A Redding man arrested at gunpoint by police Friday night at Cinemark Movies 14 after some theater patrons grew alarmed when they spotted him wearing a military-style tactical vest and a holster pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a misdemeanor count of carrying a concealed dirk or dagger.
John Brentley Casiday, 31, of Redding, who is being represented for free by Redding defense attorney John Kucera, entered his not guilty plea to the single misdemeanor count during a brief arraignment in Shasta County Superior Court.
Retired Superior Court Judge James Ruggiero also ordered Casiday, a U.S. Marine Corps combat veteran who moved to Redding about four months ago, to be released from Shasta County Jail without having to post bail. His bail had been $10,000.
Casiday is due to appear back in Superior Court on July 25 for a settlement conference.
Beforehand, more than a dozen supporters, some waving signs showing their support of him and veterans, gathered on the street outside the Shasta County Courthouse to condemn his arrest and prosecution.
Casiday’s brother-in-law, Sean Merritt, said the theater incident was “blown out of proportion” and his relative did nothing wrong, had no intent to hurt anyone and who should never have been arrested.
Casiday, who served two tours in Iraq, has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and suffers from a severe head injury not related to his duty in Iraq, often wears the tactical vest because as a “coping mechanism” and because it makes him feel safe, said Merritt, a U.S. Army veteran.
But, he said, it’s not a bullet-proof vest, noting it offers no protection and has no steel plates in it.
Police officer Audrey Sterrett confirmed in a police report filed Tuesday in Superior Court that Casiday wears the vest because he does not feel safe in public.
“He wears this (vest) to be protected due to all of the active shooter incidents that have been occurring,” she wrote in her police report.
According to family and a Redding Police report, Casiday was at the movies Friday night with his brother-in-law and his sister, Alexis, to watch “The Conjuring 2.”
But police were called to the theater after receiving telephone calls that a “suspicious” man was seen wearing a black bullet-proof vest and a holster on his right thigh.
It was unknown at that time whether there was a gun in the holster, according to the police report. It was later discovered following Casiday’s arrest that he was not armed with a gun.
But, the police report said, officers found a knife with a 3-inch blade in the holster, as well as a 6- to 7-inch-long fixed-blade knife.
Friday night’s incident reportedly caused a panic in a screening room that was showing the movie “Finding Dory.” That panic was caused when an unknown woman reportedly told theatergoers there was an armed hostage situation in the screening room next door.
Merritt blames the spread of that incorrect information for sparking the entire episode.
“She’s the one who caused this whole panic,” he said.
(c)2016 the Redding Record Searchlight (Redding, Calif.) at www.redding.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.