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The arrest of a prominent Connecticut attorney who police say had a loaded handgun at a movie theater showing the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises" was baseless, his lawyer said Wednesday.
Sung H. Hwang, president-elect of the New Haven County Bar Association, had a right to carry the gun into the movie theater Tuesday night, his attorney Hugh Keefe said.
Hwang was charged with breach of peace and interfering with police after officers said they found a handgun in his waistband. He had a permit to carry the weapon, police said. He was released Tuesday night on a promise to appear in court on the misdemeanor charges, said police spokesman David Hartman.
"You have a highly prominent lawyer here," Keefe said. "You have a leading citizen of the city of New Haven. He's doing everything by the book. He has a permit to carry. He's out at a movie theater. Suddenly people are pointing guns at him."
On Tuesday, Aug. 7, officers arrived at the Criterion-Bow Tie Cinemas in New Haven shortly after 10 p.m. after managers reported a man inside with a gun. It wasn't clear whether the call was about Hwang or someone else.
About a dozen people were inside waiting for the movie to begin, police said. Officers asked each of them to raise their hands and file out, where they were patted down, according to a news release.
Police said they identified the suspect and with weapons drawn they ordered Hwang to put his hands up. They said he remained in his seat while using his cellphone and did not comply with their commands and was taken into custody by force.
The gun was found in his waistband near the small of his back, police said.
Keefe said it was his understanding that police were not going to arrest Hwang once they realized he had a gun permit, but New Haven Chief Dean M. Esserman ordered the arrest. He said Hwang lives near the theater and "has a perfect right to bring a gun anywhere he wants except an airport."
"If somebody has a problem with that law then they ought to go to Hartford and change it, not make baseless arrests," Keefe said.
A message was left for Esserman, who has praised officers who responded to the call. City officials planned a news conference Wednesday afternoon at City Hall, where they planned to issue a statement about guns in public places.
Since the Aurora, Colorado shootings, several instances of people bringing weapons to showings of the film have been reported across the country.
Over the weekend, a man in northeast Ohio brought a gun, ammunition and several knives to a screening because he wanted to protect himself in case someone tried to replicate the shooting, his attorney said. The man was arrested.