BROOKSVILLE - The Hernando County Sheriff's Office is seeking assistance in identifying persons responsible for tampering with numerous fire suppression devices in the Beacon Theaters on Saturday evening, causing a "melee" that left a preliminary estimate of $20,000 in property damages.
Around 11:45 p.m., theaters No. 1 and No. 4 were relatively crowded during final showings when the fire alarm sounded, according to a sheriff's office release.
During that time, unknown persons removed fire extinguishers from their cases and sprayed them inside the theaters, and sprinklers were also tripped in the hallway.
"This incident, at first blush, may seem like a childhood prank," Sheriff Al Nienhuis said. "The reality is, however, that these suspects cost this business a lot of money and put many lives at risk. I certainly hope that any witnesses to this event come forward, so these individuals can be held accountable."
According to the sheriff's office, the suspects were able to leave undetected because guests left the building through emergency exits once fire alarms sounded.
All theater staff checked the theater rooms for occupants.
Hernando County Fire Rescue responded and did a sweep of the area. They determined there was never any fire present in any part of the building, according to the sheriff's office.
Detectives are asking anyone who observed anyone or anything suspicious inside or outside the Beacon Theaters on Saturday to call the sheriff's office immediately.
Those who wish to remain anonymous can call Hernando County Crime Stoppers at 1-866-990-TIPS(8477), or submit a tip via the internet at http://www.hernandosheriff.org/Tips.
Tipsters will remain anonymous and also be eligible for a reward up to $1,000 cash, according to the sheriff's office.