An Oceanside man was charged with reckless endangerment after two young girls found his loaded pistol in a Long Beach theater during a children’s movie, according to police and court documents.
John Abatz, 66, knew he had lost his .22-caliber Beretta on Tuesday, but he failed to inform the police in a timely manner, court records show.
After the girls, 9 or 10 years old, told the staff of the Long Beach Cinema 4 of their discovery, the manager retrieved the firearm and called police, said Long Beach police Lt. Eric Cregeen.
Underscoring the potential danger, he said: “Especially in a kid’s movie, who knows what’s going to happen if somebody picks it up?”
“Fortunately, they did the right thing, and so did the movie theater, and everything worked out OK,” Cregeen said.
The incident happened around noon when Long Beach Cinema 4 was featuring “Storks,” rated PG, and “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” a PG-13 movie.
After the theater manager turned the pistol over to police, officers checked its serial numbers and found it belonged to Abatz, who has a valid gun license.
“One of my cops goes into the back of the movie theater while the movie still is going on, apparently,” and the officer calls out, “ ‘Could John Abatz come to the front of the theater?’ ” Cregeen said. “He came up and was subsequently arrested.”
Abatz was arraigned in Long Beach City Court on Wednesday, court officials said. He pleaded not guilty and is due back in court Nov. 16.
“From what I understand, he’s never had any criminal troubles and has led a law-abiding life,” said the defendant’s attorney, Robert Zuflacht of Carle Place.
With Nicole Fuller