The attorney for Scott A. Smith, who was arrested after attending the latest Batman movie armed with a gun, ammunition and knives, said the deadly shooting in Aurora, Colorado, last month prompted his client to bring the weapons for protection.
"He had a fear and wanted to protect himself," attorney Matthew Bruce said Friday.
Smith, 37, made his first appearance in court Thursday and is currently being held on $250,000 bond.
He was arrested Saturday and charged with two counts of carrying a concealed weapon and 19 counts related to carrying weapons "under disability," charges that refer to the effects of prescription drugs Smith was taking, said Nicole DiSanto of the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office.
Police say Saturday night Smith went to the Regal Theater in Westlake, Ohio, to see the 10:30 p.m. showing of "The Dark Knight Rises."
According to DiSanto, Smith was the first to arrive, 30 minutes before the movie's start, and took a seat in the back row, directly in the middle, with his back to a wall. A manager at the theater and an off-duty police officer grew suspicious of where he sat, and they noticed the bag Smith was carrying.
They asked to search the bag, DiSanto said, and inside found a loaded 9 mm semiautomatic handgun, two loaded magazine clips and three knives. Police said Smith was carrying another knife on his person.
His attorney said he had arrived early to get the best seat in the theater.
"That's just the kind of person he is," said Bruce, who acknowledged that Smith was not carrying the gun legally.
Smith told the off-duty officer he was carrying the gun and knives for protection, to protect himself and other moviegoers, said police, who took him into custody. A search of Smith's home turned up more weapons, including rifles, shotguns and survivalist gear.
Westlake police Lt. Ray Arcuri said police believe Smith's position in the movie theater was "tactical:" not only was he protected from the back, but he could have fired to his right, left and center on anyone in the theater in front of him. About 80 people attended the movie that night.
In 1995, Smith enlisted in the U.S. Army but did not finish basic training, according to Army spokesman George Wright.
The charges against Smith follow the mass shooting last month in Aurora, Colorado, where a gunman fired on a crowd of moviegoers watching a showing of "The Dark Knight Rises." The attack killed 12 people.