Pro Tip: If a mentally unbalanced gunman shows up at a theater during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises and proceeds to shoot up the place, it’s probably a bad idea to dress up as Batman and wage a one-man war against the darker impulses of humanity. Doubly so if you do this in public. Triply if the local populace is terrified that someone might go on a similar rampage in their otherwise peaceful burg.
And yet, this is exactly what 23-year-old Pennsylvania resident Matthew Argintar recently decided to do. Like other real-world superheroes, Argintar had hoped to strike fear into the hearts of prospective evil-doers, but in the end he only managed to upset a number of innocent bystanders and get tossed in jail.
According to LeHigh Valley Live, Argintar was seen wearing “tactical pants, elbow and arm pads and a bulletproof vest underneath his clothing” as he patrolled the parking lot of a local Home Depot. This alone wasn’t enough to draw the ire of police, but when Argintar began approaching people in what he imagined was a friendly manner, said people reacted with understandable terror. LeHigh Valley Live reports:
Many customers retreated to their cars after seeing the man, said Matty Auer, of Mansfield Township, who pulled into the store’s parking lot just before 3 p.m. She had just picked up her 8-year-old son, his friend and her friend’s daughter from soccer camp and planned to quickly run into the store, she said.
At first she thought the man was walking to or from a nearby airsoft arena and didn’t think anything particularly odd about his presence. When she parked her car next to the man, he began waving at the children. He smiled “creepily” and spoke inaudibly, she said.
She then realized he was wearing a Batman mask.
“The only thing I could think of was what happened in the movie theater,” she said.
She immediately thought of the July 20 shootings, where 12 people were killed during a premiere of the “The Dark Knight Rises” at a Colorado movie theater. The costume’s connotation — whether or not intentional — terrified and angered her.
“What the hell would possess someone to do this, even as a joke?” she recalled thinking.
Though Auer’s question is presumably rhetorical, Argintar did offer an explanation for his actions following his arrest. According to the would-be Dark Knight, this whole thing is a terrible mistake resulting from his own poor timing and enthusiasm for protecting the citizens of LeHigh. “I’ve been doing this for months. I’ve been going out at night and doing this, and meanwhile the one time I decide to go out in the day … We are out there to try and inspire hope because that’s what the people need right now: hope. … I’m not going out there looking for a fight,” Argintar said.
“What I was doing was not seen the way I wanted it to be seen. I understand it was (expletive) timing and everything. I get that.”
Despite his good intentions, Argintar has been charged with “being disorderly and unlawful possession of handcuffs.” Once in police custody he was taken to a local hospital for psychiatric evaluation. Doctors released him shortly after with a clean bill of mental health and Argintar has been ordered to stand trial in Mansfield Township Municipal Court on August 21.
This being the ‘net, we fully expect common reactions to range from “this dude’s mental” to “this dude’s mental, but I like his moxie.” We accept that, but being optimists, we want to find the most positive face for the growing trend of comic-book-inspired vigilanteism. Granted, Argintar has utterly terrible timing, but his motives are pure. This is a man who is just trying to make the world a safer place for those of us who don’t leave the house kitted out in riot gear. “The whole point of the movement is I don’t care if I look crazy, I just want to inspire hope.”
Crazy or not, that’s far more noble than anything we’ve done today.