Police are searching for pranksters who burst into a Southern California movie theater this weekend and frightened the audience with the roar of a leaf blower.
One man opened an emergency exit, allowing another to enter and yell "I've got a chainsaw" while revving a motor, according to reports. The prank occurred during a screening of "The Gift" in Newport Beach, California, Saturday night. Police later determined that the motor belonged to a leaf blower.
Moviegoers fled, and three patrons "suffered minor injuries in their haste to exit the theater," according to the Newport Beach Police Department.
Several high-profile assaults and killings have occurred in movie theaters recently, which likely contributed to the sense of panic in the Newport Beach venue. A gunman killed two women during a screening of "Trainwreck" in Lafayette, Louisiana, last month, and police killed a man with a history of mental illness who'd injured three people with pepper spray and an ax in a theater in Nashville, Tennessee, last week. James Holmes, who killed 12 people at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, in 2012, was sentenced last week to life in prison.
The suspects in the Newport Beach theater remained at the scene only briefly before leaving through the emergency exit, according to reports.
One woman told the Orange County Register that she was trampled in the chaos.
A Yelp user who claims to have been present during the incident described what he saw:
A man emerged from the back exit (facing the movie screen) wielding what sounded like a chainsaw while screaming at movie patrons, sending the crowd into a frenzy. The instrument was held up like a rifle as he retreated back into the exit. All movie goers pushed their way out of the theater, stepping on and over those who fell to the ground. In a matter of minutes, the theater was surrounded by heavily armed police.
Police said they got multiple emergency calls from the cinema.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Joshua Vincelet at 949-644-3779 or email@example.com. Anonymous tips may be left on the Newport Beach Police Department’s tip hotline at 1-800-550-NBPD.