Iraq Vet Charged with Movie Theater Shooting

By Attiyah Buford
|  Saturday, Jan 3, 2009  |  Updated 12:16 PM EDT
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Iraq Vet Charged with Movie Theater Shooting

Philadelphia Police

James Joseph Cialella, Jr. allegedly shot a man on Christmas day for making too much noise in a South Philadelphia movie theater.

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The alleged gunman involved in a Christmas night shooting over noisy moviegoers is an Iraq war veteran, a churchgoer and a newlywed who fired in self-defense, his lawyer said.

James Joseph Cialella, 29, of Philadelphia, is charged with firing a shot that broke the arm of Woffard Lomax Jr. inside a city movie theater during a screening of the film "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."

Lomax, 31, described the shooting for the first time in public Wednesday at a preliminary hearing, when a judge ordered Cialella held for trial on aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and related charges.

The judge tossed out an attempted murder charge over a prosecutor's objections.

According to Lomax, he was at the movie with his girlfriend and her three teenagers, enjoying the film and laughing, when a man in front of him -- not Cialella -- told him to quiet down.

"We can't laugh?" Lomax recalled asking.

A second man threw popcorn at the family, and a brawl ensued.

Lomax said he was fighting with the first man when the second man pulled out a gun and fired, striking him in the left arm.

A defense lawyer argued that Cialella was being choked and punched as he tried to break up the fight and fired in self-defense.

"He's a marksman," lawyer Greg Pagano said. "If he wanted to shoot to kill, he would have."

Cialella spent five months in Iraq with the Army before being honorably discharged in September, Pagano said. The lawyer also said Cialella is a college student and homeowner.

Some people are praising Cialella for defending movie-goers everywhere.

"AND WHO could blame him?" was the Wednesday headline in an Irish newspaper about our new local hero.

"A heartfelt congratulations to James Cialella, who has finally stood up to those rude, ignorant pigs who seem oblivious to the enjoyment of others," said the column in the publication from Ireland. 

"Our hero was watching the latest Brad Pitt vehicle, 'The Strange Case of Benjamin Button' . . . when a family sitting in front of him started chattering," "James asked them to pipe down... but the noisy bunch persisted. So he did what any right- thinking person would do - he shot the father."

Municipal Court Judge Craig M. Washington lowered Cialella's bond from $350,000 to $50,000, but ordered him to remain under house arrest if he is released.

It was not immediately clear on Thursday if he had posted bail.

Lomax, who came to court with his arm in a cast, did not elaborate on his testimony after the hearing.

The shooting occurred at the United Artists Riverview Stadium Theater in South Philadelphia.

Police have said Cialella brought a .380-caliber handgun in his waistband to the megaplex.

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