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Judge Sets 2021 Trial Date for Washington County Theater Shooting

WASHINGTON, Pa. — Christopher Williams is scheduled to stand trial Feb. 1 in Washington County Court on charges stemming from a shooting in a multiplex theater last year.

In a short proceeding before Judge Valarie Costanzo, Williams, of Waynesburg, who turned 55 on Wednesday, appeared with his attorney, Jack Puskar.

The defense attorney said negotiations with the state attorney general’s office on a possible plea had “come to an impasse.”

The judge intends to issue a case management order regarding the jury trial. Senior Deputy Attorney General Patrick Schulte said the order would include a pretrial conference that the defense and prosecution would be required to attend.

Puskar said outside the courtroom that there was nothing on which he would comment, and about an hour after the conclusion, said Williams intends to hire a new attorney.

The teenage victim, who was in what has been described as a racial confrontation, was not present.

Williams is charged with aggravated assault, terroristic threats, simple assault, reckless endangerment, disorderly conduct and harassment.

The victim, Anthony Ward, now 18, was a juvenile at the time he was watching the movie “Us,” a tale of psychological horror, with friends the night of March 23, 2019, before violence erupted in Regal Crown Center Theater in North Franklin Township. The theater is attached to the Washington Crown Center mall.

According to testimony at previous proceedings, Williams, who is white, rose from his seat in the audience and walked up to the row where Ward, who is Black, and friends were seated and reacting noisily to the film.

Williams “started yelling at us,” Ward testified, repeating an expletive directed toward the group with Williams saying the teens should “shut up.”

The confrontation became physical, with punches aimed at the face of Williams, who was knocked to the floor in the melee.

Ward’s friends ran from the auditorium, and as Ward exited, he said Williams came from behind him and he saw a gun pointed at his face.

“He called me the N-word,” testified Ward, who said a scuffle at floor-level ensued. “I was moving around so much, the gun went off, and I got shot in the leg.”

Ward said he had been attempting to disarm an attacker when a bullet lodged in his lower right calf. The injured teen was eventually flown by helicopter to Allegheny General Hospital, Pittsburgh, and, about a month later, underwent surgery.

Williams, who worked as a corrections officer at SCI-Greene, was treated at a hospital and released the night of the episode.

Demonstrations took place in the wake of the shooting, and more than a month lapsed before charges were filed.

Williams has been on leave from his job at the prison.

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