A manhunt is under way to track down two armed men who this morning sparked a dramatic siege at the Hoyts cinema in Warrawong.
Specialist police searched the complex but were unable to locate the men.
Officers received the first call at 6.09am from security guards who had disturbed two armed people inside the cinema.
The security guards told police they had seen a gun, believed to be a rifle.
A short time later the guards apprehended a woman.
The 27-year-old Warrawong woman was taken into custody and has been charged with aggravated break and enter.
She will appear in Wollongong Local Court tomorrow.
The area surrounding Hoyts was put into lockdown and traffic diversions put in place.
State protection support unit officers conducted a sweep of the building in an attempt to locate the two men.
During the sweep they repeatedly sounded the alarms.
‘‘At this stage we’re working on the fact that there are two people inside,’’ Sergeant Jason Harrison said early this morning.
Subway owner David Vasquez told Mercury reporter Chris Paver he was inside the centre shortly after 6am when police entered the food court and told everyone to evacuate.
"Police ladies came in screaming out ’Is anyone in here’. I said ’Yep’. They said: ’You have got to evacuate the building straight away’. I asked why and they said to me ’there is a gunman in the centre and we need to be evacuated’."
Police set up a command point near the scene where they worked with Hoyts and Westfield staff and management who advised on the layout of the centre.
Meantime, about 100 people gathered in the car park near McDonald’s waiting for news on whether the centre would open.
A tradesman who was due to start work in Target this morning saw police rushing into the building.
‘‘We could tell it was something big, now I’m stuck here, my car is in the car park over there and my lunch is in the car."