RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Reports of gunshots inside a busy North Carolina mall caused chaos Saturday afternoon as shoppers ran screaming for the doors or sheltered in stores while dozens of officers arrived on the scene, witnesses said.
Raleigh police said they responded to reports that shots were fired inside Crabtree Valley Mall around 2:30 p.m. They found no one wounded and added that they hadn’t arrested any suspects by late afternoon.
The mall in an affluent area of Raleigh was put on lockdown while helicopters buzzed overhead and numerous law enforcement vehicles swarmed the shopping area.
Video posted on social media sites shows dozens of people running toward mall exit doors as numerous screams were heard. Outside the mall, where people gathered afterward, a police officer got on the loudspeaker of a fire truck and said there was no one shot in the mall.
Witnesses described seeing or hearing gunshots, followed by pandemonium.
The owner of a clothing store called Casanova said he saw a shooting unfold after an argument in the mall’s food court.
Antonio Richardson told The Associated Press that was standing at the entrance to his store Saturday afternoon when he saw two men who appeared to be in their early 20s arguing in the food court. He says he saw one of them pull out a gun and begin shooting.
“Just two guys fussing. One pulled out a gun, started capping. People started running,” said Richardson, who added he didn’t hear what the men were arguing about. “I’m used to seeing people fussing all the time in the food court. People in the food court talk loud anyway. I thought it was a fight, really.”
As he was running away, he said he heard about four shots. He added that there may have been more gunshots, but “I didn’t stick around to count.”
John Riggleman and Kristin Warring said in an interview that they were heading to a video game store when they heard shots coming from the food court. They quickly ran into the store with dozens of others. Police told them they could leave the store at about 3 p.m.
Riggleman said they were inside the video game store for about a half-hour. When they finally were allowed to leave, they passed about 10 officers or SWAT team members moving the other way with guns drawn.
“They had guns up, kind of covering us as we were running out. And then there were more back toward the exit kind of telling people where to go,” Riggleman said.
Footage from a news helicopter showed shoppers filing out of the mall with their hands over their heads as police took control of the scene.
Later, scores of people gathered outside the mall, appearing to wait for news of what happened or to find loved ones who had sheltered inside.
Zoe Hanks, 12, was at a hairdresser inside the mall, having the hair around her shoulders lightened, when word of an emergency came. She left with chemicals still in her hair and a towel around her neck. She said she knew it was time to go when “all the people were running.”