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Aurora Theater Shooting Heightens Concern At Cubs-Cardinals Game, Other Entertainment Venues

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JIM SALTER   07/22/12 04:32 AM ET  AP

ST. LOUIS — The mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater rattled the nerves of some other moviegoers with opening weekend tickets for the new Batman film and led some cinema chains to add more guards. Experts say it's unlikely, though, that venues will implement even stricter security measures because it would significantly alter the experience of going to a film, concert or game.

The early Friday rampage in Aurora, Colo., at a midnight screening of the new Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises," left 12 people dead and dozens wounded. Authorities say the gunman apparently slipped out through an emergency exit to arm himself, then re-entered that way and opened fire on the startled audience.

The attack had a chilling effect on some ticketholders who had been eagerly awaiting what had been billed as the summer's hottest movie.

"I'm just going to keep my eyes and ears open for anything strange," 27-year-old Charlotte Kimbrell, of Belleville, Ill., said before a screening of "Dark Knight" at a theater in nearby O'Fallon. "I'll probably be sitting all the way in back today, away from the exit doors."

It was in the back of some baseball fans' minds Friday, as well.

"I think paranoia takes over after something like that and something like today, but I think for the most part, all they can do is check your bags and hope that you're not crazy," said David Karney, of Quincy, Mich., who watched the Detroit Tigers host the Chicago White Sox. "At the end of the day, if you're crazy and want to do something, you're going to do it."

The angst is understandable after the attack, which was one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent U.S. history. But security experts say changes made at ballparks, theaters and concert venues after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks have gone a long way toward making them safer.

"The problem is security is never 100 percent," said Richard Sem, a longtime security management executive from Wisconsin who is now a consultant. "We look at what's reasonable, practical. You don't necessarily need Fort Knox to go to a Sunday afternoon baseball game."

A decade after the terrorist attacks, at ballparks and concerts, bag checks are now common when entering a venue. Sometimes, there are metal detector wand scans at sporting events. Some movie theaters already have random bag checks. But experts say that it can be a difficult choice to decide where to install additional extra measures, and note that it's no guarantee a patron will be safer with them in place.

"Are we going to put in security that might not work at every movie theater, at every mall?" asked Derek Catsam, a history professor at the University of Texas of the Permian who studies and writes about stadium security issues. "Think of all the places you go during the day where you stand in line or are stuck in crowds. This could happen at any of those places."

At Busch Stadium in St. Louis, where the Cardinals were hosting the rival Chicago Cubs for three sold-out weekend games, security officials were on alert Friday.

"We're concerned, we're certainly saddened and we'll be extra vigilant in our regular security," said Joe Abernathy, vice president of stadium operations.

Abernathy said there were no major security changes planned because the team feels it's already doing everything it can to keep fans safe. Police officers man stadium entrances, and there are nearly 150 security cameras at the ballpark. All bags are checked at the entrance. And costumes, in which someone might hide a weapon, aren't allowed, not even masks.

Fans have generally embraced the changes. Butch Cox, a fan at Friday's Cardinals-Cubs game, said, "If they wanted to strip search me, I could care less. If it's for the better, I'm all for it."

Richard Ballentine, of Valrico, Fla., who watched the Tampa Bay Rays host the Seattle Mariners on Friday, said he was worried that the Colorado attack would lead to airport-style metal detectors at movie theaters and stadiums.

"I'm actually of the opinion that most of those checks are a waste of time. They're reactive instead of being proactive," Ballentine said. "... The truth is terrorists will look at the things that we're doing to try to provide security and they'll look for other places that are weak spots, and they'll just adapt."

Brian McCarthy, of the National Football League, said security procedures are under constant review and are sometimes adjusted.

Last season, the league provided handheld metal detectors to its 32 teams – part of a massive security effort at NFL games and one fans don't seem to mind because they're less intrusive than pat-downs, said Bob Calderon, who oversees public safety at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

"They'd rather be safe than sorry," he said. "We try to reach a happy medium."

Officials at St. Louis-based Wehrenberg Theatres Inc. met before dawn Friday to consider what to do after the shooting. The chain manages 15 cinemas in Missouri, Illinois, Minnesota and Iowa. But they noted that security measures were already in place. Wehrenberg's vice president of marketing, Kelly Hoskins, said the chain already uses off-duty uniformed and civilian-dressed police and does random checks of handbags for movie-goers.

"Sometimes you don't want it to feel like a police state," Hoskins said. "You don't want to increase security to an uncomfortable level."

___

Associated Press journalists John Affleck and Barry Wilner in New York, Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Ala.; Fred Goodall in St. Petersburg, Fla., Jim Suhr in O'Fallon, Ill, and RB Fallstrom in St. Louis contributed to this report.

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  • Tom Sullivan , holds a photograph of his son, Alex Sullivan, as he pleads with the media to help him find his son, outside Gateway High School on Friday, July 20, 2012 in Aurora, Colo. Alex Sullivan, was celebrating his 27th birthday by attending midnight premiere of the Batman movie Friday night. A gunman wearing a gas mask set off an unknown gas and fired into the crowded movie theater killing 12 people and injuring at least 50 others, authorities said. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez)

  • A woman cries outside Gateway High School where witness were brought for questioning after a gunman opened fire at a midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises Batman movie Friday, July 20, 2012 in Aurora, Colo. A gunman wearing a gas mask set off an unknown gas and fired into the crowded movie theater killing 12 people and injuring at least 50 others, authorities said. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez)

  • Tom Sullivan, center, embraces family members outside Gateway High School where he has been searching frantically for his son Alex Sullivan who celebrated his 27th birthday by going to see "The Dark Knight Rises," movie where a gunman opened fire Friday, July 20, 2012, in Aurora, Colo. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez)

  • Eyewitness Chandler Brannon, 25, sits outside Gateway High School where witnesses were brought for questioning after a shooting at a movie theater showing the Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises," Friday, July 20, 2012 in Aurora. A gunman wearing a gas mask set off an unknown gas and fired into the crowded movie theater killing 12 people and injuring at least 50 others, authorities said. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez)

  • A small group prays outside Gateway High School where witness were brought for questioning Friday, July 20, 2012 in Aurora, Colo. A gunman wearing a gas mask set off an unknown gas and fired into the crowded movie theater killing 12 people and injuring at least 50 others, authorities said. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez)

  • Family and friends wait outside Gateway High School where witnesses were brought for questioning after a shooting at a movie theater showing the Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises," Friday, July 20, 2012 in Aurora, Colo. A gunman wearing a gas mask set off an unknown gas and fired into the crowded movie theater killing 12 people and injuring at least 50 others, authorities said. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez)

  • Eyewitness Jacob Stevens, 18, hugs his mother Tammi Stevens after being interview by police outside Gateway High School where witnesses were brought for questioning Friday, July 20, 2012 in Aurora, Colo. A gunman wearing a gas mask set off an unknown gas and fired into the crowded movie theater killing 12 people and injuring at least 50 others, authorities said. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez)

  • Eyewitness Isaiah Bow hugs his mother Shamecca Davis after being questioned by police outside Gateway High School where witnesses were brought in, Friday, July 20, 2012 in Aurora, Colo. After leaving the theater Bow went back in to find his girlfriend. "I didn't want to leave her in there. But she's ok now," Bow said. A gunman wearing a gas mask set off an unknown gas and fired into the crowded movie theater killing 12 people and injuring at least 50 others, authorities said. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez)

  • Emma Goos, 19, hugs her mother, Judy Goos, outside Gateway High School where witnesses were brought for questioning Friday, July 20, 2012, in Aurora, Colo. Emma was in the third row of the theater of the new Batman movie when the shooter entered. She helped apply pressure to a man's head who was injured. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez)

  • Police cars in front of the Century 16 theater in Aurora, Colorado where a gunman opened fire during the opening of the new Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises" killing at least 15 people and wounding 50 others on the morning of July 20, 2012. The shooting suspect in custody after at least 12 people were shot dead and around 50 were wounded at a movie screening in the United States has been identified as 24-year-old James Holmes, US media said Friday. Television networks cited the FBI as saying that Holmes, from the town of Aurora, Colorado, scene of the midnight shooting at a screening of the Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises," did not appear to have any known terrorism connections. (Photo credit: AFP PHOTO/JONATHAN CASTNER JONATHAN CASTNER/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Police tape cordons off the parking area around the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, July 20, 2012 where a gunman opened fire during the showing of the new Batman movie. At least 12 people were killed and around 50 wounded in the cinema shooting. (Photo credit: AFP PHOTO JONATHAN CASTNERJONATHAN CASTNER/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Police cars in front of the Century 16 theater in Aurora, Colorado where a gunman opened fire during the opening of the new Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises" killing at least 15 people and wounding 50 others on the morning of July 20, 2012. The shooting suspect in custody after at least 12 people were shot dead and around 40 were wounded at a movie screening in the United States has been identified as 24-year-old James Holmes, US media said Friday. Television networks cited the FBI as saying that Holmes, from the town of Aurora, Colorado, scene of the midnight shooting at a screening of the Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises," did not appear to have any known terrorism connections. (Photo credit: AFP PHOTO/JONATHAN CASTNERJONATHAN CASTNER/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Police cars in front of the Century 16 theater in Aurora, Colorado where a gunman opened fire during the opening of the new Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises" killing at least 15 people and wounding 50 others on the morning of July 20, 2012. The shooting suspect in custody after at least 12 people were shot dead and around 50 were wounded at a movie screening in the United States has been identified as 24-year-old James Holmes, US media said Friday. Television networks cited the FBI as saying that Holmes, from the town of Aurora, Colorado, scene of the midnight shooting at a screening of the Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises," did not appear to have any known terrorism connections. (Photo credit: AFP PHOTO/JONATHAN CASTNERJONATHAN CASTNER/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Police cars are seen in the parking area around the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, July 20, 2012 where a gunman opened fire during the showing of the new Batman movie. At least 12 people were killed and around 50 wounded in the cinema shooting. (Photo credit: AFP PHOTO JONATHAN CASTNERJONATHAN CASTNER/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Police use a video camera to look inside an apartment where the suspect in a shooting at a movie theatre lived in Aurora, Colo., Friday, July 20, 2012. As many as 12 people were killed and 50 injured at a shooting at the Century 16 movie theatre early Friday during the showing of the latest Batman movie. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • Police break out a window of an apartment where the suspect in a shooting at a movie theatre lived in Aurora, Colo., Friday, July 20, 2012. As many as 12 people were killed and 50 injured at a shooting at the Century 16 movie theatre early Friday during the showing of the latest Batman movie. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • Shamecca Davis hugs her son Isaiah Bow, who was an eye witness to the shooting, outside Gateway High School where witness were brought for questioning Friday, July 20, 2012 in Denver. After leaving the theater Bow went back in to find his girlfriend. " I didn't want to leave her in there. But she's ok now," Bow said. A gunman wearing a gas mask set off an unknown gas and fired into a crowded movie theater at a midnight opening of the Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises," killing at least 12 people and injuring at least 50 others, authorities said. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez)

  • Judy Goos, second from left, hugs her daughters friend, Isaiah Bow, 20, while eye witnesses Emma Goos, 19, left, and Terrell Wallin, 20, right, gather outside Gateway High School where witness were brought for questioning Friday, July 20, 2012 in Denver. A gunman wearing a gas mask set off an unknown gas and fired into a crowded movie theater at a midnight opening of the Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises," killing at least 12 people and injuring at least 50 others, authorities said. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez)

  • A SWAT team officer stands watch near an apartment house where the suspect in a shooting at a movie theatre lived in Aurora, Colo., Friday, July 20, 2012. As many as 14 people were killed and 50 injured at a shooting at the Century 16 movie theatre early Friday during the showing of the latest Batman movie. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • Police gather near an apartment house where the suspect in a shooting at a movie theatre lived in Aurora, Colo., Friday, July 20, 2012. As many as 12 people were killed and 50 injured at a shooting at the Century 16 movie theatre early Friday during the showing of the latest Batman movie. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • A SWAT team officer stands watch near an apartment house where the suspect in a shooting at a movie theatre lived in Aurora, Colo., Friday, July 20, 2012. As many as 12 people were killed and 50 injured at a shooting at the Century 16 movie theatre early Friday during the showing of the latest Batman movie. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • Jacob Stevens, 18, hugs his mother Tammi Stevens after being interview by police outside Gateway High School where witness were brought for questioning after a shooting at a movie theater, Friday, July 20, 2012 in Denver. A gunman wearing a gas mask set off an unknown gas and fired into a crowded movie theater at a midnight opening of the Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises," killing at least 12 people and injuring at least 50 others, authorities said. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez)

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  • Police are pictured outside of a Century 16 movie theatre where as many as 12 people were killed and many injured at a shooting during the showing of a movie at the in Aurora, Colo., Friday, July 20, 2012. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • Police are pictured outside of a Century 16 movie theatre where as many as 12 people were killed and many injured at a shooting during the showing of a movie at the in Aurora, Colo., Friday, July 20, 2012. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • Aurora Police Chief Daniel Oates talks to media at Aurora Mall where as many as 12 people were killed and many injured at a shooting at the Century 16 movie theatre in Aurora, Colo., Friday, July 20, 2012. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • Aurora Police Chief Daniel Oates talks to media at the Aurora Mall where as many as 14 people were killed and many injured at a shooting at the Century 16 movie theatre in Aurora, Colo., Friday, July 20, 2012. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • Police are pictured outside of a Century 16 movie theatre where as many as 12 people were killed and many injured at a shooting during the showing of a movie at the in Aurora, Colo., Friday, July 20, 2012. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • Police are pictured outside of a Century 16 movie theatre where as many as 12 people were killed and many injured at a shooting during the showing of a movie at the in Aurora, Colo., Friday, July 20, 2012. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • People gather outside the Century 16 movie theatre in Aurora, Colo., at the scene of a mass shooting early Friday morning, July 20, 2012. Police Chief Dan Oates says 12 people are dead following the shooting at the suburban Denver movie theater. He says 50 others were injured when gunfire erupted early Friday at the Aurora theater. Oates says a gunman appeared at the front of one of the Century 16 theaters. <em>Photo Credit: Karl Gehring, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/exposure/" target="_hplink">Denver Post</a>. </em> / AP

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