Video shows moviegoers evacuating Vaughan theatre after suspects spray unknown substance
Published Wednesday, December 6, 2023 10:54AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, December 6, 2023 5:41PM EST
Video has emerged of roughly 200 people evacuating a movie theatre in Vaughan on Tuesday night after two suspects sprayed an unknown substance in the cinema during a screening.
York Regional Police say the incident occurred at around 9:20 p.m. at the Cineplex near Highway 7 and Highway 400 in Vaughan.
According to police, moviegoers watching an Indian Hindi-language film began coughing after an unknown substance was sprayed inside the theatre by two suspects.
“Two male suspects wearing masks and hoods had attended the cinema, entered the theatre after the movie began and then walked around and sprayed an unknown, aerosol-based, irritating substance into the air,” police said in a news release issued Wednesday.
In video obtained by CTV News Toronto, members of the audience can be seen evacuating the theatre, some of whom can be heard coughing or sneezing.
Emergency crews arrived and evacuated the theatre. Several patrons were treated at the scene but no serious injuries were reported, police said.
The suspects fled prior to the arrival of officers.
The first suspect has been described by police as a Black male with a medium build and is approximately five-feet, 10 inches tall. He was seen wearing a black sweater, a black jacket with a white logo on the front right side, dark pants with a white stripe, and a black toque with a white logo on the front.
The second suspect, police said, is believed to be a male with brown skin, a medium build, and is approximately five-feet, eight inches tall. He was seen wearing a black sweater with a red logo above white text on the front, dark pants, and brown boots. Both suspects were wearing black masks at the time of the incident, police said.
SIMILAR INCIDENTS REPORTED IN TORONTO, BRAMPTON
“York Regional Police investigators are aware that there were two similar incidents at other movie theatres that same evening, with one in Brampton and one in Toronto. Our investigators are liaising with our neighbouring police partners about those incidents,” the news release continued.
Police could not confirm what film was playing in Toronto.
"It is awfully coincidental that they took place all within the span of less than three hours on the same evening," Whitney told CP24 on Wednesday afternoon. "So we are certainly looking into the possibility that these incidents are linked."
When asked if this is being investigated as a hate-motivated incident, Sgt. Clint Whitney told CP24.com that the investigation is in its early stages.
“There is no obvious indication that this is a hate-motivated crime, but we have notified our Hate Crime Prevention Unit as a precaution and they will be involved in the investigation,” he said.
Police said there were numerous witnesses present during the incident and are asking anyone who has not yet spoken to police to reach out to officers with the York Regional Police #4 District Criminal Investigations Bureau.
Peel police spokesperson Const. Tyler Bell-Morena said the incident in Brampton was reported at around 7:40 p.m., and it occurred during the showing of the movie 'Silent Night.'
"We're working collaboratively right now, with investigators from both of those services, as the working theory now is that the suspects are one and the same," Bell-Morena told CP24 Wednesday night.
Preliminary information suggests the suspects purchased a ticket for the movie and were in the theatre for a very short period of time.
"From my experience here in the region, there have been instances such as these before, but they are they are inherently rare. But concerning, nonetheless," Bell-Morena said.
In a statement, Cineplex said it is working "closely with local authorities" who are investigating the incident.
"Our primary focus and commitment is the safety and well-being of our guests and our team," Michelle Saba, a spokesperson for Cineplex, said in a written statement. "We thank our teams for helping guests evacuate safely."