PARAMUS, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Falling metal display stanchions in a department store spurred reports of gunshots Saturday night at the Garden State Plaza mall, authorities said Sunday.
The mall was evacuated following the incidents, but police say no shots were fired and no serious injuries were reported.
The panic began shortly after 8 p.m. Saturday, when a car caught fire in a parking lot.
As smoke from that fire entered the store, workers told customers to leave the area. The moving crowd knocked over a large metal display stanchion on the store’s main level, causing noises that many mistook for gunshots.
A panic ensued as people began saying they had heard shots fired, and people began storming out in the mall from the Macy’s all the way to the movie theater at the mall.
“We saw everyone running and panicking towards our way. We didn’t know what to do, so we went into a store,” another man said.
As CBS 2’s Dave Carlin reported, some shoppers ran through the stores shouting a warning.
“This woman came running down screaming and shouting: ‘There’s a shooter in the store! Get out! Get out! Get out!'” a woman said.
There were two immediate shopper reactions. Those nearest the exits to the parking lots got out as fast as they could, while others inside stores were temporarily locked in — some of them cowering in dressing rooms and restrooms until officers got them out.
Police evacuated most of the mall soon afterward, while some stores went into lockdown, said Paramus police Chief Kenneth Ehrenberg.
A small number of people suffered minor injuries as they slipped and fell in the mall, Ehrenberg said.
“We have no gunman. We have no confirmation that there were any shots fired,” he said.
The Garden State Plaza Mall was also the subject of a horror last Nov. 4, when Richard Shoop, 20, of Teaneck walked through the mall with a rifle that had been modified to look like an AK-47, randomly firing shots before turning the gun on himself.
On Christmas Eve last year, a suspected shoplifter knocked over a display case while police tried to arrest him at Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City, Long Island. But shoppers thought they had heard gunshots and raced for cover.
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