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Pepper spray incidents at two GTA movie theatres may be linked, police say

Last Updated Apr 25, 2016 at 8:25 pm EDT

Police say that two of the pepper spray incidents GTA movie theatres Friday night – forcing the buildings to be evacuated – may be linked.

Peel police say hundreds of patrons at Cineplex theatres in Brampton and Mississauga had to be evacuated after a noxious odour made many of them feel nauseated.

The same kind of pepper spray incident happened at a Scarborough Cineplex movie theatre as well, but Toronto Police have not indicated that incident was linked to the others.

The Scarborough theatre was impacted first, just after 7 p.m. Within minutes hundreds of people had to be cleared from the Mississauga theatre, followed by the theatre in Brampton.

Ciniplex told CityNews that the pepper spray was released in a single auditorium at each location.

“The safety and security of our guests and employees is our top priority and while each incident was localized to a single auditorium, in an abundance of caution we evacuated each of the theatres entirely,” said Sarah Van Lange, Ciniplex spokesperson.

Police said no one was seriously injured because of the incidents, but many were treated on scene by emergency crews. Three people were treated on scene at the Mississauga movie theatre and one person was transported to hospital from the Brampton movie theatre.

“Theatre 12, which was showing a Tamil version of Jungle Book, was evacuated just before the movie began,” said CityNews viewer Mark Ressor who was watching a movie at Scarborough Town Centre.

Ressor said people were coughing as they were leaving the theatre.

“There was some sort of acid smell which also made me cough and my nose run,” Ressor said.

Some experts are raising concern about the amount of planning and organization it would take to pull off a coordinated event.

“I have never seen anything like this before,” said security expert John Thompson. “This is, a coordinated attack … it’s three theatres owned by the same outlet.”

Thompson downplayed the possibility that it could just be a joke.

“Most people who do vicious jokes operate by themselves. Here you have three separate incidents, which suggest three people delivering the attack,” Thompson said.

But Toronto police say it is too early to determine if this was a targeted attack.

“We are not ruling anything out,” said corporate communication officer Jennifer Sidhu. “It’s an ongoing investigation that we are seriously looking into.”

But Thomas said this incident is concerning and that someone may be trying to send a message.

“This is someone delivering a message of some kind,” he said. “But from whom to whom, and what the purpose is… [there’s] just not enough information to go on.”

Anyone with information on the incidents are being urged to contact police.