Something that comics insiders have been worrying about for a long time finally happened yesrterday on the opening day of Phoenix Comicon: An armed man was arrested carrying three handguns, a shotgun, ammo and other handheld weapons including a knife and wearing body armor. Based on his social media postings, his plan was to kill police officers who were at the con, essentially a domestic terrorism event in the planning.
This is pretty terrifying, and obviously we could be reading a horrifying story about dead people and a gunman who took his own life by now.
The man has been identified as 31-year-old Mathew Sterling, who had been posting photos of cops at the con on his FB page. A friend spotted it and alerted police. He’s been charged with attempted murder, three counts of aggravated assault, wearing body armor during the commission of a felony, resisting arrest, and carrying a weapon in a prohibited place.
— azfamily 3TV CBS 5 (@azfamily) May 26, 2017
After Sterling was apprehended, police called for all prop weapons to be banned, a move that Phoenix Comicon organizers backed up in a statement:
Convention Director Matthew Solberg here with an important and urgent message:
In light of recent events, Phoenix Comicon, in cooperation with the Phoenix Convention Center and the Phoenix Police Department, will be implementing enhanced screening to ensure the safety of all our attendees. This screening includes three dedicated access points, no longer allowing costume props within our convention or the Convention Center, and other methods as determined in conjunction with the Convention Center and Phoenix Police Department. We anticipate some delays as you are entering the building and we encourage you to carry as little as possible to make the process easier.
These new policies will take effect starting tomorrow, Friday, May 26th.
The three access points for entrance into the Convention Center with those who have a valid badge:
West Building entrance at 2nd Street, between Washington and Monroe.
Third Street at Washington
Third Street at Monroe
For those who need to collect their badge from registration you will ONLY be able to use the access point at Third Street at Monroe.
Con on Third will no longer be open to the public, and will require a valid badge to enter.
Costume props will no longer be allowed on-site. All costume props should be left at home, in your car, or in your hotel room. This includes costume props for staff, crew, costuming groups, panelists, and participants in the masquerade ball. Any panels or activities impacted by this change will be updated on the website soon.
All costume props are no longer allowed, including foam and cardboard props, shields and sabers. Purchased props will be wrapped by the vendors and must remain so while they are on-site. We encourage you to take your purchases to your car or hotel as soon as possible after purchase.
We understand these are last minute changes as a result of recent events.
We appreciate your patience as we continue to ensure the safety and enjoyment of all our patrons and we look forward to a great event.
— Robert Warners (@LegionofSand) May 26, 2017
Other comicons are picking up on the security measure, including Alamo City Comic Con, which went even further with a ban on big backpacks and duffle bags:
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While all this seems common sense, maybe there won’t be too much crowding at PCC today, as on social media many people are COMPLAINING about the prop weapons ban, saying it’s unnecessary and showing off their prop weapons at the con is the only reason they go. Check out the comments on the Phoenix Comicon statement above if you don’t believe me.
I mean its sad that you can’t walk around with your fake weapons and all…but not as sad as dead police officers, I think.
I’ve been fearing a comic-con “incident” for a while now, and there have been several that were thwarted before anything happened. This was a close call and if not for a tip from a good citizen we could be reading the most horrifying headlines of our lives today. Weapons check can be a pretty perfunctory thing at a lot of comic cons, but I’m guessing that after this, security will be ramped up. Times are changing.
And for people who think their right to carry a fake weapon is more important than your police officer’s right to keep living…you might want to check your priorities along with your weapons.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.