Shoppers stampeded after the sound of furniture falling during a food court fist fight was mistaken for gunshots in what may be a new annual holiday tradition at Roosevelt Field Mall.
Three dozen Nassau County police officers responded to reports of shots fired at the East Garden City mall on Monday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year, shortly before 7 p.m., authorities said. Upon arrival, officers found people running for their lives, but no evidence of a shooting—just an altercation and some flipped tables and chairs.
“To the untrained ear, when they heard maybe a falling table onto a marble floor, it creates quite a noise,” said Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun, a police spokesman.
Nassau police said there were 70 calls to 911 in a very short period and that some callers mistakenly believed that shots had been fired at Roosevelt Field Mall. Some social media users warned people to stay away from the mall because there was a shooting. But officers found no shots were fired, although seven people suffered minor injuries—including the victim in the initial fight.
I was in Roosevelt field mall 10 mins again when the shooting started
— Sam (@RogueDior) December 27, 2016
No arrests were made in the incident. The mall was never on lockdown, although two stores momentarily closed their gates as a precaution, LeBrun said.
A similar incident occurred on Christmas Eve in 2013 at Roosevelt Field Mall when a shoplifter got into a scuffle with security, causing a display case to fall over, creating a loud sound that shoppers also mistook for a shooting, sparking another stampede. And four days before Christmas last year, shoppers fled when an armed robber’s gun went off at a watch store in Roosevelt Field Mall, hitting and injuring an employee—the only time in recent memory that the scare turned out to be an actual shooting inside the mall, although it was not an active shooter situation.
The only recent Roosevelt Field Mall-related shootings that resulted in fatalities occurred at businesses near the shopping center, but not inside the mall or during the holidays. In September 2013, a gunman opened fire at a lighting company a block from the mall and in March 2014, a gunman fired a shotgun into a crowd at Mint Restaurant & Lounge on Ring Road, which circles the mall. Both gunmen struck two victims and killed one each. The lighting store gunman later committed suicide and the restaurant shooter was sentenced in September to 23 years in prison for murder.
LeBrun said that despite the chaos in the latest case, the public should not hesitate to call 911 when they believe a crime has been committed.
“We always expect and implore the public to call the police,” he said.