San Diego moviegoers at a screening of Les Miserables were suddenly jolted from the story on the screen to the real life scene playing out before them. They realized what was going on when the movie was stopped and the lights suddenly went on. Two officers were roaming the rows of theater seats looking for 20-year-old Tom Billodeaux, a suspect who was involved in a domestic violence incident that began just an hour and forty minutes before.
The dispute began in a Marie Calendar’s restaurant located near the theater. Billodeaux had written a suicide note earlier, gone to his girlfriend’s workplace, and shortly thereafter took his girlfriend hostage at gunpoint. The woman was able to escape, but Billodeaux ran off to the nearby theater. With his handgun at his side, he made his way quietly into one of the theaters.
After Billodeaux ran off, a call was made to the police, and a hunt ensued. Police shut down the parking lot where the incident occurred. They swarmed the parking lot, and checked vehicles to see if the suspect might be hiding in any of them. They soon made their way to the theater where they searched each theater for the suspect. Moviegoers in that particular theater recount what happened next.
They walked around and looked through the aisles and they kicked all the curtains looking for somebody hiding, I guess. And, um, then as they started to exit that’s I guess when the shots started, and when we all hit the floor and ran for the exit.
Once police found the suspect, he raised his hands but then put them down near his lap where his handgun was resting. Before he could raise the gun to the officers, one of the officers shot the man twice, once in the chest and once in the arm. Billodeaux was taken to a nearby hospital and is in stable condition. Once he is well enough, he will be arrested and taken to the county jail. No one else was harmed in the incident.
While incidents involving someone brandishing a gun in a movie theater are not common, the fact that the case involved a gun and domestic violence is more common than most people know. What this event highlights is the need for Congress to continue funding for the Violence Against Women Act. The Act helps to fund efforts at the local level, including domestic violence programs, and the coordination of the local police, court systems, and social services. All too often domestic violence takes place behind closed doors. In this instance, the incident played out in public, and it endangered more than just the two who were initially involved in the dispute. Thankfully, no one was killed this time, and the situation was dealt with safely.