Eight movie-goers in Bakersfield, Calif., are recovering from bullet wounds after gunfire erupted following Wednesday night's final screening of the Master P film "I Got the Hook-Up!"
Sgt. Mike Cantrell of the Bakersfield Police Department confirmed that officers responded to a 911 call made just after 11 p.m. from the United Artists theater at the Easthills Mall. "Just under 100 people were exiting a showing of 'I Got the Hook-Up!'," Cantrell explained, "when four or five black males put on blue masks or bandannas and one of them began shooting."
By the time the police arrived, Cantrell said, the shooters were long gone and the scene was relatively calm. A cursory investigation revealed a .380 automatic pistol and more than a dozen empty shell-casings in the lobby.
Cantrell also noted that 12 people had left in the middle of the film due to the fact that "many members of the audience were smoking, drinking beer and being belligerent."
The police have no suspects or motives at the moment, but Cantrell stated that the police are currently working under the assumption that the shooters are members of the notorious L.A. gang the Crips. Police detained two men immediately after the incident, but they were questioned and released.
The shooting injured eight people. According to Cantrell, four of the victims were hit in the leg, two were hit in the arm, one was hit in the back and one was hit in the right thigh. "By the time we got to the theater, all but two of the victims had been transported to the hospital by private conveyance," Cantrell said.
Reached at his office in Inglewood, Colo., United Artists Theaters spokesperson Ray Nutt said that damage to the theater was "cosmetic," including a broken door and bullet holes in the walls and ceiling of the theater's lobby. He also said that "I Got the Hook-Up!" was being pulled from the theater in Bakersfield but not from the 70 other United Artists theaters showing the film.
"If we thought this film caused the violence, which we don't, we would have pulled it from our other theaters as well. We didn't want any misconceptions in the local community," Nutt said, "so we felt it was in our best interest to disassociate the theater with the incident."
Nutt also said that United Artists had not considered hiring any extra security during the film's screenings. "['I Got the Hook-Up!'] is more of a comedy than it is anything else," Nutt said, "so there really isn't a need for it. This kind of thing can happen in public places, which is why we don't attribute the shootings to the film."
Spokespeople for Master P could not be reached for comment by press time.
"I Got the Hook-Up!" is the second film written, co-directed and starring gangsta-rapper and No Limit Records head honcho Master P (a.k.a. Percy Miller). It's a comedy about two men who sell cellular phones out of their van and features brief appearances by such No Limit acts as Fiend and Sons of Funk. Master P's first film, 1997's "I'm 'Bout It," was a direct-to-video hit that was based on his reaction to the shooting death of his brother.