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A silly argument over texting leads to death

By Scott Tibbs, January 24, 2014

By now you have heard of the tragic shooting in the movie theater, where an 71-year-old man shot a 43-year-old man after an argument over the younger man texting his daughter. This is sad, simply because it should never have escalated into a physical confrontation and would not have if either man had been an adult.

The younger man should not have been texting, because it is not permitted by the theater. Simply respecting the rules of the theater would have avoided the confrontation entirely. If there is an emergency and you need to contact someone, step outside the theater and make a phone call. I did just that last summer - it was not an emergency but was important enough that I needed to make a call. So rather than disturbing anyone, I left and came back.

(That said, some of the rules are inane and needlessly authoritarian. One chain has a rule against "time checking." Seriously? You're telling me I may not check the time on my phone? What about my watch, with the light?)

Once it became clear that the person behind him was angry about the texting, the younger man should have either left the theater to finish it or moved to a different seat so as not to disturb the older man. Finally, the younger man threw a bag of popcorn at the older man. Who does that? There are well-behaved two year old boys who know better than to throw things at people. He did not deserve to die, but had he been punched in the face I would not have shed any tears.

The greatest fault, though, was the older man. The victim was not talking, he was texting - the latter being much less intrusive than the former. He was not streaming a YouTube video with the volume up. Just chill out and do not get angry over something so insignificant. If the texting is that distracting, ask him to stop and move to a different place if he refuses. Had the older man decided to be the bigger person, none of this would have happened.

As for the shooting itself, I hold the older man much more responsible than I would an average person, because the shooter is a former police officer. (Speaking of respecting the rules, the older man should not have brought a weapon where it was prohibited. He should have respected the private property rights of the theater.) As a former police officer, he has the training to know when he is truly in danger and when he is not. Based on the evidence thus far, there is no justification for the shooting. It is a sad case all around and it never should have happened.