Protesters rally outside North Franklin cinema where teen was shot

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Trey Willis of Washington leads a protest Saturday outside of a Regal cinema in North Franklin Township where an African-American teen was shot a week ago.

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Scott Beveridge/Observer-Reporter

A man who only identified himself as Daniel, right, is shown expressing his opinion Saturday at a protest in response to an African-American teen being shot a week ago at a Regal cinema in North Franklin Township.

Protesters rallied Saturday outside a North Franklin Township movie theater over the lack of an arrest in a case where a disturbance a week earlier during a late-night screening led to an older white man drawing a firearm, which shot a black teenager.

About 20 people gathered outside of Regal Crown Center Stadium 14 at 1400 W. Chestnut St. about 5:15 p.m. to speak out about the shooting, drawing a group of constables and state police to the cinema, although no protesters were arrested, law enforcement officials said.

“I am only armed with a megaphone and phone to get my voice heard,” said Trey Willis of Washington, a rally leader.

A constable was heard saying, “call it in,” after telling the group that it was on private property. A county deputy sheriff arrived and left after being told state police were en route.

A man from Greene County pulled out a weapon during an incident involving six black male teens, resulting in a struggle for the weapon late March 23, Trooper Forrest Allison said. It was not immediately known who pulled the trigger, discharging a bullet into the leg of a 17-year-old, he said.

Willis said Saturday that one of the teens was punched in the face by the man from Greene County after he became angry because the youths were being disruptive during a showing of the movie “Us.” He said the man also used a racist word during the fight.

The physical assault of one of the teens was not raised during the initial investigation, but that information was later brought to police, Allison said Saturday.

The names of the man with the gun and the teens have not been released. People at the rally identified the man with the gun as a corrections officer in Greene County.

Washington County District Attorney Gene Vittone declined Saturday to comment on whether or not the man is a corrections officer.

The shooting victim and Greene man were both treated and released from a hospital that night.

Vittone said a decision on whether to charge anyone could possibly be announced this week after police conduct more interviews in the case Tuesday.

“I know people want us to do things quickly,” Vittone said. “They need to let the police do their job. I want justice too.”

A small sign posted at the cinema’s ticket window states that guns, even those held by people with concealed/carry permits, are strictly prohibited from the theater.

Another protester, Suzanne Kelley of Washington, said she had concerns because there are no metal detectors at the theater or any signs of surveillance cameras.

“I want to know what is your safety plan?” Kelley said.

Heather Peters, director of public relations at Regal, said the theater chain is working with local authorities regarding the investigation.

“Our primary concern is for the safety and security of our guests and staff,” Peters said in an email.

The rally broke up peacefully after its crowd swelled to about 50 people by about 6:30 p.m.

Protestors are expected to regroup at 11:45 a.m. Monday on the steps of Washington County Courthouse in Washington.


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