Police said a 30-year-old man was arrested after making menacing social-media posts about officers and had weapons inside the Convention Center. Azcentral’s Kellie Hwang brings you the story from the scene. Patrick Breen/azcentral.com
Phoenix Comicon organizers have released a revised safety and security policy this week after an armed man was arrested at the latest annual event in May.
The announcement comes two months after a series of ripple effects from the May 25 arrest of Mathew Sterling, 30, caused show officials to ban attendees from taking prop weapons with them to the Phoenix Convention Center.
The amended policy could have a lasting impact on how cosplayers interact with the Phoenix show. This is especially true of cosplayers who use firearms.
The immediate alterations to the weapons and costume policy meant Comicon cosplayers were subject to beefed-up security measures in addition to long lines after Sterling’s detainment.
The new weapons and costume rules put in effect Thursday echoes the crack-down on safety measures and have drawn both understanding and ire from convention-goers.
Prior to Sterling’s arrest, the convention center and event organizers did not utilize metal detectors for incoming guests, a Phoenix police spokeswoman told The Arizona Republic.
Attendees could also enter the center with prop weapons but were supposed to stop by a security table that would tag them as fakes.
At the time of his arrest, a costumed Sterling told investigators he was “The Punisher” and aimed to kill bad police officers and “Power Rangers” actor Jason David Frank, who was scheduled to appear at the convention.
Sterling was carrying an arsenal of fully-loaded weapons that included 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 was subsequently charged in the Maricopa County Superior Court with attempted first-degree murder, four counts of attempted aggravated assault, aggravated assault, resisting arrest, misconduct involving body armor and one count of misconduct involving weapons, according to court documents.
New strict weapons, costume policy to protect safety of participants
Upon arrival to the convention, attendees will now be subject to enhanced security measures that include: metal detectors, metal detecting wands, bag checks and an increased police and security presence.
Costumes and props must be inspected at a checkpoint and approved prop weapons will be tagged by security.
Firearms, fake or otherwise, are strictly prohibited. This includes concealed and non-concealed firearms and weapons. Other prohibited items include:
- Any real or replica weapon that resembles a firearm, including BB guns, cap guns, paintball guns, Nerf guns, blowguns, water guns, toy guns and Airsoft guns, among others.
- Glass props
- Stone props
- Chainsaws or other gas-powered props
- Bladed metal or wooden weapons
- Real, replica or simulated explosives, ammunition and chemical weapons
- Metal, spiked, wooden and other miscellaneous props including metal armor, barbed wire, nunchucks, bats, slingshots, brass knuckles, golf clubs and hockey sticks
- Excessively noisy props like airhorns, bullhorns or whistles
Attendees will still be able to bring lightsabers, wands and sonic screwdrivers in addition to:
- Props made from plastic, thermo plastic, urethane resin, cardboard, foam or foam rubber that are clearly and visibly props
- Plastic, fiberglass or resin shields with no sharp edges
- Bows that are not strung and incapable of shooting arrows
- Arrows in a quiver that are not removable
- Staffs made of plastic, resin, cardboard, foam or foam rubber that are no taller than six feet.
Props that are heavy or oversized “must be easily stowed in crowded areas” as they may become dangerous in high-density areas.
Those wearing costumes with pieces that extend from it like wings, spikes or armor, or are carrying large props may be askd to change or remove the prop from the building “if it is found to be disruptive or dangerous.”
“Costumes, cosplay, and assuming the identity of your character are encouraged but must fall within acceptable boundaries for all ages events. Inappropriate costumes or actions are grounds for removal from the event,” the policy states.
Attendees are also asked to be modest in their costumes, which must cover areas similar to swimsuits acceptable for public pools and beaches. Body paint and nudity are not allowed and cosplayers are asked to wear appropriate undergarments.
The amended policy also outlines behavior at the family-friendly event which promotes everyone have respect for their fellow enthusiasts.
In addition, guests are permitted a clear backpack, tote or drawstring bag or a small clutch pursue per attendee, no larger than 5.5″ by 8.5″. They will be subject to search procedures.
Other outlined protocol includes that attendees are not permitted to dance or display signs inside the convention center.
All are subject to change at the convention’s discretion, their website states.
The announcement posted to the convention’s Facebook page Tuesday drew hundreds of comments.
Some people criticized the new rules for being too constraining and wrote they wouldn’t attend. Others said they were relieved to see further actions being taken to protect guests.
Phoenix Comicon 2018 is scheduled for May 24-27.
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