Four people turned themselves in and are ‘cooperating fully’ in Newport Beach movie theater ‘chainsaw’ scare

NEWPORT BEACH – Four young people, questioned Tuesday night into Wednesday morning by Newport Beach police about creating a panic at a movie theater over the weekend, earlier brandished a leaf blower outside an Irvine In-N-Out Burger, police said.

The perpetrators revved the tool “to elicit a reaction” from people at the restaurant before going to the theater and scaring moviegoers from the complex, Newport Beach Police Department spokeswoman Jennifer Manzella said.

No arrests were made Wednesday. Police did not give details about the identities or ages of the four people, but said they turned themselves in for questioning after surveillance photos were released Tuesday to the public.

Police said that during the interviews the four were “cooperating fully.” Investigators had previously described the people in the photos as from 15 to 20 years old.

Authorities would not elaborate on what consequences perpetrators could face for the action, but Manzella said detectives were investigating the case fully and not treating it as a harmless prank.

Detectives “had a lot of incoming calls about this case and of course a lot of people were affected, so we’re hoping to bring some closure to them,” Manzella said.

During Saturday evening’s incident, Newport Beach police responded to multiple 911 calls at about 10:50 p.m. from the Edwards Big Newport 6 theater near Fashion Island.

Callers said two or more men created a panic inside the theater, causing dozens of people, some thinking the machine might be a chainsaw or weapon, to evacuate.

Police say someone had opened the emergency exit door from inside the theater and let in at least one co-conspirator with the leaf blower. The person with the tool held it up, yelled and started the motor.

In a short statement released Wednesday, Manzella said about one hour before the theater scare, the four were seen in a Ford pickup truck at the burger restaurant in Irvine.

The incident in Irvine was not reported to police at the time, but investigators looked into it after the event at the theater.

The scare came a day after a Colorado man was sentenced to life in prison for killing 12 people and wounding 70 in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater in 2012.

Authorities are asking anyone with information about the incident or the four people involved to contact Detective Joshua Vincelet at 949-644-3779. Anonymous tips can be left on the Newport Beach Police Department’s tip hotline at 800-550-6273.

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