What to Know
- The Galleria at Crystal Run, north of New York City, was evacuated Sunday afternoon amid reports of a shooting
- Police say they believe an unidentified man's gun discharged and that one bullet hit the ground and fragmented, striking a mom and her son
- There was a heavy police presence at the mall and witnesses described shoppers crying during a large evacuation
Hundreds, if not thousands, of people were evacuated from a mall in Orange County Sunday amid reports of a shooting on the first weekend of the busy holiday shopping season, state police say.
SWAT teams moved in as local police and the FBI responded after reports of shots fired outside an American Eagle store in the Galleria at Crystal Run in Middletown around 3:15 p.m.
At a briefing outside the mall Sunday night, Chief Robert Hertman of the Wallkill Police Department said an accidental discharge may be to blame.
"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," Hertman said.
Hertman said police were still seeking the man whose gun went off. He said police do not know if the discharge was accidental. Security footage shows him with a woman who was pushing a baby stroller. Police said he left the mall after the shooting.
A woman from Goshen and her 12-year-old son were taken to an area hospital with minor abrasions, possibly from bullet fragments, police said. They were treated and later released.
Police were still searching the mall late Sunday for people who may have still been in lockdown and afraid to come out. They found six people huddled inside one store more than six hours after the shooting.
Shortly after the gunfire rang out, witnesses took to social media, describing dozens of emergency vehicles and police helicopters flying overhead. They said children and adults were crying as they were being evacuated from the busy shopping center. One woman wrote she had "never been so scared in my life."
Cary Abbott said he planned on seeing a movie at the mall when he saw people "leaving in droves." He said police were closing off the parking lots as the evacuation was underway.
"Police and ambulances everywhere," Julia Gulia wrote on Twitter. "Was just about to head in but missed it thank goodness."
Daniella Caputo wrote on Facebook that she was holed up in the stockroom of Aeropostale. "Can't get info," she wrote. "Love you guys so much."
Videos posted to social media show armed police in tactical gear outside in the parking lots and rushing down a corridor of the mall with their guns drawn as shoppers run towards the exits.
Leighton Peterson was grabbing a pre-movie bite to eat in the mall's food court around 3:20 p.m. when suddenly, he heard alarms, "and all of the employees were telling everybody to get to the exits and evacuate," he told The Associated Press.
As people made orderly progress toward the exits, Peterson thought it might be a fire drill until he heard a worried-looking mall worker mention a shooting, he recalled.
Outside, holiday shoppers lingered at first to see whether there might be an all-clear and reopening. But before long, "it became pretty clear that there was an actual situation happening, so then people started leaving en masse," in a bumper-to-bumper stream out of the packed parking lot, said Peterson, 32, a video editor.
The Galleria mall is about 70 miles north of midtown Manhattan. It also was evacuated during the holiday shopping rush in December 2008, when an odor of gas at a department store forced the shopping center to close early on a Thursday evening.