Police Release Details from Friday Night Movie Theater Lockdown

HOWELL-Police in Howell have released details from an incident that put the new Howell Xscape movie theater on lockdown as police searched a car by a wanted Manchester man who was believed to have been in possession of illegal guns in the theater parking lot.

Police found a loaded handgun with hollow point ammunition and a grenade in the car.

From the Howell Police Department:


On 09/08/2017 at approximately 8:20 p.m Howell Township Police arrested Jacob Cavanaugh, 24 years old of Manchester and charged him with two counts of unlawful possession of a handgun (2C:39-5b) second degree, and possession of hollow point ammunition (2C:39-3f) fourth degree, after officers discovered the items in his parked vehicle. The vehicle was in the Xscape Theater parking lot located at 5361 Route 9 in Howell Township, where he is employed and was working at the time of arrest.

On this date, Officer Stephanie Regina #676 was working a routine security detail at the theater when she was approached by management about a concerning report made by another employee. This employee reported to the manager that Cavanaugh showed him guns in his car earlier in the week. As a result, Officer Regina engaged Cavanaugh in conversation and was alerted by police communications that Cavanaugh had active east and for his arrest by Milltown Municipal Court for failure to appear on a drug paraphernalia charge and township ordinance violation and Hazlet Township Municipal Court for driving while suspended.

Officers located Cavanaugh’s car, a 2008 Kia Rio in the parking lot and saw what appeared to be a safe and a tactical vest inside. Cavanaugh gave officers consent to search the vehicle. During the search, officers located two handguns, both revolvers. One of the handguns was loaded with hollow point ammunition while the other was unloaded. Also located was a hand grenade. Upon discovery of the hand grenade the movie theater was immediately evacuated at the direction of Sergeant Michael Popek #247 and approximately 500 patrons escorted to a safe location. This was due to Cavanaugh having had access to the theater and claiming he had another grenade. And we were not taking the chance an accomplice was involved and was inside the theater. The evacuation was made quickly and efficiently in part because off-duty Howell Police Detective David Gilliland #637 was in the theater watching a movie. He identified himself and coordinated the evacuation. The parking lot was shut down at all access points.

The New Jersey State Police Bomb Squad responded to the scene and determined the hand grenade to be inert (explosive removed). The movie theater was checked and no other devices or suspicious items were located. Cavanaugh was transported to headquarters and ultimately transported to MCCI after processing. His vehicle was impounded pending forfeiture proceedings.

The Howell Police are thankful to Xscape management who took the proactive approach notifying our officer. At this time we do not believe Cavanaugh had any intentions to harm anyone. He made unsubstantiated claims he was involved in law enforcement. He was cooperative throughout the investigation.
We are also thankful for the exceptional conduct of the patrons. Everyone took this seriously and followed management and officer directions. We truly appreciate it.

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