Arts & Culture News

Texas Department of Public Safety Warns of a Potential Mass Shooting During Joker Film Premiere

Todd Phillips’ new Joker movie has been generating buzz in the weeks leading up to its Oct. 4 release. But now the U.S. Army is warning that they have “discovered disturbing and very specific chatter (about a potential mass shooting) on the dark web regarding the targeting of an unknown movie theater during the Joker release,” according to a Sept. 23 Army memo.

In the memo, published on several news sites, the Fort Sill CID Office, outside Lawton, Oklahoma, claimed it received an intelligence bulletin involving a credible potential mass shooting to occur at an unknown movie theater during the Joker release.

The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command public affairs officer, Christopher Grey, claimed that military officials “are not aware of any information indicating a specific, credible threat to a particular location or venue,” according to a Sept. 26 Associated Press report.

Grey couldn’t be reached for comment. He told AP that the original information about a potential mass shooting came from the Texas Department of Public Safety. The threat isn’t Texas-specific.

“We want our workforce to be prepared and diligent on personal safety both inside the workplace and out.” — an Army spokesperson

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 The U.S. Army further confirmed that the warning had been widely distributed and in an email alert to service members, it instructed them to be aware of their surroundings, do their best to find two escape routes and if a shooting does occur, they should run if they can, find a place to hide and only become a good guy with a gun if the shooter finds them.

“We do this routinely because the safety and security of our workforce is paramount,” an Army spokesperson told Gizmodo in a Sept. 24 article. “We want our workforce to be prepared and diligent on personal safety both inside the workplace and out.”

Gizmodo reported that Army officials claimed in the email alert that "incels," a term relating to involuntary celibate men who support misogyny in online forums and groups, have become radicalized and violent, and idolize the Joker (played in the upcoming film by Joaquin Phoenix) because, like them, he must pretend to be happy “but eventually fights back against bullies.”

The Observer contacted Travis County Sheriff’s Office senior public information officer Kristen Dark, who said that there had been a mistake in the Army’s original memo. The Travis County Sheriff’s Office wasn’t involved in the investigation that revealed a potential mass shooting during Joker’s release. She said she believed the Texas Department of Public Safety was the investigating agency, which the Army corrected and the Austin-American Statesman reported in a Sept. 25 article.

“My world was turned upside down for about six hours on Tuesday,” Dark said. “A person from Fort Sill called and apologized.”

The Observer contacted the Dallas FBI field office, and the spokesperson referred us to the FBI national press office. Their spokesperson wrote that the FBI normally doesn’t comment on specific intelligence products but would make an exception in this case:

“The FBI is in touch with our law enforcement and private sector partners about the online posts. As always, we encourage the public to remain vigilant and to promptly report suspicious activity to law enforcement.”

The Army alert comes about the same time as Warner Bros. releasing a statement in response to families not wanting Joker to be shown at the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater where a mass shooter opened fire during The Dark Knight Rises, which featured the Joker, killing 12 people and injuring 70 others in 2012.

“Warner Bros. believes that one of the functions of storytelling is to provoke difficult conversations around complex issues,” the company's statement read. “Make no mistake: neither the fictional Joker, nor the film, is an endorsement of real-world violence of any kind. It is not the intention of the film, the filmmakers or the studio to hold the character up as a hero.”

To date, the fictional Joker character has killed more than a 1,000 people in film, both live action and animated, and more than 550 people in the comics. It is unclear how many he will kill in Phillips' film.
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Christian McPhate is an award-winning journalist who specializes in investigative reporting. He covers crime, the environment, business, government and social justice. His work has appeared in several publications, including the Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star Telegram, the Miami Herald, San Antonio Express News and The Washington Times.