As pranks go, it was not a funny one.
An 18-year-old man who allegedly helped someone burst into a Newport Beach movie theater while revving a leaf blower just weeks after a mass shooting elsewhere could face jail time, Orange County prosecutors said Thursday.
Colin Hunter Davis is charged with three misdemeanor counts of participating in a rout and unlawful assembly, disturbing the peace and trespassing to injure property, according to the Orange County District Attorney's Office.
Authorities said Davis entered the Edwards Big Newport 6 cinema near Fashion Island on Aug. 8 without paying admission and opened the emergency exit door of a theater during a showing of the thriller "The Gift."
Around that time someone entered the theater and revved a leaf blower, triggering panic among those inside. Several patrons suffered injuries, including a broken toe, from being knocked to the ground as fearful moviegoers — who thought the blower was a weapon — scattered in the rush to escape.
Katrina Wolfe, who was watching the movie with her boyfriend, said she thought their lives were in danger.
"Both my boyfriend and I believed that this was a person with a weapon — probably a gun — and fully expected shooting to start at any moment," Wolfe told the Daily Pilot. "We crawled as fast as we could on our knees."
The prank came about two weeks after a man in Lafayette, La., pulled out a handgun in a theater and opened fire on the the audience, killing two and wounding nine, and while the trial for Aurora, Colo., theater shooter James Holmes was underway.
Newport Beach police said after the prank that there were four "persons of interests" in the case, three of whom were minors.
Authorities said Davis and the three minors turned themselves in shortly after investigators posted surveillance photos of them taken at an Irvine In-N-Out Burger, where the group is believed to have pointed a leaf blower at bystanders earlier on the evening of the theater prank.
If convicted, Davis could face a maximum sentence of a year in jail. He is expected to be arraigned Nov. 18 in Orange County Superior Court. He is not currently in custody.
It is unclear whether any of the minors will face criminal charges.
Times Community News reporter Jeremiah Dobruck contributed to this report. Fry reports for Times Community News South.