What to Know
- There was mass panic at the Jersey Gardens Mall on Monday evening after someone slammed a chair during a fight, officials said
- Someone thought the slamming chair was gunfire and yelled "gun," causing what the Elizabeth mayor described as "pandemonium"
- Coincidentally, a similar incident happened at a Long Island mall on Monday — police believe slammed chairs led to a stampede that injured 7
Panic broke out at a mall in New Jersey over fears of a shooting — one of several scares at malls across the U.S. on Monday.
Officials said someone yelled “gun” at the Jersey Gardens Mall, which caused people to scatter in fear as police swarmed the busy shopping center.
Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage said there was no shooting and that someone slamming a chair loudly during a fight sparked the cries of a “gun.” He said those loud sounds resulted in “pandemonium” at the mall as thousands of shoppers took cover in stores or fled for the exits.
Videos posted on social media around 5 p.m. show frightened shoppers running through a parking lot and department store. In another video, armored police are seen searching a food court.
Denell McMurry got a frightening call from her daughter, a Guess store employee, who hid with other people during the hysteria.
"She called me to say, 'Mommy, can you please come get me?'" McMurry said. "I was frantic, I was just completely mortified."
Eight to ten people were injured in the panic, including two pregnant women and a 12-year-old boy whose leg may have been broken, Mayor Bollwage said.
Traffic was jammed around the mall around 7 p.m. as thousands of cars tried to leave through only two exits. Shoppers who used public transportation to get to the mall were stranded for hours.
Bollwage said rumors that spread through social media caused more panic than was necessary. False information about the incident was still being retweeted hours later.
(2/4)Due to the loud slamming of a chair, someone shouted "gun." As a result, people began to panic. There was no shooting & no shots fired.— Chris Bollwage (@MayorBollwage) December 26, 2016
"Social media is going to be the death of this country," Bollwage said.
The panic wasn't isolated to Elizabeth. There was an almost identical scare at a Long Island mall on Monday evening.
Nassau police said that a stampede broke out at Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City after someone thought they heard gunfire during a fight in a food court around 6:30 p.m. Seven people were injured in the stampede, according to police.
Reports of gunshots turned out to be false. Police believe that chairs slamming to the ground may have sparked the panic, just like in Elizabeth.
And several hundred teenagers were involved in multiple fights at a mall in Manchester, Connecticut, on Monday, according to police.
There were also mall scares in Aurora, Colorado, Beachwood, Ohio, and Chattanooga, Tennessee.