MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Police were still searching late Monday for a man who they say sent shoppers into a panic when a gun went off in the middle of an Orange County mall.
As CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, the gunman caused panic and forced an evacuation at the Galleria at Crystal Run mall in Middletown Sunday.
SWAT teams entered with guns drawn, clearing the mall of holiday shoppers and store employees as they looked for the man who fired his weapon.
“I thought maybe it could’ve been terrorists or whatever it might be,” said Ken Stanley of Wallkill.
Police do not know the gunman’s motive or whether the shooting was an accident or deliberate. Nevertheless, mall employees such as Dan Mattiello returned on guard with new perspective.
“I’ve been working here for the better part of a decade and it’s just weird,” Mattiello told CBS2’s Reena Roy. “It just kinda reaffirms some of those normal scares. I just want to prepare myself for anything that may happen.”
Witnesses were terrified when they heard a gunshot in the mall around 3 p.m. Sunday.
“At this time it appears that a male wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt and gray pants discharged one round from a handgun into the floor on the second level of the mall in front of the American Eagle store,” Chief Robert Hertman of the Wallkill Police Department said at a briefing outside the mall.
Video posted on social media showed armed police in tactical gear running down a corridor of the mall while shoppers ran in the other direction.
“It sounded like something dropped, like a chair or something just dropped on the floor. That’s what it sounded like,” said mall worker Grismaylin Almanzar. “It’s really scary.”
“As soon as we ran out, we saw everybody screaming, ‘shots are heard, shots are heard, you need to run to the parking lot,'” said mall worker Ali Naveed. “Thousands or hundreds were running to parking lot.”
Others stayed put, camped out in stores for several hours with the mall on lockdown as state and local police joined forces, scouring the grounds for the gunman who police say was last seen with a woman pushing a baby stroller. Police said the woman with the man was also accompanied by two young children – one who appeared to be a toddler, the other an infant.
Investigators say a 49-year-old Goshen woman and her 12-year-old son were hit in the legs when a bullet ricocheted off the floor, but they were not targeted and did know the shooter.
“The suspect who discharged the weapon had the gun apparently pointed at the ground when he discharged a round,” Hertman said. “It’s uncertain what his intent was.”
Despite the scare, some shoppers felt just fine Monday.
“I would worry a little bit but it didn’t keep me from coming out today,” said shopper Fran Ellert. “I feel OK.”
But some shoppers remained nervous.
“You have to be so much more alert and keep your eye on everybody,” said Sherry Degroat of Westown, “because you never know.”
“You’ve got to be so careful. It’s like you don’t even want to go shopping anymore,” said Marilyn Chema of Harrison.
The county executive said the shooting may have been an accident. The mother and son who were hurt were treated at a local hospital with minor injuries.
Police said they have surveillance video of the suspect, but it is too early in the investigation for them to release it. Anyone who witnessed the incident is asked to turn in any video or pictures they have of the shooting or its aftermath that might help them identify the suspect.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)