10, 2012  9:17am

I support anyone carrying a gun if its legal, but I think this Atty was trying to cause a scene. How did people know he was carrying in the first place unless he made it visible at which point its not concealed anymore.

posted by: LorcaNotOrca on August 10, 2012  9:44am

I don’t think anyone’s contesting the fact that he had a right to carry a gun. But you know what? The people in the theater didn’t know he had a permit, the cops didn’t know he had a permit; they were probably afraid that he was going to do something bad..

Add to that the fact that the cops show up to get a guy who allegedly is carrying a gun in a movie theater to see Batman - after what happened in Colorado - who then ignores cops requests to see hands and then laughs at them.
Sure they found out he had his gun legally - so did the nut in Colorado - but does his behavior not seem odd? Sounds like the behavior of a loon to me.

If he had nothing to hide and nothing to be afraid of, why didn’t he just comply with what was happening and sort the whole thing out rationally instead of leading to a standoff. He clearly had an agenda in his mind and wanted to get attention. He provoked this incident himself, then blames the police for what happened.

posted by: LESGTINCT on August 10, 2012  11:14am

jhonn_m you’re argument is not valid.  It doesn’t matter what those people thought.  Hwang has the Constitutional Right to carry.  Those people’s peace can not be breached. The fact that the police did not know or not if he had a permit is also irrelevant. Their peace can not be breached either and they should have only asked to see his permit to carry.  Just thinking something is going to happen without any evidence (carrying a gun is not evidence)does not give the police grounds to arrest. Maybe the police will just start arresting people because they think they will be terrorists? How does that sound? You take the job as a PO knowing that it is dangerous and you will be put in dangerous situations if you can’t handle that then you shouldn’t be a PO. What happened in Colorado has no bearing on the right to bear arms in CT nor does it supercede someone’s Constitutional Rights. If Hwang was legally carrying a gun then he does not have to comply with Police to put his hands up and as I have said before both cases will be thrown out.

posted by: LESGTINCT on August 10, 2012  11:22am

“A free people ought not only be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government”  George Washington

“Those who would sacrifice freedom for security shall not have, nor do they deserve either one” Thomas Jefferson

posted by: robn on August 10, 2012  11:29am

One does not have a Constitutional right to ignore and then laugh at police who are lawfully requesting to see a gun permit.

posted by: Noteworthy on August 10, 2012  11:53am

This account leaves me breathless. Visions of Aurora? Really? The only thing missing is “we rush in when you rush out.” How about this version?

Cops know who they are looking for - easily identifiable by so few patrons and probably nobody else who looks like him. Two cops enter and walk up to him, ask him if he has a gun, and ask him to accompany them outside so they can talk. He does so and they straighten it all out in 5 minutes. No drama. No breathless accounts or visions of some other tragedy. Just cool, calm, collected behavior.

posted by: LorcaNotOrca on August 10, 2012  12:14pm

I think my argument is totally valid. Like I said, I’m not arguing against anyone’s right to bear arms, but in light of what happened in Colorado, people see a gun and they get nervous.

Did the police act a little excessively? Maybe.

But by and large, if I’m out and about and I see a civilian with a gun on them, I’m not just going to think “Oh I’m sure he’s got a permit; it’ll be fine.”
The cops can’t assume that either, and they have to err on the side of safety. A guy with a gun in a Batman movie, in light of recent events, is a red flag.
If he ended up being a crazy-pants and shot up a few people, then everyone would blame the cops and witnesses for not being on top of it.

Like I said, I’m not attacking anyone’s right to carry. But in a confusing situation when for all the cops know, you’re about to shoot up a bunch of people, why wouldn’t you just cooperate and say, “I’ve got a permit, it’s for protection.” Crisis averted.

I don’t see why that’s not a valid point. Better this happened than another shoot-up, right?

posted by: LESGTINCT on August 10, 2012  12:16pm

Actually, Robn, he does.  It’s called Freedom of Speech and lawfully requesting a permit does not exist.  If you request something it is voluntary and you are doing it freely of your own will.  All the police can do here is ask to see a valid permit to carry pistol or revolvers.  If he does not have one then he can be arrested for carrying a pistol without a permit.  Carrying a gun in of itself is not prima facia evidence (evidence at first hand) that a crime is being, has been or is about to be committed.  If the police do not have reason to believe a crime has been, is about to be or is being committed then they can not detain or frisk for weapons (Terry vs Ohio). So, even though a tragedy happened in Colorado, it does not provide evidence that Hwang was going to commit a crime here in a CT movie theatre.

posted by: LorcaNotOrca on August 10, 2012  12:19pm

Also, “Let’s start arresting people for thinking they’re terrorists.”

That’s way far out from what I’m saying.

Thinking someone might be a terrorist based on a hunch or how they look is completely different from SEEING a gun on someone and making sure they don’t use it to kill people in a public place.

A gun in and of itself is not evidence, sure. But police do have to be on top of it to make sure a person’s carrying it legally, yes. Especially if citizens call it in for concern of safety.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on August 10, 2012  12:35pm

“It is his Constitutional right to carry a pistol or revolver.  Thinking it is not good common sense is saying it is not good common sense to excersize your Constitutional right.  If we do not excersize it we WILL lose it.”

What is your view on the Westboro Baptist Church?

When the Westboro Baptist Church protested a US soldier’s funeral who died by an IED with signs that read “Thank God for IEDs”, what do you think of that? They are within the First Amendment to do it, so it is therefore a display of good common sense?

The grave mistake that LESGTINCT and others are making is equating minimum compliance with the law as good, moral behavior. Merely not doing something that is illegal is an immensley low standard for determining a person’s character.

Mr. Hwang acted as a selfish, ignorant, inconsiderate jerk when he knowingly open carried a handgun into the Batman movie 2 weeks after the Aurora, Colorado massacre. Attempting to describe him as a hero, or his actions as good common sense are woefully misguided endeavors.

I don’t know what other’s opinions are, but I would have had no problem with Hwang carrying his handgun into the theatre if it were concealed. I would also have no problem if he didn’t realized his gun was visible and when the police showed up he complied with their orders, explained the situation, and apologized to the theatre patrons for his lapses in judgment. However, if the police account of how Hwang acted is accurate then I am glad he was arrested and I hope the charges stick. I also hope we see some law charges in CT when it comes to open carry (lawful concealed carry of handguns I have no problem with).

posted by: LESGTINCT on August 10, 2012  12:44pm

Yes, police can come and investigate the complaint but they can not arrest Hwang, who was legally carrying a gun, which is what happened here.  Seeing a gun means nothing (as you have agreed) as CT is an open carry state.  Hwang’s Constitutional Right’s were violated.  I am sorry if seeing a gun scares you.  Maybe you should excersize your right to bear arms and familiarize yourself with handguns and handgun laws.  Citizens who do not will be scared but it is scarier when those rights are taken away because you don’t.

posted by: LESGTINCT on August 10, 2012  12:52pm

John Hopkins to you I say, I may not agree with how you excersize your rights, but I will defend that right to the end.

Are you saying that the Constitution should only apply in certain situtaions?  sounds like it to me.  So, who will determine who gets what rights when?

posted by: streever on August 10, 2012  1:04pm

It sounds more and more like the police did the right thing, and Mr. Hwang did not.

Perhaps there are some damning accusations forthcoming, but seeing Mr. Hwang to credit them with professionalism makes me wonder why the heck he didn’t raise his hands right away.

When 15 officers march into a building and tell everyone to raise their hands, you raise your hands.

Was this a libertarian trying to assert his right to own a gun, and committing civil disobedience in order to draw attention to his desire for looser gun control laws? If so, he certainly didn’t win any support from me.

I’d still like to see his side of the story in full, but I think having held a press conference, and having issue a statement praising the officers, he needs to hurry it up if he is going to allege that the officers did the wrong thing.

By their—and his—account, it sounds like NHPD behaved professionally and went beyond the call of duty, considering the situation.

Good job NHPD.

With that said, I’m really uncomfortable with the Mayor’s statements. “Just because something is legal doesn’t make it right”—yes indeed, Mr. Mayor. Having the gun is not where Mr. Hwang went wrong—by our laws—refusing to comply with an understandably concerned police force is where he went wrong.

If you are under valid suspicion by the police, it is illegal to refuse to show your hands. This is the issue. Mr. Hwang should have been as professional, courteous, and respectful of the police as he himself claims they were with him. Shame on him.

posted by: LESGTINCT on August 10, 2012  1:08pm

Also, I want to add that it is your opinion that he met the lawful minimum and your opinion is wrong.  Hwang was well within his Constitutional Right. You say you are for concealed carry? So how do you define that?  My holster conceals my gun,is that enough? Maybe I will wear a small shirt and wear a 45 caliber handgun, is that concealed? Maybe I will cover the top half of my gun and have the barrel sticking out, is that concealed?  There is a reason why CT is open carry.  Think about it.

posted by: LESGTINCT on August 10, 2012  1:21pm

So Steever, violating someone’s Constitutional Rights and arresting someone is professional? Wow, I would hate to see unprofessional.  Also, there is no suspicion here.  It is not illegal to carry a handgun in this situation.  So, does Hwang have to show his hands then?  Why is this attention to get looser gun control laws?  Hwang did nothing wrong nor was he being disobedient.  When I walk down the street or speak freely am I trying to get attention for looser speach or search and seizure freedoms?

posted by: CityWatcher on August 10, 2012  1:26pm

streever-  When 15 officers march into a building and tell everyone to raise their hands, you raise your hands.”

Really?  Like when they go in with automatic weapons to check ID’s? 

The man broke no laws. He was not required to comply with anything more then being asked to leave.  If he refused, then he was breaking the law. The whole non-compliant issue is further disputed by Sgt Criscolo’s account. Sitting there with a cell phone in his hand hardly constitutes a threat.  Then again, this is NHPD and we all know about how threatened they are by cell phones.

posted by: streever on August 10, 2012  2:21pm

It wasn’t my original assessment that the police were professional. “They were very professional and understanding”—Mr. Hwang, after being arrested

Do you think Mr. Hwang was wrong? On what basis do you make this assertion?

I held off on judging the police behavior, waiting to hear both sides. The police AND the suspect both allege that they were professional. No one present at the theater disagrees.

I’m sorry, but the law is quite clear. To carry a gun, you must have a permit, and be able to present that permit. Ergo, simply by having a gun, you are suspect unless you can present a permit.

It is no different if you drive a car, or if you hold a festival, or go fishing. Fishers need to be able to present a permit.

At the very least, Mr. Hwang’s behavior—by his own account to date—establishes that he behaved in a way which made his fellow theater-goers feel endangered, scared many, and wasted taxpayer money—all because he couldn’t present a permit, in keeping with the law you claim to respect.

I’m not buying it.

posted by: William Kurtz on August 10, 2012  2:32pm


If I’m decoding your username correctly, my guess is that you are, or have been, a law enforcement officer. If that’s the case– please explain how you would have reacted in a similar situation, responding to a report of a suspicious armed man and then confronting that same likely-armed individual who refused to promptly comply with a lawful instruction from a police officer.

posted by: CityWatcher on August 10, 2012  2:43pm

There is no such law that requires someone to randomly produce a pistol permit absent a law being broken.  Just as a police office cannot randomly stop a car to merely see if you happen to have a drivers license.

Also, i’d like to know what behavior he exhibited to warrant anyone being justified in drawing weapons on him?  Talking on a cell phone? Sitting in a theatre?  The bottom line is the law is the law and he broke zero. Maybe if the powers that be actually let NHPD go after criminals instead of protecting them people wouldn’t feel the need to go to a movie armed.

Also, try researching how many gun free places turn into target practice for criminals, such as churches etc. But we all know, putting a no guns allowed sign or statute in place will stop people from breaking the law and shooting people.

posted by: streever on August 10, 2012  2:52pm

I see your point, but the behavior is absolutely not standard in New Haven. The witnesses presumably called in good faith, and the police had no way of knowing that the half a dozen people calling in for help were not in danger.

So, they attempted to verify the safety or lack thereof, and Mr. Hwang unreasonably refused to even acknowledge their presence.

You create a straw man with your assertion that the police “Randomly” demanded his permit. There was nothing “random” about this at all.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on August 10, 2012  2:53pm


According to your argument, exercising one’s constitutional rights demonstrate good common sense. When Westboro Baptist Church protested Military Funerals it was protected under the First Amendment. So when the Westboro Baptist Church exercises their Constitutional rights, does it make their actions examples of good common sense? Or are there separate rubrics, which may overlap in some places, for determining Constitutionality and “good common sense”?

Acccording to you, the choice to open carry a handgun into the Batman movie 2 weeks after the Colorado massacre is a display of good common sense because it is protected under the Second Amendment (and various State regulations)?

According to you, “Citizens who do not [familiarize themselves with handgun laws] will be scared [when they see someone open carrying a handgun] but it is scarier when those rights are taken away because you don’t [know the law].”
Do you have the same opinion about this law, which restricts Westboro Baptist Church’s ability to exercise their First Amendment rights?

Would you like to see this law repealed because it infringes on Constitutional Rights?

If not, then why aren’t you using that same nuanced analysis to evaluate the context of this story?

I can understand that you think Hwang was unlawfully arrested. What I don’t understand is how you think Hwang’s choices demonstrate “good common sense”. I am in favor of protecting even the most loathsome and immoral exercises of Constitutional Rights, but I am also in favor of accurately describing that behavior, especially if it lacks common sense and decency. I am also in favor of reviewing laws and passing new laws to restrict rights if they’re reasonable. In this case, Hwang may have been wrongfully arrested, but that shouldn’t influence our evaluation of his choices, which were irresponsible and inconsiderate. I would like to see the open carry laws reviewed and I would support businesses putting up signs banning open carried handguns on their premises.

Make the argument that you don’t believe the police, you don’t believe their charges are legitimate, and you believe he was acting within his constitutional rights, but please do not argue that his choices demonstrated “good common sense” because that may encourage more people to act in this inconsiderate way. We should uphold good moral and common sense behavior, not behavior that encourages people to open carry a firearm into a Batman movie 2 weeks after massacre.

posted by: LESGTINCT on August 10, 2012  3:39pm

Streever, Hwang can not be detained for openly carrying and is not required to show a permit, there is no law that says so. John Hopkins, you are stating an opinion which I don’t agree with. So, it’s useless to argue the point. However, Hwang was not breaking the law and was within his Constitutional Right. That is not arguable it is fact. Colorado means nothing, there is no Constitutional exception because it happened. 9/11 happened but are we going to lock up all muslims? Because you are scared of someone openly carrying doesn’t negate the Constitution. If you don’t like it then leave the theatre.

posted by: streever on August 10, 2012  4:49pm

What law am I breaking when a police officer pulls me over and requests my license and registration while I am driving and he has a reason to be suspicious?

Is there a reason you didn’t respond to Kurtz?

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on August 10, 2012  4:58pm


Having reread your posts I realize I misread one of your comments.

“It is his Constitutional right to carry a pistol or revolver.  Thinking it is not good common sense is saying it is not good common sense to excersize your Constitutional right.”

I took this to mean that you think that exercising one’s rights is automatically good common sense, but that isn’t necessarily what you meant. I still stand behind my points, but rather than directing them towards you, I would redirect my questions to people like epoc, who call Hwang a “hero” based on his actions.

Regardless of whether or not he was within his rights, he acted inconsiderately by 1) open carrying a handgun into 2) the Batman movie 3) 2 weeks after the Colorado massacre. We don’t live in a vacuum, these points are relevant to judging the man’s character. They may have no legal relevance, but they’re important when describing the story and the actions of the person. We live in a world now where the media sensationalizes and histerically floods the public with fear-inducing reporting and dialogue. Any decent, aware person considers this throughout their day. Inconsiderate and irresponsible people do not.

posted by: epoc on August 10, 2012  7:26pm

They usually only pull you over if you are breaking the law…Law breakers are asked for identification…if no law is being broken it is within your right to refuse handing over your identification :P Know your laws

posted by: nahavener on August 10, 2012  8:06pm


posted by: Jawaka on August 10, 2012  9:34pm

Hwang was not at fault for carrying his gun if he had a license to carry it.

He’s an idiot however for choosing to completely ignore, even ridiculing the room full of police who were asking him to put his hands over his head. 

How were the police supposed to know that he was legally carrying if he ignores them when they confront him.  Doy you people really believe that after the shooting in the theater in Colorado that police should have just ignored a report of another man with a gun in a theater?

posted by: Edward_H on August 10, 2012  10:44pm

“Yes, police can come and investigate the complaint but they can not arrest Hwang, who was legally carrying a gun, which is what happened here.”
Please correct me if I am wrong but in the case of Goldberg v the Town of Glastonbury the court seems to disagree : Goldberg.pdf .

posted by: Edward_H on August 10, 2012  11:03pm

@Jones Gore

“I don’t think the city can pass a city ordinance to ban legally concealed hand guns. But the Criterion and any establishment can refuse someone entry because they are carrying a hand gun.”

Currently New Britian , CT bans concealed carry :

posted by: Edward_H on August 10, 2012  11:15pm

For his part, Hwang, a 46-year-old immigration attorney in line to head the Connecticut Bar Association—whose clients have included members of an alleged Korean sex-trafficking ring busted in town—denied disobeying any police commands at the Criterion.

Paul Bass : Just what does this man’s clients have to do with this story? It is comments like this inserted into the news that give people ammunition to say the media tries to manipulate the public. If this man were a doctor who worked in the Norther Correctional Institution in Somers, CT would you print that his patients have included Steven Hayes and other murderers and rapists?

posted by: epoc on August 11, 2012  2:31pm

So you are saying that everyone is a product of the media…
The news is so inherently bad that it amazes me. only bad news is good news to them. Which may be a product of viewer response…i dont know. You can choose to have your own views on something jonathan you do not need to be told whats right and wrong by the media…to them 90% of of things are bad…I know nothing i say will change your opinion but try and think outside the box for a bit. I will end saying that it was his fault for letting his gun be seen, brandishing a gun is a crime, but i am always for less government law than more government law. Maybe thie is just me being a college student but it is something i agree with. But being a compeditive shooter i know both sidesnofnthe gun argument and i will say that before i had IDPA as a hobby life was not as fun. it teaches you respect, dicipline, determination and most importantly the universal laws of firearm manipulation. My advice is dont knock it until you try it.

posted by: CityWatcher on August 11, 2012  10:33pm

“Brandish” means to “to wave, shake, or exhibit in a menacing, challenging, or exultant way; to flourish.” 

Again, merely carrying in the open is not illegal, or brandishing for.that matter.

posted by: eastrocklifer on August 12, 2012  2:27pm

I’m guessing that everybody was just upset that he was talking on his cell phone during a movie.  Makes you want to call the cops on the guy, hm?

posted by: Edward_H on August 12, 2012  3:53pm


” brandishing a gun is a crime,”

Not in Connecticut. If you believe it is please show us the statute.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on August 12, 2012  3:58pm

Here is how the state can control who can carry a firearm.Look at what they do in New York.And The Supreme court can not stop this.New York has Five Types of hand gun Licenses.


CARRY BUSINESS LICENSE: This is an unrestricted class of license which permits the carrying of a handgun concealed on the person.

LIMITED CARRY BUSINESS LICENSE: IS A RESTRICTED TYPE OF LICENSE. The licensee may only carry handguns indicated on the license in accordance with the specific limitations listed thereon.

SPECIAL CARRY LICENSE: Is valid for the business name, address and handguns listed on the front of this license, only while the licensee has in his possession a valid basic county license issued according to the provisions of article 400 of the N.Y.S. Penal law.

CARRY GUARD LICENSE: (SECURITY GUARDS, ETC.) Applications for this type of license must be made with the documentation provided by a company’s Gun Custodian. It is issued only for the handgun listed on the license. The handgun may be carried only while the licensee is actively engaged in employment for the company whose name appears on the license, and/or while licensee is in transit directly to or from residence and place of employment.

Read the rest and remember Chief Esserman worked in New York and knows this.

posted by: Jawaka on August 12, 2012  10:26pm

Legal or not there’s still no excuse to ignore and even laugh at the police when they approached him and asked him to put his hands up.

posted by: Mister Jones on August 13, 2012  3:46pm

Paul’s references to Hwang’s background as a lawyer and bar officer are highly relevant and add to the story, as does the mention of his criminal clients.  I don’t get Edward_H’s complaint.

Spend enough time in criminal court, and most lawyers know that if you don’t obey the cops’ commands you are going to get charged with interfering.  And most of us know enough to keep our hands in view during all police encounters, like when getting pulled over for a traffic violation, etc.  So the fact that Hwang has criminal clients speaks volumes.

posted by: Edward_H on August 13, 2012  7:55pm

@“Mister” Jones

“Paul’s references to Hwang’s background as a lawyer and bar officer are highly relevant”
In what manner?
“and add to the story,”
You are 100% correct. It adds to the story. It adds irrelevant and inflammatory information to the article.
” as does the mention of his criminal clients. I don’t get Edward_H’s complaint “
My “complaint” was originally posted to Paul Bass. Who I am sure understands what I am referring to since he has faced this issue in the past.( i.e. posting a murder victims Facebook picture and then changing it later.) The final outcome of the “Korean Sex trafficking case” was not cited in this article or in the link provided. I will not assume his clients are convicted criminals. I don’t assume every person charged with a crime is guilty. If I were to do so then if Officer David Runlett carried out his threat to arrest Thomas MacMillan for taking legal photography I would have to assume that Thomas was guilty of “Interfering” as you would. Even if an attorneys client is guilty as sin the attorney is oath bound to provide the best defense possible if they agree to take the case. If you can cite any legal precedent in which an attorney is who is charged with a crime is judged by his clients I would love to see it. I highly doubt you can cite anything other than your “feelings” which are not admissible in a court of law
“Spend enough time in criminal court, and most lawyers know that if you don’t obey the cops’ commands you are going to get charged with interfering. “
I don’t need to spend time in criminal court. There are many law abiding citizens who have been threatened by NHPD with the charge of “Interfering” Two that come to mind are Thomas MacMillan and David Streever. As much as Streever and I disagree on many things this man was threatened with arrest for showing concern about a fellow citizen. I have no doubt that the public will be charged with “Interfering” whether or not the charge is justified.