GARDEN CITY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — An employee was shot and wounded Tuesday afternoon, after a man tried to rob a store at the Roosevelt Field Mall on Long Island.
As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, it was all calm at the mall in Garden City as of the late afternoon. But around 1 p.m., chaos erupted during a foiled robbery attempt on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
The frantic moments were captured on cellphone video. The suspect, who was armed with a handgun, attempted to rob the Rolex section of the Tourneau store on the Roosevelt Field Mall’s main level, police said.
Police said the perpetrator announced a robbery upon entering the Tourneau store. The robber’s efforts were foiled by a store security guard, police said.
“While exiting the store, he was struggling with the store security,” said Acting Nassau County Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter.
“The shooter was apprehended and is in custody of the Nassau County Police Department,” said Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano. “They continue to investigate the matter as to whether anyone else may be involved.”
In the struggle with the security guard just outside the Tourneau store, police said the gun went off, striking a mall employee in the shoulder.
The 67-year-old man was hospitalized in serious, but stable, condition late Tuesday.
Moments later, a suspect was seen being taken away in handcuffs. The single gunshot set in motion an instant and massive police response.
As CBS2’s Jessica Schneider reported, the security guard who foiled the attempted robbery was seen afterward with a bandaged right arm. He said he was the one who took down the robber, but declined to comment further about how he wrestled the suspect to the ground.
The mall was packed with Christmas shoppers when a gunshot set off a near stampede. People rushed into the parking lot and into the safety of stores that were locked down.
“Some a guy came running down the escalator and he was just like: ‘There was a shooting! There was a shooting!’ and everyone started running towards the back of the store,” one mall patron said.
“I hear the shot near me and I saw everybody trampling each other; running toward the parking lot,” added another shopper, Sergi Yurkin.
Jessica Julig of Queens said she was shopping when she heard people screaming and then “started to feel the whole mall shake.” Mall workers took her and others to a service entrance to leave the mall.
“My stomach just clenched,” one woman, who is six months pregnant, told WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall. “Stores were closing their doors, and I found one store that was open, so I hid behind the register.”
“We ran and locked ourselves inside a Skechers for about 45 minutes,” another shopper said. “We thought for sure that there was a possible terrorist attack.”
As CBS2’s Meg Baker reported, many people said store employees acted fast, putting down and locking storage gates. The employees also directed customers to stay inside and go into the basement.
Roxanne Steel was on her lunch break in the food court when she said people started running toward her to get out.
“There were a gang of people basically trampling me, babies, older people and everything coming out in the food court, and I heard that there was shooting,” Steel said.
Two teenage boys told CBS2’s Baker they had also stopped for lunch.
“You hear, like, rumbling, and then you see everybody, like, tripping, hiding behind tables, just running outside,” one boy said.
“And we thought, like, it was a prank, but it wasn’t a prank,” the other said. “Like, they were just running around and some guy was yelling some guy had a gun.”
Maria Levato was in the store Free People, separated from her family.
“A bunch of people just started, like, stampeding, so the store manager was very good, and had everyone in the store go down to the basement in, like, the back office,” she said. “We just waited there for an hour until we heard everything was clear.”
She was anxious for them to pick her up outside.
“I was freaking out because my sister – one of them was in Forever 21, the other was in Starbucks, so they were able to get out and I had to get pushed to the basement,” Levato said.
Gene Robbins said he was thankful that security and mall staff kept him and his wife safe, locked inside Alex and Ani.
“Some people started running, and because of that, they locked us down inside of the store. We found out through the same way, through the mobile phones, that there was a shooting in Rolex, and they held us in the store and wouldn’t let us go out,” Robbins said.
Meanwhile, Krumpter said the police department initiated an active shooter response, 1010 WINS Juliet Papa reported.
“After Paris, we heightened our response to these… targets and tightened the number of patrols,” Krumpter said.
All the while, most of the mall remained open as frightened shoppers faced their worst fears.
Sources said the Tournearu security guard who stopped the armed robber is a retired law enforcement officer. He was assisted by a shopper who was an off-duty NYPD officer, and who helped apprehend and handcuff the suspect.
NYPD Inspector Kenneth Lehr was at the mall Christmas shopping when he heard the commotion and ran over.
“Somebody lost a pair of cuffs and I picked up the cuffs, and they were in the process of pinning him down, and I picked up the cuffs and helped get him secure,” Lehr said.
It was believed that the shot that wounded the mall employee came from the perpetrator’s gun, which was recovered. But the issue was under investigation late Tuesday.
“The heroism is on the part of the security person and detective working in the Rolex store,” Lehr said. “What he did was remarkable.”
Mangano praised police for their swift response prevented additional injury.
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