June 25, 2016

Mostly sunny

Attorney: N. Ridgeville gunman wanted to protect himself at theater

WESTLAKE — An attorney for a North Ridgeville man arrested Saturday night at Regal Cinemas with a loaded 9 mm handgun and four knives at a showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” said his client was afraid and armed himself for his own protection.

But police planned to file weapons charges against Scott A. Smith, saying he assumed a “tactical” position in the back row after entering the Crocker Park theater alone for the 10 p.m. showing.

Scott A. Smith

Smith, 37, also had two loaded magazines and medical gear in a satchel that was searched by a theater manager and off-duty police officer, detective Lt. Ray Arcuri said.

“He said in an interview that he has a little kid now, and he’s in protection mode,” Arcuri said. “We don’t buy that.”

But Smith’s attorney, Matthew Bruce, said his client contends he just wanted to protect himself.

“He had absolutely no intention of harming anyone or threatening anyone,” Bruce said. “He had a sense of fear going to a movie that late at night. Any weapons he would have had on him were solely for defensive reasons.”

The medical supplies carried by Smith included bandages to bind a wound, Arcuri said.

Arcuri said thousands of rounds of ammunition, seven other pistols, a dozen rifles or shotguns and several tactical vests were found in Smith’s home on Emerald Drive, north of Center Ridge Road.

Exactly what Smith was planning is unclear, but he does not have a concealed carry permit, Arcuri said. Even if he did have a permit to carry a handgun, no weapons are allowed inside Regal Cinemas, he said.

Westlake police are working with federal authorities on the investigation, Arcuri said.

Arcuri said Smith is married and has an 11-month-old daughter. He said authorities found no criminal record for Smith, who told police he served briefly in the U.S. Army a number of years ago before being discharged for medical reasons.

The theater manager first noticed Smith carrying the satchel and asked to look inside, according to Westlake police Sgt. Mark Krumheuer.

“He saw medical supplies in there and didn’t see anything else,” Krumheuer said.

Off-duty Westlake police officer Jeremiah Bullins also asked Smith if he could look in the bag and that’s when Smith admitted to having the weapons, Krumheuer said.

In the bag, the officer found a Glock handgun in a zippered pouch and three knives and two loaded magazines for the handgun. An additional knife was found on Smith, who was arrested without incident, police said.

It’s hard to say what might have happened if Smith had not been questioned about the satchel, but Krumheuer said he thinks being “thorough and diligent is the moral of the story.”

Smith’s attorney, Matthew Bruce, said his client is a self-employed contractor.

Police found some evidence in Smith’s home that he had worked for a sleep disorder clinic in Cuyahoga County, Krumheuer said.

Possible charges were four counts of carrying various weapons, one count of carrying a concealed weapon and one count of having weapons under disability because he was taking medication, Arcuri said.

Westlake police plan to confer with the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office about the case.

Neighbor Pati Habenicht said she saw authorities at Smith’s home for hours on Sunday and they were still there when she went to bed. News traveled fast in the neighborhood about the arsenal found inside, she said.

She said Smith and his wife have a young child and he “stayed pretty much to himself.”

Habenicht said she spoke with Smith in the past about motorcycles because he has a motorcycle and she was considering getting a license.

Court records show that Smith was paying child support for two teenaged boys after a divorce in Delaware County, Pa.

The documents stated that the child support order was suspended because the remaining minor child was living in Ohio with Smith instead of in Florida with his mother. The court documents stated that a 17-year-old teen had been living with his father.

A hearing to “reallocate parental rights and responsibilities” is set for 10 a.m. Thursday in Lorain County Domestic Relations Court.

Smith’s ex-wife, Joanne DeLucia, failed to appear for a hearing in June, according to the records.

Reporter Rona Proudfoot and photographer Bruce Bishop contributed to this report.

Contact Cindy Leise at (440) 329-7245 or cleise@chroniclet.com.