Misinterpreted Video Game Reference Sparked Active Shooter Scare at Ballston Theater, Police Say

"Pennywise has sharpshooter activated," the boy said, according to police

As moviegoers watched a horror film on a Saturday night last month, a boy yelled something about a shooter. People ran from the theater in fear, and officers shut down the area for hours, searching for a gunman. 

On Wednesday, police said it was all a misunderstanding.

Arlington County police responded to a "false report of a possible shooter" at the Regal Ballston Quarter theater on Sept. 14 after a boy seeing the movie with a group shouted a reference to a video game, police said.

"Pennywise has sharpshooter activated!" the boy said, according to police.

The exclamation apparently referenced the killer clown in the movie, "IT Chapter Two," and the "sharpshooter mode" in some video games.

The police chief, M. Jay Farr, said he was proud of officers' swift response.

The boy, who police did not name, will not be charged. He did not commit a crime or intend to harm or scare anyone, the department concluded after a weekslong investigation.

Commonwealth's Attorney Theo Stamos suggested that he should have been more careful.

"In today’s climate of heightened awareness around active violence incidents in public places, this incident serves as a reminder about the unintended impacts otherwise innocent actions might have," he said in a statement.

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