OCOEE — At least 100 teens rushed the movie theater without paying, late Feb. 14 at West Oaks Mall in Ocoee, according to Orange County Sheriff’s Office. As many as 300 had been causing a disturbance in the food court and theater area, according to Ocoee Police.
Gunshots sounded as Orange County deputies and police from Ocoee, Winter Garden and Windermere arrived to quell crowds and control the situation. No injuries have been reported.
“During this time, there was a shot fired and somebody was robbed,” said Lt. Paul Hopkins, of the Sheriff’s Office. “But the Ocoee Police Department jumped on that quickly and were able to catch the gunman with the gun and make an arrest out of that.”
An Ocoee Police Department official said officers had arrested one child for battery and resisting an officer without violence, and a second juvenile was under arrest on misdemeanor drug charges off mall property. Whether the latter offense was related to the theater incident is unknown.
“Our main concern is this: These are middle- to high-school kids who have guns, who are shooting guns, who are robbing people, driving stolen cars, and they have drugs in their car,” Hopkins said. “You need to know where your kids are at all times.”
Anna Khavulya, director of marketing and specialty leasing at West Oaks Mall, said the teens — all younger than 17 — were trying to see R-rated “Fifty Shades of Grey,” released the previous day. This 2011 erotic romance novel-turned-film motivated the children to rush the theater after its personnel refused to sell them tickets as unaccompanied minors. Police escorted them from the mall property without incident, she said.
“Furthermore, effective immediately, after 9 p.m. every day, all minors under the age of 17 must be accompanied by an adult while on mall property, and all unaccompanied minors will be escorted off the property,” she said.
Video of the theater entrance at the time of the incident is available through the Ocoee Police Department, but video from mall security is not available at this time, and Ocoee Police officials expect no further updates on the incident.
Witnesses called 911 and described riots, running all over the theater and surrounding area, blocked doors, being locked in and death threats.
Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected].