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Washington man arrested for punching 10 year-old boy in movie theater

By Jennifer Sullivan, The Seattle Times –

SEATTLE — With Celine Dion crooning, Leonardo DiCaprio proclaiming himself “king of the world” and the Titanic taking on water — all in 3-D — the perfect scene for a date was set.

But the on-screen spectacle was interrupted by talking, followed by the tossing of popcorn in a Kent, Wash., multiplex. It proved too much for one man, who allegedly responded in a manner countless moviegoers have no doubt considered when encountering a rude audience member.

Yong H. Kim, 31, allegedly got up in the darkened theater and confronted the chatterboxes who were tossing popcorn at Kim and his date. When they responded with laughter, say King County prosecutors, Kim threw a punch, knocking a tooth out of the mouth of one of his alleged tormentors.

It wasn’t until later, when police got involved, that Kim learned the recipient of the punch was a 10-year-old boy.

Kim was arrested and released after the April 11 incident at the AMC Theater at Kent Station, said Kent police Assistant Chief Pat Lowry. He was charged last week in King County Superior Court with second-degree assault, which carries a penalty of three to nine months in jail.

In his 32 years with Kent police, Lowery said, he’s never heard of someone throwing a punch over a similar encounter in a movie theater. “I was really quite stunned. This is not something we see,” Lowery said Tuesday.

Efforts to reach Kim, who lives in Auburn, Wash., were unsuccessful.

When officers were called to the theater at 10:41 p.m. on April 11, they were met in the lobby by the 10-year-old boy and his mother, who wasn’t present when the alleged assault occurred.

The boy told police he was watching the movie when a man “stepped over a row of seats” and told him that he “paid a lot of money to see this movie,” Detective Gerald Gee wrote in his report. The boy said that the man, who was wearing 3-D glasses, struck him in the face with a closed fist, causing his nose to bleed and a tooth to fall out.

The boy claimed he didn’t know why he was punched.

Police walked into the theater and asked Kim to come out to the lobby. Kim told the officers that he asked the group to be quiet. When they didn’t, he said, he struck one of the boys with an open hand, Gee’s report said.

“I got so mad that it just happened,” Kim later told Gee, according to the report.

Ryan Noonan, spokesman for AMC Theatres, said “we strongly encourage guests to be respectful of their fellow moviegoers, and to report any disturbance to an AMC associate, so that we may handle it directly.”

Dr. Patrick Hart, a Seattle psychologist specializing in anger management, says Kim should have “paused, relaxed in the moment.”

He suggests using humor and a sharp wit to handle a spike in anger at others’ behavior in the movie theater. “Speak your truth, in a good-humored way. Say it out loud. If somebody is hucking popcorn, being loud, being rowdy, use humor to interrupt that pattern of behavior,” Hart said.

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