Police: 600 involved in melee at Northside theater

Published On: Dec 25 2013 10:22:54 PM EST   Updated On: Dec 26 2013 07:33:50 AM EST

Police say a group tried to rush inside the Regal Cinemas theater without paying; an off-duty officer responded with pepper spray, and subsequently there was a melee in the parking lot and police response. There have been five arrests so far.


Police dealt with what they described as a melee outside of a Northside movie theater on Wednesday night, as more than 600 people spilled into the parking lot. 

Jacksonville Sheriff's Office spokesperson Lauri-Ellen Smith said an off-duty officer was rushed by 25-30 young people trying to get into the Regal River City Marketplace theater around 8:30 p.m. Police say those in the crowd did not have tickets.

Smith says the officer called for back-up and used pepper spray to try and control the situation, which then escalated to involve about 600 people moving through the parking lot, fighting and jumping on cars.

The Sheriff's Office says a total of 62 officers officers used crowd control tactics worked to bring the situation under control, but JSO would not elaborate on what those tactics were. 

The total incident lasted over a hour. There are no reports of serious injuries and no reports of gunshots. A safe zone was setup for parents and guardians to reunite with their children.

"Our response was quick and effective," said Smith. "Our job is to keep people safe, first and foremost, obviously and that's what our officers did. They do that through tactical activities through crowd control by sequestering the group and again, keeping these folks safe, determining who's fighting, who's not."

Police say a total of five people were arrested on charges of fighting. Three of them are under 18, one is 18-years-old and the other is 19-years-old.  

Smith said the investigation is ongoing.


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