TAMPA, Fla. -- A 9-year-old boy found a loaded handgun inside an Ybor City movie theater bathroom on Father's Day.
The gun was a Glock 26 9-mm.
"My son opened the door and immediately said dad there's a gun in the bathroom," recounted Wesley Noland, the boy's father.
Noland was at the Muvico theater in Centro Ybor with his two sons to see the new Superman movie.
He said the weapon was sitting on top of the toilet paper dispenser.
"When I was in the bathroom there were two other fathers and three kids and the theater was very busy and the place was full of kids and families."
Noland, an ex-Marine who has a Concealed Weapons Permit, said he immediately secured the handgun and called police.
On Monday, he told WTSP his biggest fear was that the wrong person could have found the handgun.
"That the gun could have been picked up by a child, or it could have been picked up by a convicted felon or a rowdy group of teenagers or something like that. But in any case, it could have been used in a crime or accidentally discharged and it could have killed somebody in the theater -- worst of all a kid."
Police now have the gun and are searching for its owner.
But even if the owner had a permit and left it by mistake, the person could still face charges.
"We believe that this would meet the standard of willful and wanton disregard for the safety of others, to leave a loaded weapon where a child -- and in this case a 9-year-old found the gun -- that certainly put others at risk and we're just thankful that a very responsible abiding law abiding citizen found the gun and did the right thing," said Tampa Police Spokesperson Laura McElroy.
"I think the gentleman should be punished. He should have to answer for what he did. He put a lot of people's live in jeopardy yesterday," said Noland.
"Like what my dad said, if a kid could pick that up then [someone] could have gotten killed or shot on Father's Day which could have been like a horrifying fact," added Zane Noland, the boy who found the gun.
Noland said the theater manager told him the owner returned about 90 minutes after they called police. But authorities had already left with the gun.
When reached for comment about the incident, Muvico's Chief Operating Officer James E. Herd, Jr. issued a statement to WTSP saying:
"We are currently investigating the incident along with our risk management consultants and the appropriate law enforcement department. Safety is of the utmost priority at Muvico Theaters and we take all incidents seriously. We continue to monitor and enhance our procedures and work closely with our management, as well as our risk consultants to ensure the safety of our guests and employees at all times."