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Multiplex brawls flare in recent years Christmas night fights at Elmwood theaters are third such incident in area since 2004

Three large brawls have erupted at local movie theaters in the Buffalo area in less than three years -- two of them on Christmas.

Monday night, Christmas moviegoers were sent running after several fights broke out among young patrons inside and outside the Regal Cinemas on Elmwood Avenue in North Buffalo.

In April 2004, a fight involving about 50 young men in the parking lot of the Regal Cinemas on Elmwood became a near-riot when at least one of the men attacked police officers and was chemically subdued.

And on Christmas night in 2004, three separate fights erupted at Walden Galleria's Regal Cinemas in Cheektowaga -- including one incident that involved a 15-year-old girl arrested after officers tried to remove 30 to 40 youths from the theater.

"It seems like Christmas has become a social night for unsupervised teenagers," said Chief of Detectives Dennis J. Richards of the Buffalo Police Department. "I think it's a question of where are the parents and do these parents even know where their teenagers are?"

At about 8:40 p.m., a large number of teens began brawling at the Elmwood cinema complex where about 200 patrons were in attendance. Police said the fights apparently began when theater staff members asked some people to leave because of overcrowding. Some of the theaters had capacity crowds because of new movies that opened on Christmas Day.

Police responded from across the city, assisted by officers from Kenmore, the Town of Tonawanda and the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.

Police said Hope Tuck, 18, of Sumner Place, incited a riot inside the movie theater, urging at least 10 others to fight.

Tuck is accused of fighting, pushing and shoving people in the crowd, police said.

When officers tried to stop her, she fought with police and other people, causing the crowd to charge at officers and people in the crowd to be trampled, according to police reports.

When Officer Dennis Kessler tried to arrest Tuck, she retaliated by fighting and struggling with him and other officers, police said.

Police reports said Officer Darwin Jones and several officers were trying to break up the fight when Tuck punched Jones in the left side of his face and "hit numerous officers."

She also used vulgar, abusive and obscene language toward the officers before she was forcibly subdued and handcuffed.

No injuries were reported, but police and Regal managers cut short some films that were being shown.

Tuck was charged with inciting to riot, resisting arrest, harassment and four counts of disorderly conduct, police said.

"It sounds like a person who's out of control," Richards said. "It's a shame that people's evenings would be ruined by such a lack of respect for authority and lack of respect for other patrons."

Richards said only one person was arrested because police did not want to "exacerbate the situation," adding that "police are there to restore order, not cause chaos."

He suggested that theater management could re-examine who is being admitted to these movies -- such as determining whether teenagers must be accompanied by an adult.

But he also pointed out that creating such policies could be viewed as discriminatory.

"It's a fine line they have to walk, because they want to make sure they are not trampling on anyone's rights," Richards said.

On Feb. 8, 2004, the Elmwood cinema complex was also where a Buffalo man was stabbed as he watched a movie. Police said two men seated in front of Michael Roseboro, 22, of Federal Avenue, jumped on top of him.

One man held him down, while the other stabbed him, police said, and the attackers then fled with two women. Roseboro required hospital treatment.

Movie theater violence on Christmas night wasn't just restricted to Buffalo.

In Chicago, a man was beaten and 10 people were arrested after large fights erupted at three separate theaters on the city's South and Southwest.

The State Journal-Register reported that an 18-year-old man was shot in the leg in Springfield, Ill., when Christmas night gunfire erupted during a fight inside a theater. The victim was hospitalized with injuries not considered life-threatening, and an 18-year-old man has been charged in the shooting.

e-mail: vthomas@buffnews.com

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