Moviegoers panic after man lights fireworks outside as part of marriage proposal

Police converge on a Howell movie theatre Wednesday evening after fireworks lit outside caused panic inside the building. (Image courtesy of Kelsey Disher via JSHN)

Police converge on a Howell movie theatre Wednesday evening after fireworks lit outside caused panic inside the building. (Image courtesy of Kelsey Disher via JSHN)

A man who set off fireworks near a movie theater as his friend made a marriage proposal created panic among moviegoers who mistook the fireworks for gunshots, leading to 911 calls and an evacuation, authorities said.

Howell Township police responded to the Xscape Theater around 6 p.m. Wednesday and soon learned the theater manager had confronted a man who had lighted fireworks outside another business near the theater, authorities said.

The remnants of the fireworks were located, and it was determined that no shots had been fired.

Nathan Sanders, 23, of Lakewood told police he had set off the fireworks as part of his friend’s marriage proposal at the other business.

While noting there was no intent to cause panic at the theater, a post on the Howell police Facebook page stated that “obviously this was a very poor decision rather than an overt act.”

One moviegoer posted on Facebook that the fireworks “sounded like shots” and that the “entire theatre ran to get out,” adding that it was a “god awful experience.”

Sanders was charged with a fireworks infraction and disorderly conduct.

“We thank Lakewood Police Department and Jackson Police Department for their quick response. We are also appreciative of the patrons for reacting quickly and by directing the officers to the theaters they thought were involved,” Howell police posted on Facebook.

No injuries were reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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