The Geeks of Doom crew has been at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con since its preview night on Wednesday, and Dave3 and I have been in the San Diego Convention Center’s main auditorium, Hall H, all day, every day since Thursday morning.
At around 5pm today just before Universal’s panel for Paul and Cowboys & Aliens was about to begin, a fight broke out hall, which was packed to capacity (over 6,000 seats). A young man was taken out on a stretcher, while his alleged attacker was carted off in handcuffs by police.
Dave and I, along with fellow Doomers Tom Cheredar and Andrew Sorcini, were sitting about 10 rows back and to the side from where the fight occurred and witnessed a lot of what happened. Typically, I wouldn’t have bothered to write about a ‘fight’ at the convention, but in the past few hours since the incident occurred, I’ve seen reports from the likes of the LA Times that are quite skewed and wanted to give a better account of what happened.
My main problem with these mainstream reports are that they make it seem like attendees all just stood around gawking and taking cell phone pictures while a man laid injured. This is NOT what happened.
Here’s what did happen, from what several of us witnessed [we were also sitting with our friends John and Matt, as well as the guys from SlashFilm and The Totally Rad Show, so we all talked about what we saw happen].
It was during an intermission, so the lights in the hall were on, and people were walking about, stretching their legs, going to the rest room, and going for food. During intermission, most people stand up, because the leg room is barely existent in the cramped rows of the hall. Therefore, a lot of people were already standing when the incident occurred, making it easier to witness.
We were towards the back of the hall on the right side just to the right of the incident, which was in the first row of the cluster of seats. All we could see was a man being knocked down and what looked like another man go down. Immediately people in the surrounding area started screaming for security and waving their hands in the air so security could find where to go.
There was NO immediate response.
The mainstream reports were that security immediately rushed to the scene, but that’s not what happened. Also, they made it seem that people were standing around just watching what happened, but it was attendees who apprehended the alleged attacker and held him down until security came. I did see some of the people who work the Con (who wear the blue shirts) come quickly to see what happened, but they are not the “Elite” security force for the Con, they just patrol the aisles to make sure no one videos any of the footage that the studios show. They are not equipped to respond to a violent altercation.
Some people we knew that were up closer and saw what happened said that a man was poked/stabbed in the eye possible with a pen by another man and was bleeding from the eye. The attacker had been walking past the row and said something (I don’t know what was said) and when the other man asked “What?” that’s when the man walking stopped and stabbed him in the eye. USA Today reports that the man was stabbed in the eye with a pen.
When security finally did show up, no one was blocking their way. They did not “rush” to the victim or his alleged attacker. Yes, people wanted to know what happened because there was obviously a violent incident that occurred, no one knew if there was still someone still with a weapon, or if the injured person was safe — and like I said, there was no rush to the scene by security. People were screaming for security from that first row all the way back about 30-40 rows.
The row where the altercation happened as well as one or two rows behind it were emptied out so that officials could clear the area and investigate.
Eventually, ambulance workers came with a stretcher and placed the victim on it. He was a young male, possibly Hispanic. We were sitting on the aisle and they wheeled him slowly right passed us. There was blood running down the left side of his face from his eye, but he was conscious and calm.
After the victim was taken out on the stretcher, police officers on the scene handcuffed the alleged attacker as onlookers cheered. He was a black man wearing a white Harry Potter t-shirt, which was given out that morning in a WB gift bag handed to attendees as they entered Hall H. The police, which included an officer in motorcycle gear, led the alleged attacker out on the other side of the aisle, so they didn’t pass us, but we did see him being taken away; he was leading forward as he walked.
Security kept the rows empty around where the incident happened and asked everyone to go back to their seats and to step down from off their seats. Everyone went back to their seats but no one was really sitting down. Over the loudspeaker, everyone was told to sit, but again, everyone had been standing for intermission when the incident occurred and no one really wanted to sit until it was time for the next panel to begin (that’s just the way it works since the seats are cramped and uncomfortable).
While officials investigated the area where the fight occurred, the Trailer Park trailers were shown again for about a half hour, then the Universal panel begin. (We had just sat through about half hour or so of random trailers during the part of the programming called “Trailer Park” and most of what we saw was NOT good, so to have to see it all again really sucked.) The delay in programming was actually the second of the day; earlier, there was technical difficulties that delayed another panel and trailers were shown then too (so, some of these not so great trailers were shown three times!).
The Hall H Comic-Con experience is hard to imagine if you’ve never been there before. This hall is where the major movie studios show all of their upcoming movies, complete with new exclusive footage and A-list panelists. It’s a huge draw and getting into the hall usually means waiting in line outside the convention center for 3-4 hours early in the morning before the convention center even opens. The line is crowded with tired people, some of whom even come the night before to camp out. If you are not out on that line early in the morning, then chances are, you are not getting into the Hall for the early panels and you will be waiting a long time to finally get in.
In my experience, everyone is friendly and ready to help one another. I’ve never seen a fight break out or hostilities or anything like that. Even in the crowded hall, where there’s even lengthy lines for the rest rooms and food station, everyone seems to keep their cool and the friendly atmosphere from outside continues on the inside.
Therefore, to see a fight break out, even in an area with thousands of people, is uncommon and surprising. To witness something like we did today, which is seemingly one person attacking someone they didn’t know, is very shocking. It just doesn’t happen.
So, I wanted to clarify that the attendees didn’t just stare and watch as someone was hurt. That’s not the kind of people that this convention attracts. Matter of fact, out on the line to get into Hall H this morning, a rat was spotted running up the rows of people. We could see where the rat was first spotted as people sitting on the floor immediately jumped up, and we also could see by the crowd that the rat was coming straight towards us. Of course, it ran right by my foot (amazingly, I was not frightened because being from NYC I actually thought it was a mouse, not a rat, since the rats in my town are the size of cats). Guess what? I didn’t hear anyone yell to kill the rat or anything like that. What I did hear where people saying how cute the little guy was and to move out of it’s way. Everyone was joking about it, no one was scared or wanting it dead. So, that’s the kind of people this convention draws.
The USA Today article confirmed that attendees detained the suspect, and that the victim was stabbed around the eye socket. The identities of the two men have not been released.
San Diego Police Sgt. Gary Mondesir said, “Two males got into a dispute and one male stabbed the other male with a pen around the eye socket. Paramedics arrived almost immediately and took the victim to the University of California/San Diego hospital. The suspect was taken away.
“We had officers inside the convention center and they were there relatively quickly, and citizens had actually detained the suspect,” said Mondesir.
In 2008, the biggest unexpected excitement in Hall H came when the massive draping and its metal rods in the back of the hall collapsed on the people sitting in the back rows. Luckily, no one was injured. The incident occurred just before the scheduled start of the day’s programming, which included a panel for Twilight (the first movie). Of course, we were sitting just rows up from where the collapse occurred and saw it all happening — and seriously, it unfolded as if in slow motion. [FYI – if you want to know why we were sitting so far back, it’s because the Twilight fans had been out on the line for THREE days in advance, so we were lucky to even get into the hall at all.]