An Indianapolis man was arrested Wednesday after police say he killed three strangers during a four-day crime spree.
According to prosecutors, 19-year-old Johnathon Cruz’s crime spree was inspired by “The Purge,” a series of horror films set in the near-dystopian future.
But what exactly is a “Purge?” And have the movies inspired other crime sprees?
WHAT IS A PURGE?
Released in 2013, “The Purge” depicts a dystopian America in the near future. Under the guise as a gift to the public, the government announces a “purge;” 12 hours a year where all crimes are legal and no emergency personnel are available.
The movie, which stars Ethan Hawke, opened with a modest $34 million at the box office on opening weekend, but quickly developed into a cult classic. The movie’s sequel “The Purge: Anarchy” was released in 2014 and a second sequel “The Purge: Election Year” is set for release on July 1.
HAVE PURGES HAPPENED IN REAL LIFE?
Not quite. While Cruz’s alleged crime spree was inspired by the movie, he was the only one involved. Purges depicted in the movies contain hordes of lawless criminals.
In August 2014, rumors swirled on social media that a group of teenagers were planning a purge in Louisville, Kentucky. Though two shootings occurred during the night in question, neither could be tied to the purging rumors. However, the rumors caused significant commotion throughout the city. At least one high school football scrimmage was canceled, and many residents chose to stay in on what was a weekend night. Police said at one point, 80,000 people tuned in to the police scanner for news on the non-existent purge.
In July 2014, the movies inspired some Kansas City teenagers to create a Facebook page that encouraged users to post obscene photos online. Police did not issue any charges, though they said those participating were guilty of “poor judgment.” The Facebook page has since been removed.
The movie also inspired social media pages for purges in Cleveland, Detroit, Jacksonville, Miami, Chicago and the Bay Area, but no crimes have been attached to any event.
Alex Hider is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @alexhider.