Man Wearing a Ski Mask and Behaving Oddly Sends Hobbs Moviegoers into a Panic

by Jen Kastner
NewsWest 9

HOBBS, N.M. - It was an alarming weekend for moviegoers in Hobbs, New Mexico. Shortly after a movie started on Sunday night, a man inside one of the theaters put on a ski mask and started pacing back and forth in front of the movie screen, creating panic in the audience.

Shortly after the screening of Zero Dark Thirty began, calls for help came into the Hobbs Police Department. Chief Chris McCall said it was in reference to a subject wearing a mask who was armed with a gun.

Moviegoers tells NewsWest 9 that a 20-something year-old man jumped up at the front of the auditorium, pulled a dark ski mask over his face, and then began pacing back and forth, terrifying the people seated inside. We're told people were running out of the theater as fast as possible. Simultaneously, a handful of people tackled him to the floor.

On our NewsWest 9 Facebook page, one woman wrote, "I was there last night. [It was] very scary not knowing what this guy was going to do. My husband and son helped hold him down until the cops arrived."

As it would turn out, the man didn't have any ill intentions.

"There were no weapons involved. There were no guns involved. It was a mentally ill individual," McCall said.

We're told he had just been released from a mental health facility and this wasn't his first time making a scene in public. Officers know him well.

Although he was unarmed, he does have a questionably violent past.

After authorities arrived, the man was handcuffed and taken to a family member who could watch over him. He will not be charged in connection to the incident.

Russell Allen, the owner of the Eagle 9 theater, says nothing like this has ever happened inside of any of his theaters, but he wants to reassure viewers that they have several safety precautions in place. As a first line of defense, staff are supposed to keep their eyes open for any oddities.

"We look for people that would be displaying unusual behavior, like carrying large bags and wearing coats during time of the year when it's not cold," Allen said.

Allen also told NewsWest 9 that his staff checks each auditorium every 20 minutes to be sure everyone is behaving properly. Additionally, exits are monitored closely to be sure nobody enters illegally.

NewsWest 9 asked Allen if he would consider arming staff inside his theaters.

He says, "Well, that is not something that has come up before. I think that when you're talking about any kind of security, you need to put all the options on the table and that is one that I think is worth considering."