Charges dismissed for gun owner

Nearly four months after New Haven attorney Sung-Ho Hwang brought a gun to the latest “Batman” film, conjuring memories of the summer shooting in Aurora, Colo., New Haven Superior Court judge Maureen Keegan dismissed all charges on Monday.

Hwang, who is president of the New Haven County Bar Association, was arrested on Aug. 7. on charges of breach of peace and interfering with the police after he carried a loaded gun into a movie theater. On Monday, Assistant State’s Attorney David Strollo moved to have Hwang’s charges “nolled,” meaning that the prosecution chose not to present the charges to the court. In response, Hwang’s attorney Hugh Keefe moved to have the charges dismissed, which can only be done by a judge. Siding with Hwang and Keefe, Judge Maureen Keegan promptly dismissed the charges.

“I’m hopeful he’ll be able to recover 100 percent. I think most people understand that when a case is dismissed there was very little basis for it,” Keefe said.

Strollo could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

On the night of Aug. 7, police were called to the Criterion Bow Tie movie theater on Temple Street after staff reported a man with a gun in the theater. A dozen police officers rushed into the theater showing “The Dark Knight Rises,” where Hwang was sitting. Those in the theater were told to raise their hands and exit the theater.

According to a statement given by New Haven Police Department spokesman David Hartman at the time, Hwang did not comply with the officers’ requests to raise his hands.

“Officers identified the suspect and with weapons drawn, ordered the suspect to put his hands up,” Hartman said. “He remained in his seat while using his cell phone. He did not comply with the officers’ commands, and was taken into custody by force.”

Hartman said officers removed a loaded Glock .40-caliber pistol from Hwang’s waistband.

In the following days, Hwang responded by reiterating that he had a license to carry the concealed weapon and that entering the theater with the gun did not violate any Connecticut laws. He further justified his actions by suggesting that he did not feel safe late at night without the gun.

“I normally do not carry, but I live in downtown New Haven and the movie was getting out at 1 a.m., so I felt that I should protect myself since I was alone,” Hwang said at the time.

Hwang declined to comment Tuesday.

Shortly after the incident in August, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. called for tighter gun control, including a gun offender registry. Moreover, DeStefano urged residents of the city to base their actions not solely on legality, but on common sense as well.

“We ought to reflect on some behaviors that are clearly legal, but that do not reflect the values by which New Haveners wants to live,” DeStefano said. “I still do not believe that it is acceptable to walk into a bar, a crowded movie theater or a house of worship with an armed weapon at the ready.”

Keefe was quick to dismiss DeStefano’s suggestion, saying that those interested in changing Connecticut’s gun laws “ought to go to Hartford and change the law if they don’t like it.”

“It may not be smart to smoke cigarettes either but it’s legal,” Keefe said.

At the time the incident brought up memories of the July 20 mass shooting in an Aurora, Colo. movie theater during a showing of the same film. The shooting, which was carried out by 24-year old James Eagan Holmes, a doctorate student in neuroscience, killed 12 and injured 58.

All of the guns used in the Colorado shooting were bought legally.

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