Waterfront shooting raises concerns

The Waterfront Loews Cineplex, a popular place for CMU students to catch movies and popcorn on the weekend, was the scene of a fatal shooting last Wednesday night after the premiere of the film Get Rich or Die Tryin?. In response, Loews has decided to stop showings of the movie until the police have finished their investigation.

The shooting?s victim, Shelton Flowers, was from Wilkinsburg and had a criminal record, as well as a gun of his own at the theater. For now, several uniformed officers have been deployed at the theatre to ensure safety.

West Homestead police do not believe the film incited the violence. ?This was not a random act,? said West Homestead police acting Sgt. Dan Kinzel. ?Whenever you get a large group of people in a certain place, there?s going to be incidents.?

Curtis ?50 Cent? Jackson, the rapper whose life Get Rich or Die Tryin? depicts, echoed that view on ABC?s The View. He expressed his condolences but dismissed a link between his movie and the shooting, saying, ?This was a 30-year-old man [who] had a dispute with three other guys.?

However, Anthony Butts, a professor of creative writing and English at CMU, remains wary of rappers as role models. ?I grew up in a ?50 Cent? neighborhood in Detroit, like the one in the movie Four Brothers. There was a way to get out of the ghetto, but studying wasn?t cherished. The best way to get out is through entertainment. However, not everyone can be famous ? but everyone can get an education.?
Butts said, ?There?s a kind of violence endorsed by American culture that is pervasive in sports, news, etc. I don?t blame the media, because it shows us what they think we want to see.?

Police in Syracuse and Arizona do think that the movie is linked to violence. Sgt. Shane McFarland of the Arizona Department of Public Safety is quoted by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review as saying: ?History has traditionally shown that when this type of movie opens nationwide, it attracts individuals who are into gangster rap.?

That may be the reason why the theater at the Waterfront hired an off-duty copy for extra security. Viacom Inc.?s Paramount Pictures, which is distributing Get Rich or Die Tryin?, also paid for extra security at movie theaters. This was not unprecedented, as extra security has been deployed in the past, according to the Tribune-Review.

The film was rated by the MPAA ?R for strong violence, pervasive language, drug content, sexuality, and nudity.? Terence Winter, who wrote episodes of HBO?s graphic series The Sopranos, wrote the script. Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly wrote, ?It is also, surely, the first movie I?ve ever seen that incorporates graphic prison violence (complete with an Oz-like naked brawl among showering inmates) ... and unrelenting raw language.?

The film also has a robbery scene that culminates in the real-life attempt to kill 50 Cent, who was shot nine times but lived.

After the shooting at Loews, many people are worried about how safe the Waterfront is. Until now there had never been as serious a crime as a fatal shooting at the Waterfront. Kinzell stressed that crime around the Waterfront has ?never been homegrown.? Flowers, he mentioned, was from Wilkinsburg, not West Homestead.

Carol Tatrai, secretary of the borough of West Homestead, feels that West Homestead is secure. ?There are parts of the surrounding area that aren?t the most desirable, but there are some very nice neighborhoods. The police are very much on top of things.?

Tatrai and Lisa Guckes, the tax collector for West Homestead, both believe that the Waterfront development has been a boon for the borough, which gets tax revenue from the Waterfront. However, the development has a tax increment financing (TIF) program until 2015, which means they won?t pay full taxes until then.

Guckes said, ?We had nothing there before except for a shut-down steel mill. Now we have jobs and development. It [the TIF] is the only way to get a development this big to come. It?s more beneficial to the businesses at first, but later we?ll get the full taxes. It was a win-win situation.?