HOWELL — Police said that the fireworks set off late Wednesday afternoon outside the Xscape movie theater — prompting an evacuation and an arrest — were part of a marriage proposal and there was no intent to cause panic.

"Obviously, this was a very poor decision rather than an overt act," police wrote in a Facebook post on the incident.

A movie theater was evacuated and a person was arrested on New Year's Day after the fireworks were mistaken for real gunfire. Township police on Wednesday evening said responding officers found no evidence of gunfire but did find evidence of discharged fireworks.

Nathan Sanders, 23, of Lakewood was charged and released in connection with the fireworks incident after setting off the fireworks during a friend's marriage proposal at the adjacent Climb Zone indoor rock climbing facility. They share a parking lot with a BJ's Wholesale Club.

An announcement by police didn't say what charges Sanders would face, or how the determination he didn't intend to cause a panic would affect that decision.

Police thanked Lakewood and Jackson police for their response to the scene, and theater-goers for leading officers to the theaters they thought were involved.

Howell police at Xscape movie theater on Jan. 1, 2020 (Howell Police Dept.)
Howell police at Xscape movie theater on Jan. 1, 2020 (Howell Police Dept.)

Several people who commented on the department's Facebook post were concerned not all theaters had been evacuated. Kellyann Campbell Skorupski wrote that she was in theater 7 and was unaware of what was going on elsewhere in the theater.

"At one point two police officers walked through our theater and asked patrons if everything was okay (which we did think was odd). It wasn’t until we left that we found out what happened and only because I asked a worker why the police came through," Skorupski wrote.

Kelsey Disher said she was evacuated from theater 10 into a gated area while others walked out the front door without being questioned or detained. Howell police said they would look into her concerns.

The New Year's Day incident was not the first incorrect report of gunfire at the theater.

A disabled person in a wheelchair entered one of the theaters in June 2018 toward the end of a movie. The person’s caretaker was carrying a backpack containing a large battery pack for the wheelchair, which made a noise like a gunshot when it was placed on the floor, causing many to evacuate the theater and call 911.

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