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Paramus Mall Gunfire Sparks Angst From Tri-State Shoppers

Gunman Fired Shots Before Committing Suicide At Garden State Plaza Mall

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WESTBURY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Shoppers were on edge across the Tri-State Area Tuesday, as worried parents tried to explain the latest random violence to their children.

As CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan reported, shoppers were out for Election Day sales in Westbury, Long Island Tuesday, but nearly everyone who spoke to CBS 2 said they had the shooting at the Westfield Garden State Plaza Mall in Paramus, N.J. in mind.

“Anxiety is there,” said Dodie Walker of Rockville Centre. “I’m scared to go to the mall.”

Walker has a daughter who lives in Paramus. Luckily, she left the mall before the shooting started and prompted a panic.

“I was petrified,” Walker said. “I called her, and she was OK.”

Across the Tri-State Area Tuesday, families were reacting to the latest fright in a public place undermining personal safety.

“It’s certainly not the world we grew up in,” one shopper said.

“There’s no place to be safe,” another said.

“When we shop, we try to go earlier in the day,” a third said.

Suburban police departments said they are now better trained with modern answers to growing public violence.

Nassau County just installed live video lines with malls and schools and has been distributing panic devices to shoppers. County police have also reminded families that the first line of attack is “detection and intervention.”

“We currently have a ramped up presence in our shopping malls today, only because we are always concerned about copycat situation.,” said Nassau County police Chief of Department Steven Skrynecki. “In addition, we are thorough our intelligence unit right now, actively looking at social media sites to see if anyone is chatting or applauding.”

Some shoppers were confident that police could keep a dangerous situation under control.

“I think we have strength in numbers,” said Warren Koedding of Garden City. “I’m not afraid of going into the malls at this point.”

“I’m not changing my behavior,” said Regina Abbondandolo of Westbury, “I actually work in a mall, and I feel very safe.”

Still, anxious parents were searching for advice on how best to explain the violent events to their children.

“The way that you explain this to your kids is that you explain to them that they are safe, we live in a world where many things happen, and that it’s over, and everybody is safe,” said clinical psychologist Dr. Harris Straytner.

Psychologists also stressed the importance of answering children’s questions when asked.

Meanwhile, private investigator Les Levine sees U.S. policies softening toward big-scale body searches.

“I am a firm believer in the adage, ‘If you have nothing to hide, why would you possibly be upset over somebody trying to protect your lives and the lives of others?’” Levine said.

Police said their response can almost be instantaneous, and shoppers should be on alert but not running scared.

Meanwhile, as 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon reported, retired NYPD Capt. Peter Moreno said reacting to gun violence is something for which anyone who works in the mall should be trained.

“When the incident occurs, there’s not going to be a lot of time to think. They’re going to have to fall back on their training,” Moreno said. “They’re going to have to hear the voice in their head that reminds them of what their manager or what the trainer, instructor said to them to do.”

Moreno said families should discuss procedures in the event of an emergency too.

“Have a plan of action that if something like that happens and you have to flee, have a place where you’re going to meet,” he said.

He also said it is a good idea always to know where the exits are, and where one can take cover if necessary.

In the Paramus incident, police said gunman Richard Shoop, of Teaneck, walked in right at closing time Monday and started firing shots – but did not strike anybody.

But the sound of gunfire sent store employees and customers rushing for exits and hiding places, witnesses said.

Shoop went on to take his own life. His body was discovered around 3:20 a.m. Tuesday in a closed-off area that is under construction at the Garden State Plaza mall, Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli said.

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