PARAMUS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The chilling 911 tapes from the shooting incident at the Garden State Plaza mall in Paramus, N.J. were released Wednesday.
As CBS 2’s Dave Carlin reported, a man fired multiple shots at the mall Monday night before committing suicide. No one else was injured, but the tapes captured a scene of panic and terror inside the mall.
Authorities said 20-year-old Richard Shoop walked into the mall with a rifle around closing time on Monday, fired at random objects and then killed himself.
As 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported, the first call was made by a terrified woman hiding in the restroom of a store in the Garden State Plaza. Many of the frightened callers were mall employees.
Caller: “Yes I’m at the Garden State Plaza mall where there’s been a shooting.”
Caller: “And I’m in, I work here, I’m inside the store inside the office by myself, but I’m scared and I want to get out of the mall.”
When the gunfire started and shoppers and employees ran outside, others were in the mall hiding as they they called 911.
Caller: “Someone is shooting up Garden State Plaza right now.”
Operator: “Someone is shooting?”
Caller “Someone is shooting up Garden State Plaza right now and I’m in the bathroom (inaudible).”
Operator: “OK, stay on the phone with me sweetheart. How many people are in the bathroom with you?”
Caller: “There’s three.”
Operator: “Are they in your store?”
The 911 operators tried to calm their fears. In one call, a woman was whispering for fear that the gunman would hear her.
Operator: “They’re already on their way. Everybody in the county is on their way. Every police department is on their way. Do you know if anybody was shot?”
Caller: “I don’t know. I don’t know. We just heard the gunshots.”
On another call, an employee was the only one in her store, and although she was locked in, she pleaded with police to come and get her because she was frightened and wanted to go home.
Caller: “I was waiting for two other employees to come because there’s been a shooting inside the mall and they haven’t come to the store yet, and I’m scared and I want to leave, out.”
But operators told the employees to stay where they were.
Caller: “We are trying to figure out what is the best way for us to leave.”
Operator: “Sir, how many people are in this?”
Caller: “There are three of us.”
Operator: “Where are you located inside?”
Caller: “We are in the stockroom.”
Operator: “All right. I need you to stay in the stockroom, OK? Do not leave. It is not safe to come out.”
Store manager Bray Sams said he can relate to the panic in the calls. He said he came face to face with gunman Shoop, of Teaneck, N.J.
Bray ran through the Nordstrom store to the parking lot without his coat or cellphone.
“After Monday night, I just feel very weird coming back here,” he said. “I couldn’t quit my job though.”
Sams showed CBS 2’s Carlin where Shoop opened fire 20 feet from where he was standing. One bullet struck a video screen and destroyed it.
“He was shooting at the ceiling glass, and the glass was shattering,” Sams said.
The mall reopened Wednesday, two days after the shooting incident. As shoppers began flocking to the mall in the morning, there was little evidence of Monday night’s shooting.
“It’s just really sad, it’s really tense,” Briana Davenport of Rockland County told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond.
“It’s hard, you know it is, it really is,” store employee Lorraine Pena added.
But the Alburme family from Passaic, with their baby daughter, were not deterred by the chaos they experienced on Monday.
“We were going to come back yesterday, but it was closed so when it reopened today, we came back,” said Elvis Alburme.
“I love this mall,” added shopper Maynoris Leal. “Nothing was going to keep me away.”
Security guards and police officers have been working in teams of three in every section of this mall. But shoppers and customers admit to feeling momentary flashbacks of the horror Monday night.
The mall had been closed since Tuesday as police investigated the bizarre and terrifying incident.
Dressed in black and wearing a motorcycle-type helmet, Shoop opened fire inside the mall around 9:30 p.m. Monday, authorities said.
The sound of gunfire sent store employees and customers rushing for exits and hiding places, witnesses said.
Shoop’s body was discovered early Tuesday morning in a closed-off area that is under construction at the mall. No one else was injured.
“There was no individual that was struck by anything other than Mr. Shoop taking his own life,” Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli said. “I do not believe that Mr. Shoop intended to come out of here alive.”
Molinelli said Shoop killed himself with the same weapon he used inside the mall and that an ambiguous note had been left with his family. He would not call it a suicide note, but said it did “express that an end is coming.”
“My brother intended to harm nobody but himself,” his brother Kevin Shoop said. “He just sadly decided to make an act of, I guess, self-indulgence by taking his own life publicly.”
Shoop left his family and the public with scores of unanswered questions. Police said Shoop was addicted to the potent narcotic MDMA, or Molly, a form of ecstasy.
Coworkers at the pizza shop where he worked said they had no idea he was troubled.
“He was doing great, he was going to the gym, working here. Never knew anything about drugs,” Victor’s Pizza manager Robert Gega said.
Molinelli said it appears the main motive for what Shoop did was suicide.
“We have spoken with the family and we have a pretty good idea of what Mr. Shoop’s mindset was over the last day or so and it would be consistent with his actions here,” Molinelli said Tuesday.
Gov. Chris Christie said the shooting should be a wake-up call for lawmakers to focus on mental health issues as part of a comprehensive plan on gun control.
“We need to get to the root causes of what drives a young man like that to drive to Garden State Plaza in that condition,” he said.
More than 200 people held a vigil Tuesday night for Shoop. His brother said he had no advanced warning about what Shoop intended to do and that the shooting has left him devastated.
“This was something that none of us saw coming,” Kevin Shoop said. “We’re not sure what caused him to do this and we’re devastated.”
Hundreds of surveillance cameras posted throughout the mall could give insight into whether Shoop cased the shopping center beforehand, where he entered and how he managed to walk the length of the mall after the shooting carrying a clearly visible rifle without being stopped.
Mall police and individual stores said they’re in the process of re-examining their security protocols.
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