• Phoenix Comicon 2017 Cosplay Thursday-Friday

    Phoenix Comicon 2017 Cosplay Thursday-Friday

  • Cosplayers respond day after armed man was arrested at Phoenix Comicon

    Cosplayers respond day after armed man was arrested at Phoenix Comicon

  • Long lines at Comicon due to props ban

    Long lines at Comicon due to props ban

  • Battling long lines and the heat at Comicon

    Battling long lines and the heat at Comicon

  • Man with multiple guns arrested at Phoenix Comicon

    Man with multiple guns arrested at Phoenix Comicon

  • Raw video: Man arrested in weapons case at Comicon

    Raw video: Man arrested in weapons case at Comicon

  • Comicon incident press conference

    Comicon incident press conference

  • Eager cosplayers attend Phoenix Comicon Day 1

    Eager cosplayers attend Phoenix Comicon Day 1

  • Phoenix Comicon gets underway

    Phoenix Comicon gets underway

  • Phoenix Comicon 5/25-28

    Phoenix Comicon 5/25-28

Phoenix Comicon cosplayers on Friday faced insult upon injury: incomplete costumes and longer lines.

After the arrest of an armed man at the event, Phoenix Comicon organizers on Thursday evening outlawed all props, including foam and cardboard props as well as shields and lightsabers, starting on Friday.

Phoenix police said 31-year-old Mathew Sterling gained access to the Phoenix Convention Center carrying an arsenal: two 45-caliber handguns, a .454-caliber handgun, and a 12-gauge shotgun, all fully loaded; a combat knife; pepper spray; and throwing stars.

He later confessed that he’d planned to kill bad police officers and a performer scheduled for the event, police said. He was being held with bond set at $1 million and faces multiple felony charges, according to court records.

Phoenix Comicon posted a message on their Facebook page Friday morning clarifying the new policy, which prohibits “Weapons of all types including Simulated Weapons. Examples of prohibited weapons and simulated (Prop weapons) weapons include: 

  • Edged weapons (swords, knifes, throwing stars etc.)
  • Impact weapons (clubs, bats, staffs, nunchaku, shields, hammers and martial arts weapons) 
  • Firearms
  • Archery weapons (cross bows and bolts, bows and arrows of all types)
  • Weapons from fictional sources (Light sabers, plasma weapons, laser, phasers etc.)”

The original expanded ban was announced on the Phoenix Comicon Facebook page about 7 p.m. Thursday, with news that ticketholders could request a refund by emailing [email protected]

Those planning to attend the rest of the event this weekend will need to be prepared for long lines, wanding by security officials, metal detectors and bag checks. Kristin Rowan, marketing director for Phoenix Comicon, and a Phoenix police officer who was at the event Friday, said the best thing fans can do to speed up the process is bring as little as possible with them to the event, because there are dedicated lines for bag checks. 

Also the earlier you arrive, the better. Lines will likely be shorter and weather will be cooler first thing in the morning. The high for Saturday is expected to be 97 degrees, and 101 degrees Sunday. Registration opens at 9 a.m. both days. 


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Phoenix police Sgt. Mercedes Fortune said the remainder of the convention will include a number of beefed-up security measures in addition to the prop-weapon ban, including more uniformed and plainclothes officers, closed streets and use of metal-detector wands at the entrances.

Asked why Thursday’s measures did not include the metal detectors, Fortune said security measures were at the discretion of the Phoenix Convention Center and event organizers. 

Prior to Friday, Fortune said, attendees could enter the center with prop weapons but were supposed to stop by a security table that would tag them as fakes. 

However, she said, “there was nothing in place at the time for them to see that you were being directed to the table. Nothing that said, ‘Hey, you’ve got to come this way.’ “

Comicon spokesman Tom Kuipers said he couldn’t speak to why the metal detectors weren’t used prior to Friday, and referred most security questions to a Phoenix Convention Center spokeswoman. The Arizona Republic was not able to reach a convention center representative by Friday afternoon. 

Kuipers said event organizers are expecting up to 110,000 attendees this year. Though the staff offered refunds after announcing the prop-weapon ban, Kuipers said “very few” people took them up on it.

Thursday’s scare was the biggest public-safety issue to hit the event in his five-year tenure, Kuipers said. 

“Biggest issue we’ve had is, I think, a fire alarm one year,” he said. 

Convention-goers were upset with the prop ban, with some commenters on the Facebook post discussing the amount of time and energy they put into making their props and some asking for refunds. 

On Friday at 9:30 a.m., a long line was already formed at the entrance on Third and Monroe streets. Multiple signs surrounding the event were posted reading “‘No prop weapons,” and police officers and security roamed the area, making sure convention goers took their props back to their hotels or cars.

When convention-goers neared the entrance, they were separated into multiple lines. Security officials dug through bags and ran wand metal detectors over every person. 

Dede Sakurai of Mesa was dressed in a Harry Potter costume. She said she originally was going to go as a Star Wars character, but changed her mind because she wouldn’t be able to bring her lightsaber.

“I think they’ve gone a little overboard with the ban,” she said.

Lee Anzalone of Phoenix waited in line Friday morning, dressed as Boba Fett from Star Wars. He said he had to leave multiple prop guns at home.

He pointed to a young girl in line dressed as Rey from “Star Wars.”

“Look at Rey, she doesn’t have her lightsaber,” he said. 

Steve MacNeil of Glendale was checked thoroughly by security, wearing tactical gear as a character from the S.T.A.R.S division from “Resident Evil.” He left his prop gun in his car in one of the convention garages.

“I think the prop ban is a bad idea, I mean, look at everybody, you can tell if a weapon is real or not,” he said. 

Vanessa Havens attended the convention with a group of friends Thursday.

Havens and her friends were carrying blue lightsabers at the convention, and Havens said she thinks the prop ban, which would prevent them from taking the lightsabers on Friday, might go a little too far. 

“I think it’s a little unfair for people who actually put time and effort into making their props,” she said.

Havens said she does understand that Phoenix Comicon and police want to make sure that everyone stays safe, but questioned why someone would bring real weapons to Comicon in the first place.

“I don’t know what kind of person thinks, ‘Hey, let me bring a real gun,’ ” she said. “That’s not what Con is about.”

Havens said she hopes that the prop ban isn’t reinstated at future Comicons. 

Police advised those attending that they should expect delays in getting into the event starting Friday because of added security screenings and a decrease in entry points into the venue. 

There will be three access points for entrance into the Phoenix Convention Center for those who have a valid badge: 

  • The West Building entrance at Second Street between Washington and Monroe streets.
  • Third and Washington streets.
  • Third and Monroe streets.

Those needing to collect their badge from registration only will be able to do so at the entrance at Third and Monroe streets. 

In the past, Phoenix Comicon has allowed prop weapons into the venue as long as they were screened by police or event security, and did not present a danger to others.

Vendors selling prop weapons will be allowed to continue selling them as long as the props are sealed. The vendors are also required to tell buyers that the weapons have to remain sealed until they leave the Convention Center. 

Phoenix Comicon’s prop policy before Thursday’s incident was similar to that of San Diego Comicon, which bans all functional props and weapons.

San Diego Comicon requires all prop weapons to be inspected and all prop swords to be tied to the wearer’s costume in a way that would prevent them from being drawn.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether upcoming Comicons would ban all props in light of the Thursday incident.

Includes information from Republic reporter Josiah Destin.


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