Everyone knows you don’t yell “FIRE” in a crowded theater, poke the bears at the zoo, or tell the passenger beside you on the airplane that you’ve got a bomb in your underwear . . . it’s just not done these days.
So it should come as no surprise that when a guy (Christopher Schwartz) known around town for dressing as Batman, playing loud music and dancing publicly puts the following on his FaceBook page:
“I demand payment of 1 million dollars or I will blow up the hospital. Once the funds are secured, private message me for further instruction.”
Someone is gonna take notice. The second thing that should be no surprise, is that once the smoke cleared the guy is gonna say something like:
“I WOULD LIKE TO TAKE THIS TIME TO EXPRESS MY APOLOGIES TO ANY PANIC OR MASS HYSTERIA CAUSE BY MY, WHAT I THOUGHT WAS AN OBVIOUS APRIL FOOLS FACEBOOK POST. IT WAS LIKE ANY OTHER FACEBOOK POST MADE BY MILLIONS OF PEOPLE EVERYDAY. I QUOTED A MOVIE.”
This all falls under what this NerdBastard would term the “Maybe I should have thought about this for a second before posting it to FaceBook.” Don’t get me wrong, I love a good joke or April Fool’s gag but when the first comment on your status update says:
BAR HARBOR, Maine — In comic books about Batman, the caped crusader cooperates with police officials to stop villains who commit crimes or make threats.
In Bar Harbor, there is a self-styled proxy Batman who does not have a great relationship with local police. On Sunday, that relationship took a turn for the worse when Christopher Schwartz, also known as Bar Harbor Batman, posted a comment on his hero persona Facebook page that he says was meant as an April Fools’ joke for the enjoyment of his 1,200 or so fans.
The comment got Schwartz arrested on a charge of terrorizing.
“I demand payment of 1 million dollars or I will blow up the hospital,” Schwartz posted on the site. “Once the funds are secured, private message me for further instruction.”
The message was still posted on the Bar Harbor Batman Facebook page Monday afternoon.
Schwartz, 35, admits that not everyone shares his sense of humor and claims the comment was a combination of two movie quotes. In subsequent posts on the Facebook page, where he describes himself as an entertainer, Schwartz apologized but said his alter-ego shtick is satire and should not be construed as genuine.
“None of this is real and should NOT in anyway be taken as such!” he wrote.
In an email sent Monday morning to the Bangor Daily News, Schwartz said that when police showed up at his door Sunday afternoon, he tried to explain and offered to remove the post and issue a public apology. Instead, he was arrested and taken to Hancock County Jail in Ellsworth.
“It was a demoralizing and humiliating experience,” Schwartz wrote. “I feel that my civil liberties have been violated.”
Schwartz bailed out of Hancock County Jail on Sunday afternoon on $1,000 unsecured bail, according to jail officials.
Subsequent attempts Monday to contact Schwartz were unsuccessful.
Officer Thom Tardiff of the Bar Harbor Police Department said Monday that police saw the post early Sunday afternoon and went to talk to Schwartz, who lives two blocks away from Mount Desert Island Hospital in Bar Harbor. Schwartz told police during the conversation that he was just kidding around, but then asked if they had brought the money he had demanded, according to the officer.
“That’s when I took it a little more seriously,” Tardiff said.
Tardiff said the fact that Schwartz lives close to MDI Hospital made the threat seem more plausible. He said hospital staff were notified of the threat when police saw it posted on Schwartz’ public Facebook page.
Tardiff said such threats can turn out to be genuine and that police have to investigate them and take them seriously.
“In the era we live in, you can’t take them lightly,” he said.
The officer said he has asked Schwartz to remove the offending comment from Schwartz’s Facebook page and may do so again.
“I told him to take it down,” Tardiff said. “Obviously, he hasn’t.”
The incident will be reviewed by the Hancock County District Attorney’s office to determine whether the terrorizing charge formally will be filed in court, he said.
Sunday’s incident was not the first time police have dealt with Schwartz, who has been known to turn up in costume at some of Bar Harbor’s bars, especially in the summer. Schwartz sometimes carries a portable music player, or boombox, with him to play music that he dances to while in costume.
Last August, Schwartz was warned by police about playing his boombox too loud after he got dressed as Batman and used it on Cottage Street after bar closing time. Then last October, on a Sunday afternoon, Schwartz again got into costume and cranked up his boombox, this time outside the police station. He received a warning in that incident as well.
Bar Harbor has an amplified music ordinance that restricts when amplified music, either live or prerecorded, can be played in public.
Tardiff said that aside from the two boombox incidents and Sunday’s Facebook comment, the local police department has not had other reportable incidents with Schwartz.
Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.