Movie theater misfire rattles

Christina O'Haver, The Union Democrat

The Sonora Police Department is investigating a weekend incident in which an off-duty prison employee accidentally discharged a firearm inside the Regal Cinemas theater on Sanguinetti Road.

The incident was reported at 4:47 p.m. Friday, apparently during a showing of "Taken: 2."

According to Sonora Police Chief Mark Stinson, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation sergeant was allegedly walking up an aisle in one of the theaters when the back strap safety of his holster disengaged and a round was fired into an armrest.

Stinson declined to release the man's name Monday due to the pending investigation.

The Police Department originally believed no one was injured, but a person contacted theater management several hours later and claimed to have been struck by bullet fragments.

The injured person had not contacted the Police Department as of Monday afternoon.

Officers seized the sergeant's gun and contacted his supervisor, but had not arrested or cited him as of Monday afternoon.

Stinson said the Police Department will keep the gun in custody until it is decided whether the man will face charges.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has not yet decided if disciplinary action will be taken, according to spokesman Jeffrey Callison.

"Obviously, it's a very serious matter," he said.

Correctional officers and anyone in the department who handles inmates is authorized to carry weapons while off-duty under state law, but must obtain approval from the Sheriff's Office and have a concealed weapons permit, according to California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokeswoman Dana Simas.

Officers must also take a quarterly firearms test, she said.

Russ Nunley, vice president of marketing and communications for Regal Cinemas, declined to release details, so as not to interfere with the Police Department's investigation.

"We trust the local police to take this as seriously as we do, and during the course of their investigation, they have to decide what information is most important to share at the correct time," Nunley said in response to the Police Department's decision to withhold the sergeant's name.

Nunley said all Regal Cinema theaters have a policy that prohibits patrons from carrying firearms and concealed weapons onto the premises.

He said a sign is posted at the entrance of each theater.

The Union Democrat
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