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ORANGE PARK, Fla. — An Orange Park mother said she feared for her and her children’s lives as a crowd rushed in to the Orange Park AMC movie theater, yelling “he has a gun,” Saturday night.
The Clay County Sheriff’s Office said there was a heavy police presence Saturday night due to “large groups of juveniles causing disturbances inside the AMC Theater.” CCSO confirmed that there was no shooting at either the mall or the theater.
Later, they reported that the mall and movie theater would be temporarily closed and parents need to come get their children.
As of 10:30 p.m. Saturday, the sheriff’s office tweeted that the theater reopened to adults, and people under 18 would only be allowed in with a parent or guardian.
Sarah Piscitello said she was at the AMC Theater with her children when the incident occurred.
“We promised them earlier if they did some yard work with us that we will take them to the movies later,” she said. “They were really excited to go and we had bought them [tickets] online beforehand,” she said.
She said they were standing in line waiting for employees to scan their tickets, when “some people just started screaming and running,” she said.
She said the people were yelling that someone had a gun outside near the ticket line.
“They were trying to run into the theater and the workers at the movie theater, were trying to obviously prevent mass crowds into the theater,” she said.
Because they had tickets, Piscitello, her husband and their children were able to get into the theater their movie was in.
“All I could think was there’s nowhere to hide in here,” she said. “Can I get behind the counter? Can I shield my kids with my body? It was just terrifying.”
Her family was able to get out through an exit door in the theater, get in their car and leave.
Piscitello grew up in Orange Park and said she has been going to the mall her whole life. She said she brought her prom dress there and even celebrated her birthday there in June.
She said this was the first time she felt unsafe there since she was five years old.
“I’ve never felt unsafe there, but there has always been news stories. And so we generally try to avoid it, you know, after dark, but we didn’t really think there would be a problem and there was already police there. So, we thought ‘oh, you know, we’re going to be fine. There’s police here.’ We didn’t really think anything of it,” she said.
Piscitello and her children ended up enjoying a movie night at home.
“All I could think about was protecting my kids and I’m really sad that this is the world that they’re growing up in and these are the things that they have to learn to be aware of,” she said.
First Coast News reached out to the mall and to AMC about the incident and we’re waiting to hear back.
#UPDATE – The AMC Theater and the Orange Park Mall are closed. Any parent or guardian who has a child unaccompanied by an adult at the theater or mall needs to pick them up immediately. https://t.co/yHnBCm1rUo
Heavy law enforcement presence at the Orange Park Mall. Large groups of juveniles causing disturbances inside the AMC Theater. Orange Park Mall has temporarily closed as law enforcement continues to clear out the juveniles. pic.twitter.com/LyS8Tip0JO
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